XLcloud Use Case - MVIC: Interactive and collaborative virtual prototyping

Platform Short Description

All interactive simulations developped by the CEA-LIST rely on a middleware layer based on the Orocos  environnement. This platform allows the definitions of components, called "agents". Each agent will manage either a computation loop (physical simulation), an interaction peripheral such has haptic interface, space mouse, tracking device..., or the rendering of the simulation. The rendering agent  is based on Ogre3D, with enhancements for stereo display. In order to setup a simulation, agents are set-up and connected together before entering the simulation loop. One important service provided by the Orocos layer is the ability to deploy the agents (hence the simulation) over a network using CORBA (ACE-TAO implementation is included in our executable). Also agents can be connected or disconnected during the simulation. More information on this in the component builder manual of Orocos.

Beyond this first level of distribution provided by corba, a second level of parallelism can be found within the computation agents themselves, currently using multi-core architecture and shared memory.    

So a typical simulation will be the result of agregation of (one or more) visualization agent, peripherial handling agents, and simulation agents, distributed over a network of workstation or computation cluster. The virtual environment of the simulation will also require the upload of big CAD data (eg collada files) representing the objects handled by the simulation. One important point is that all these simulations are supposed to run on commodity hardware or network, so here we will see the virtual cluster as a network of powerfull workstations on which we will distribute simulation nodes.

Use Case Description: Interactive and collaborative virtual prototyping

The goal of this use case is to demonstrate interactive and collaborative virtual prototyping from the cloud. Expected result is an ease of use making this kind of simulation suitable for small and medium businesses, and for collaborative work where participants to the simulation use differents peripherals, with different local computing power. The considered use case is about the validation by an automotive manufacturer of the design of an element built by a sub-contractor. We consider the example of a container, that should be able to contain a set of pieces, find its position next to the assembly chain, and should be folded when empty. From the CAD model of the container, the sub-contractor uses the cloud services to build a model allowing realistic interaction with human operators. This application is used internally, with low cost virtual reality devices, in order to validate the quality of the container design. Then the application is transferred to the automotive manufacturer who owns an immersive VR device and organize a validation session. Participants to this session can be from different geographical locations. An operator from the automotive manufacturer will manipulate the container from the immersive VR system : load it, unload it, fold it. He will chek its integration with the work station. A sub-contractor team member, from his company location, can participate and make comments about the design choices. A supervisor with good knowledge of the work station can also participate from his production location. A manager, in a remote location with a mobile device, also monitors the validation session.

Large manufacturing companies currently use virtual prototypes to validate at the design stage that a future product will be easily assembled, used, maintained and recycled. These virtual prototypes are built from the existing Computer Aided Design (CAD) models; they rely on interactive simulation capabilities provided by a physics engine to behave realistically when interacting with their (virtual) environment and with (real) humans that play the role of users, producing, maintenance or recycling staffs. Up to now, virtual prototyping sessions are mainly conducted in dedicated rooms featuring 3D interaction devices, computing power and software tools to process 3D models and simulate physical phenomena associated with rigid bodies, multi-body systems, deformable objects, virtual hands or virtual humans. The MVIC use case aims at demonstrating that cloud computing may allow several persons to interact with the same virtual prototype from places geographically remote and using different level of hardware and software, ideally ranging from a smart phone to an immersive stereoscopic multi-screen system (CAVE).

The MVIC Scenario

The scenario considered in the frame of XLCloud deals with a container designed to carry parts that are used on a car production line. This container must be compliant with the constraints of the targeted work stations, in particular it must fit in the assembly line sidings, be easily transported and replaced with a forklift, it must fold when empty and a worker should experience no difficulties in grasping the parts that are packaged in it. Typically, the container is provided by a subcontractor and validating the container design thus involves several persons located in different places, at least:

  • An engineer from the manufacturing design department of the automotive company.
  • She/he will be located in an immersive environment featuring stereoscopic multi-view display with head tracking and a haptic device.
  • An engineer from the subcontractor design office.
  • She/he will intervene through a powerful but non-immersive workstation associated with a simple ("kinect-like" tracking device).
  • A technician from the production unit that will use our containers.
  • She/he will use a standard PC also benefitting from a simple tracking device.

The validation session will be configured by the subcontractor engineer. The different operations foreseen with the container will then be simulated by the engineer in the immersive environment, but closely scrutinised by the two other persons who may take over the simulation to bring the benefit of their design expertise or their practical knowledge in the discussion.

State of the art

CEA-List knows how to handle interactive virtual prototyping and has experience of its application in automotive industry.

Locks / innovation

Currently, this technology requires significant investments on hardware, software and people. On the hardware side, recent products make virtual reality equiments affordable for small and medium businesses. Regarding human experts and software complexity, the aim of this project is to leverages the services brought by the cloud so that these small and medium business can embrace this technology.

Figure 1: Contacts detected and managed by the CEA-List XDE (Extended Physics Engine) interactive simulation software.

Figure 2: A real human interacting with a sophisticated virtual environment (car door and deformable cables) through an articulated virtual hand.

Figure 3: Immersive system combining a stereoscopic two screen display, tracked viewpoint and haptic feedback in both hands.

Figure 4: Virtual prototype generated from CAD files, featuring complex shapes rendered by several millions of polygons.

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