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Augment IT supports Future Cities Laboratory (FCL)

We have contributed our Augmented Reality expertise to Future Cities Laboratory’s Digital Underground showcase presented at the Urban Lab exhibition ‘Underground: Singapore’s Next Frontier’, organized by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

The Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) was established by ETH-Zurich and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), and operates under the auspices of the Singapore-ETH Centre. Digital Underground, a collaboration between Singapore-ETH Centre, Singapore Land Authority and the Geomatics Unit of the City of Zurich, aims to develop a roadmap for the 3D mapping of existing and future utility networks in Singapore.

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Seeing the unseen

Visitors experience seeing the unseen by using an app running on an iPad. Existing and future utility networks in Singapore are mapped in 3D. An accurate 3D digital map of the utility network and underground components will help planners to understand these dense and complex networks. Such a digital map could also shed light on the management of the utility networks such as their ownership and operation, in order to ensure legal compliance, efficiency, and resilience of these systems.

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The exhibition ‘Underground: Singapore’s Next Frontier’ at the URA Gallery was officially launched by the Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong, on 30 May and is open to the public until 29 June 2018.

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The showcase and the exhibition were shown in Channel 8 News on TV in Singapore.

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The great potential of Augmented Reality for underground structures

The use of underground space has largely been developed on a first-come-first-served basis. Over time, this hinders further expansion and optimal use of underground space. By planning and safeguarding the space upfront and with the help of technology, the potential of underground space can be unlocked and it can be used more efficiently.

When digging up streets or excavating construction pits for maintenance purposes, there is often significant damage to power supply or telecommunications lines due to insufficient position information. Retrieving information about underground utilities and locating utility networks underground would be of great help to planners, engineers and architects as well as field-workers.

Imagine yourself: viewing energy and drainage lines in real-time thereby saving cost and time. Wouldn’t this be an asset?

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Augment IT by Netcetera and Müller Technologie AG in Frauenfeld have successfully tested the use of augmented and mixed reality for maintenance. Digitalizing the checklist helps maintenance personnel perform work of the same quality with less training and experience. Furthermore, data can be collected for the traceability of maintenance work. Müller Technologie, part of the leading Müller Gleisbau Group in Switzerland, develops, builds and maintains machines for modern railway and track construction. It is the only company in Switzerland to offer silo freight wagon cleaning and maintenance in accordance with GHP standards.

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This video shows how a maintenance employee sets a reference point after identifying the freight wagon and starts to run through a checklist of typically 50 to 100 checkpoints. The worker is guided to the individual checkpoints by means of navigation support and in this way carries out the process. Contextual information (text, image, video, 3D and web content) is displayed in the correct place, thus supporting the employee while they work.

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This showcase has demonstrated that an augmented reality checklist enables employees with less training to perform the same tasks as their more experienced colleagues.

The high level of accuracy of the solution is particularly noteworthy – even in an industrial environment with freight wagons 25 meters in length, which you repeatedly have to walk around, the accuracy of the checkpoints is still very good. Furthermore, no fixed installation or infrastructure is required and creating new checklists or modifying the existing checklist can be done quickly and easily.

The augmented reality checklist is currently running on Microsoft HoloLens and the Android ZenFone AR phone. Additional devices will be added soon.

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Augmented IT by Netcetera has developed a showcase for the use of augmented and mixed reality in the fields of vocational education and training for Bühler in Uzwil.

HoloLens enables students to explore the company’s own grinding machines together directly in the classroom, in 3D and at their original size. They can move freely around the placed 3D object, open the machine and disassemble it, thereby deepening their understanding of its functionality and inner workings. In addition, participants from remote locations can be integrated into lessons regardless of location. Thanks to ARKit, the AR framework for iOS, it is possible for apprentices to study the content on their usual devices at home or on the go on the iPad or iPhone.

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Plundering Islands in Your Living Room

Mixed Reality 3D action game

Mixed Reality can provide improvements in various aspects of professional life. It can help the education process by projecting objects and processes in the real world. It can help medical personnel to carefully plan operations. It can help maintenance workers to easily find and solve various problems. Mixed Reality also offers improvements in the entertainment sector. Nowadays, Virtual Reality has become one of the most talked about topics in the gaming industry. Devices like PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and so on, bring the possibility to enjoy virtual worlds in your living room. But Virtual Reality, as the name implies, disconnects you from the real world. Mixed Reality, on the other hand, offers you the possibility to enjoy the fun of playing virtual games in the real world. This is the story about the challenges and the concepts behind our first Mixed Reality game – Cubic Warfare.

Cubic Warfare is a 3D action game. You are a captain of a pirate ship and your goal is to destroy buildings on various islands as fast as possible in order to earn as much Reals as possible. You are able to play all by yourself just for fun, or to submit your score to online leaderboards and compare it with other players.

Cubic Warfare was first conceived as a prize raffle game for one of our company events. The idea was to have the employees compete by playing an accessible game. The best players would win prizes. At the time, HoloLens was relatively new and we didn’t have a lot of knowledge about it in the company. That was the opportunity to create the game.

The initial version of Cubic Warfare was very well received, so it was developed further and was used at the Netcetera booth at the Jazoon Tech Days that took place in Bern in April 2017. For this event there were several new levels created, the ability to submit scores to a leaderboard was added, the visuals were improved, etc. The game performed very well and piqued the interest of a lot of the attendees. We decided to develop it further and finally to make it available for everyone to play. Today, Cubic Warfare is available at no cost for everyone in the Windows Store and has been awarded with silver at the Best of Swiss Apps 2017.

So, what were the biggest challenges during the development process?

The HoloLens is a standalone mixed reality device. This means that it doesn’t need any additional hardware to operate (like a PC, smartphone or something similar). All of the sensors, processing units, battery, etc. are contained in the headset. The headset is powerful enough to display complex models. However it is not powerful enough to perform complex physics simulations, or to render models with high-end materials and lighting. Performance is one of the restrictions that the developer should be aware of. To reduce the model complexity and lower the number of polygons that were used, we decided that the game should use models made out of cubes, also known as Voxel models. Models made out of cubes can be easily made destructible, if the physics are set correctly. Some of our Voxel models are displayed in the gallery below.

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In an innovative partnership, SBB (Swiss railroads) and «augment IT» (by Netcetera) successfully tested the use of HoloLens. Various scenarios were investigated and tested. In the short- and medium-term, we see the greatest potential as being in the areas of maintenance and training.

One example is its application to train maintenance. The video shows how an untrained employee can view the interior workings of a rail car at the Bern railroad station. An application could give the employee enough assistance to be able to solve the problem more rapidly and with minimum effort. Alternatively, an expert could provide assistance over a video link.

Unique benefits:

  • View of the interior workings of a rail car «on-site»
  • Highlighting defective parts
  • Assistance with maintenance, using a camera and remote connection

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A more visionary application would be the automatic recognition of valid tickets. Currently, these are read manually using a scanner. In future, a pair of glasses like HoloLens could allow ticket inspectors to check the validity of the ticket and the person concerned. To do this, he would simply pick up the SwissPass and look at it through HoloLens. In addition, the number of passengers could be counted automatically, which would speed up controls and lead to more reliable passenger numbers. This case illustrates the potential of the new technology, but for a number of reasons it is not yet ready for further investigation.

At first, it was not clear which scenarios would provide benefit for SBB. The evaluation and test phase showed that initial uses already exist in maintenance and training. More business areas will open up as the devices are further developed. It is not a question of whether this will happen, but when.

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The Swiss Museum of Transport, (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz), is a fascinating and exciting place of discovery. Thanks to its original artifacts from the history of Swiss transport and shipping, it is the most visited museum in Switzerland. The 160-year-old Rigi is regarded as the oldest surviving flush-deck side-wheel paddle steamer in the world and is also the oldest surviving means of motorized transport in Switzerland. Today, only the hull remains to bear witness to its interesting and meaningful history. A great deal of imagination is required to picture this paddleboat, built in 1848, in its prime as a cargo steamer and, later, a pleasure cruiser (from 1863 onwards, it carried passengers). Thanks to HoloLens and mixed reality, for the first time the Museum is now able to tell the story of this boat in visual episodes using the ship itself.

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History

The history of the Rigi makes for a rollicking ride. Originally, this paddle steamer was used to ferry goods between Lucerne and Flüelen, an important leg of the European trade route that ran from Basle to Milan. It played an important role in the mechanization of the Alps. In the tourism industry, the SS Rigi also made history. In 1863, it transported guests on Thomas Cook’s first guided tour through the Swiss Alps.

Resurrecting the SS Rigi

Mixed reality is a term that was introduced along with the Microsoft HoloLens. The new term indicates, it is about more than simple “augmentation”. It is an extension of the real world using three-dimensional objects and knowledge of the spatial conditions. Mixed reality allows museums to “tell” and visualize different stories based on the item itself. This allows visitors to actually glimpse the past. It is an impressive experience to stand in front of the great, antique hull and, seconds later, to see what the boat looked like 160, 100 or 80 years ago, full-scale, to the accompaniment of an acoustical backdrop from each era. Even the interior of the boat can be viewed and is rendered accessible by animations – for instance, one that shows the boat’s propulsion method.

The Solution

Together with Netcetera, the Museum has developed a showcase that incorporates the Rigi. The result is an impressive demonstration of the potential of mixed reality solutions. The combination of historical objects and state-of-the-art technology allows visitors to enjoy a realistic and exciting presentation of history. Further remarkable facts:

  • The size of the object works: this is probably one of the first use cases in the world involving HoloLens and a length of thirty meters.
  • The display is accurate: overlaying the actual object with additional models (different generations) has been successfully implemented.
  • Never mind the weather (outdoor use): in sunshine and in rain, we found ways to make the experience a reality, without having to compromise.

Great Potential

We see this having great potential for an enhanced visitor experience in the museum. Jacqueline Schleier, Director of Digital Strategy at the Lucerne Museum of Transport, confirms: “When I first saw the SS Rigi in all its old splendor, I was simply overwhelmed. I realized immediately: this has great potential for the museum in the future and our visitors will be thrilled.”[/fusion_text][fusion_images picture_size=”auto” hover_type=”zoomin” autoplay=”yes” columns=”2″ column_spacing=”13″ show_nav=”yes” mouse_scroll=”no” border=”yes” lightbox=”no” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility”][fusion_image image=”https://augmentit.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-04-2017-13-56-34-300×156.jpg” image_id=”595″ linktarget=”_self” /][fusion_image image=”https://augmentit.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-04-2017-13-53-19-300×156.jpg” image_id=”590″ linktarget=”_self” /][fusion_image image=”https://augmentit.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-04-2017-13-55-28-300×156.jpg” image_id=”593″ linktarget=”_self” /][fusion_image image=”https://augmentit.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-04-2017-13-54-30-300×156.jpg” image_id=”592″ linktarget=”_self” /][fusion_image image=”https://augmentit.ch/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/03-04-2017-13-53-19-300×156.jpg” image_id=”590″ linktarget=”_self” /][/fusion_images][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” background_position=”center center” background_repeat=”no-repeat” fade=”no” background_parallax=”none” parallax_speed=”0.3″ video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_loop=”yes” video_mute=”yes” border_style=”solid”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ layout=”1_1″ spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hover_type=”none” link=”” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”fade” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text]Professor Raabe’s team from the University Clinic for neurosurgery at the University Hospital of Berne has worked with us to test new mixed reality applications in neurosurgery. One thing is already clear: The augmented reality approach provides better planning for surgical interventions.

A first specific field of application is the visualization of scan results and the corresponding planning of operations. Existing CT and MRI scans of patients and data from neuro-navigation can be divided into their component segments, colored, and visualized life-size in 3D. The spatial representation makes the situation more understandable and helps the surgeon in planning the operation.

To this end, we’ve developed an easy-to-use and intuitive app. The app runs directly on the HoloLens, no other devices are needed. The doctor loads the patient data directly into the HoloLens from the neuro-navigation system without further manual steps. The patient is selected using a menu in the HoloLens, then the scans are loaded directly into the glasses and visualized in 3D space. Various segments such as the head, blood vessel and individual areas of the brain are marked with colors and can be displayed or hidden. Segments can be resized and moved with gestures and voice commands.

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At the beginning of the project, the situation was not clear. For example, we didn’t know whether the HoloLens is adequate for such complex models and whether the hospital’s 3D data could even be used for this purpose. We quickly proofed that the performance of the HoloLens delivers true added value together with the development tools and the existing data.

The solution is still in the prototype phase and not in medical use. In our opinion, such use is only a matter of time. We have already identified additional areas of application with further potential and included them in the planning.

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