26 July 2022
David van Snippenberg, University of Applied Sciences (HBO) student in Industrial engineering and Silvan Roelandschap, HBO student in Electronics Engineering, completed an internship at Strukton Rail. They focused their efforts on the use of the HoloLens. In this blog they tell us what this is and what they developed.
Le’ts first explain the HoloLens and what it is, because not everyone has ever heard about this ‘headset’. A HoloLens is like a set of ski goggles that projects a digital image onto the real world. When you put on these goggles you not only see everything around you, but objects or texts projected onto your surroundings by the goggles as well. What’s special about the HoloLens is that it takes the real objects in the space into account. This way you can pick up a virtual cup of coffee by hand and put it on a real table. In other words, there is interaction between the real and virtual world.
Our internship started off with a purchase by Strukton Rail Managing Director Tjark de Vries: he purchased ten HoloLenses under the motto ‘this technology is a good fit for Strukton Rail and we are simply going to start working with it’. The plan is to use the HoloLens for Strukton Rail Signalling training courses. We were privileged to figure out how to best deploy the HoloLens. David focused on the strategic portion: is it financially feasible? How do you involve colleagues in this change? Silvan focused his efforts on the technical implementation: how do you develop a training course using the HoloLens. And how do you develop the required software?
‘This technology is a good fit for Strukton Rail and we are simply going to start working with it’
Next we developed a trial setup together: mounting a rail on its substructure using the explanation provided by means of the HoloLens. Not a training module to be used in real life, but purely for us as a test. Is it possible to use the HoloLens to train someone? What works and what doesn’t work? We tested this training module on ten Senior Secondary Vocational Education (MBO) students and ten HBO students, all of whom were very enthusiastic about it. The goggles fit nicely and the explanation was effective: everyone took approximately the same time to complete the installation. Furthermore, the students became very enthusiastic about Strukton Rail as a potential employer: interesting, a company that embraces such innovations. Certainly a plus point for the Recruitment department.
During our internship we saw that the HoloLens has many possibilities. And also that it has major benefits. For example, you can train more people with fewer trainers. The explanation is projected inside the goggles. Furthermore, you can do the training where and when you want. Even on the tracks so to speak. Moreover, the HoloLens is not meant to save on training, it is meant to help ensure that Strukton employees are even better trained. Despite the fact that there are too few trainers – because the lack of personnel is a problem here as well – it is still possible to quickly and effectively train employees this way.
What else is possible with the HoloLens? Quite a bit! For example, a technician can use the HoloLens to call a colleague via Teams. He or she can then watch what the technician is doing via the same goggles and provide assistance remotely. This is referred as ‘Remote Assist’ (see the call for participation at the end of this blog). The goggles can also be used on the railway. It projects a GIS map with cables and pipelines onto the real world and this way you know exactly where and where not to dig. The goggles can also come in handy for inspecting the work. For example, does everything match the drawings? Research shows that the goggles can help prevent as much as 50% of all faults.
But are there any limitations? Well, yes and no. Although anything is possible with the goggles, the question is whether you want to do everything with them. It is better to have a trainer directly teach simple actions. The goggles are too slow and cumbersome for this purpose. We recommend that the goggles be used for complex actions only; this is where the real added value lies. Furthermore, it is important to develop a strategy: how are we going to use the HoloLens? The goggles’ versatility is a potential ‘hazard’ here as well. Because it can be used in so many different ways, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. However, it’s clear to us that the HoloLens is a great acquisition for the future.
We will be glad tell you much more about the HoloLens at the InnoTrans in Berlin 20 - 23 September / Hall 25 / Booth 285To the Innotrans website