Even before Audi produces the first prototypes of a new car, engineers in the Pre-Series Center check individual assembly steps in a 3-D projection. They assemble components virtually, thus determining whether this process is feasible and ergonomic for the employees on the production line. As part of a pilot project, they are now for the first time moving the components in the virtual space using simple gestures.

Audi is checking individual assembly steps virtually in pre-series development to determine whether they are practical for everyday usage. The tests are conducted in the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). This consists of projection surfaces on the floor and wall on which projectors display 3-D images of components. The result is a virtual reality into which the Audi engineers can immerse themselves with 3-D glasses.

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As part of series operation, the pre-series developers control the virtual components using a controller from a games console. This should also be feasible soon using simple gestures. “We want to make picking up and moving the components more intuitive in the future,” says Katharina Kunz, Audi development engineer for virtual validation. At present she is therefore testing the Myo – an armband developed in the gaming industry for gesture control – with her team as part of a pilot phase.

The armband measures the muscle currents in the forearm and can deduce how the user is moving their arm and fingers. The armband then sends the motion data via Bluetooth to a computer. The same computer also collects the user’s position coordinates with the aid of an infrared camera on the ceiling. The camera used is a Kinect – the control hardware in a games console. To ensure that the Myo armband does not interpret every possible movement as a control gesture, the user activates the system by touching their thumb and middle finger.

Katharina Kunz and her team frequently use technologies from the gaming world: “They are ideal for us because they are relatively inexpensive and are being developed rapidly.” The engineers in the Pre-Series Center aim to use the Myo in series operation in the coming months.

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