The Manufacturing Technology Centre has won a much-coveted accolade from Microsoft for its work in the fields of augmented, virtual and mixed reality.
The visualisation team at the Coventry-based MTC has been made a partner of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Programme – one of a select group of organisations in Europe to gain the sought-after recognition.
The accolade recognises the MTC’s advanced work in the fields of augmented, mixed and virtual reality, in particular its ability to deliver high-value generating applications in an enterprise environment. It will mean that the MTC will be able to help companies remotely using Microsoft visualisation programmes.
The accolade came after a stringent examination by Microsoft of the MTC’s capabilities and breadth of mixed reality applications, concentrating on client and end-user experiences. The recognition means the MTC will have the opportunity to work with Microsoft on joint projects with companies who can benefit from the technology. They will also work with Microsoft to develop apps for advanced manufacturing and teach other companies how to use Microsoft’s mixed reality programmes.
MTC technology manager David Varela said the partnership was already opening doors.
“This is a great piece of recognition for the MTC team from Microsoft and will lead to new markets and opportunities for us. It recognises the quality of the applications we are developing, and the benefits and results for our clients.
The MTC uses Microsoft’s HoloLens device, as well as other VR and AR technologies. The system uses a holographic computer to overlay virtual images onto real-world scenarios. It allows users to simulate complex processes and operations, to plan for effective factory or workshop layouts, or even retail space. It can also be used to give instructions to machinery operators or for training purposes.
Rather than put users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them The product does not have wires or external cameras and doesn’t have top be connected to a phone or PC, so users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures and voice. All of this can be managed remotely, using Remote Assist and Remote Line Walk, saving time and money.
“One of the benefits is the ability to allow clients to access the technology remotely. As long as they have a computer terminal or a tablet, and internet access, they can see what an operator deployed on site is doing in real time. Effectively they have their own visualisation laboratory connected to a remote expert who they can access on demand. This is of particular benefit to small and medium-sized companies , solving problems and helping their businesses while being easier and cheaper for everyone,” said David Varela.
“It can also be linked to artificial intelligence, helping with predictive maintenance and automatic validation of processes, smart tools or remote equipment, or product auditing, saving time and cost,” he added.
“Importantly, the news that Microsoft will shortly launch HoloLens 2 will open up even more opportunities for organisations to embrace mixed reality. We are excited to be working with Microsoft to help organisations take advantage of the greater immersion, comfort and time-to-value that this new device will offer to accelerate their digital transformation strategies,” he said.
The MTC is already working with several blue chip clients, and has a number of other significant projects in the pipeline. They team is also planning holding workshops with a multitude of businesses to identify opportunities where this technology can help to produce faster, increase quality, or increase worker safety.
The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.
Pictured: Augmented reality helping to increase efficiency in assembly operations.