Audi has a Pre-Series Center where developers virtually assemble various components of the car, to check how it will fare in reality on the production line, even before the first prototype is developed.
This process is carried out three years prior to the first concept models being made. Presently, the employees control the virtual components through a gaming controller. This virtual interaction is done in Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), which consists of projection surfaces on the floor and walls. Projectors are then used to display 3D images of components with which Audi engineers can interact after wearing 3D glasses.
Audi now plans to make this interaction more intuitive – especially of picking up and moving components – and is looking at gesture control to achieve that, with a pilot project underway. Katharina Kunz is an Audi development engineer for virtual validation and she, along with her team, are testing the Myo armband as a part of its pilot phase.
The armband functions by measuring the muscle currents in the forearm and therefore predicts how the user is moving their arm and fingers. The device then sends motion data via Bluetooth to a computer. The computer in turn collects the user’s coordinates with the help of an infrared camera placed on the ceiling. The camera on the ceiling is the Kinect type that also sees use on game consoles. The user has to activate the system by touching the thumb to the middle finger, in the process ensuring that all his actions are not interpreted by the system as a control gesture.
The engineers at Audi plan to use the armband in series operation in upcoming months. Katharina says that her team generally uses technology from the gaming world as, “They are ideal because they are relatively inexpensive and are being developed rapidly.”