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Portuguese use virtual reality in the programming of industrial robots

A team of researchers from Coimbra developed a tool to integrate virtual reality into the programming of industrial robots, which can “revolutionize industrial robotics” and represents a new concept of human-machine interaction.

The inclusion of virtual reality in robotics, especially in industrial robotics, can be very advantageous, according to an unpublished study carried out at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Coimbra (FCTUC).

The study, coordinated by Norberto Pires, was made following a challenge launched by DOLL Engineering, a German company that develops robotic systems for the industry, advances the college.

Using mixed reality devices – such as that used in Microsoft HoloLens – glasses that bring together virtual reality objects (holograms) and augmented reality – a group of researchers from the Industrial Robotics Laboratory of FCTUC has developed a robotic tool that has everything to “revolutionize industrial robotics, namely robot programming, because we are facing a new concept of human-machine interaction,” says Norberto Pires.

“Any technician will be able to program a robot without knowing anything about it,” adds the FCTUC researcher and project coordinator.

Basically, based on the potential of Microsoft’s HoloLens equipment, which designs holograms – three-dimensional [3D] images – in the actual environment where it is used, “the developed system allows the user to extract visual information from the actual part, 3D rendering of that piece of work done in a CAD [computer aided drawing] tool, and to explore and manipulate it (visually in real environment) according to the intended application, through simple hand gestures “, explains Norberto Pires.

“Then it transmits this information to the robot, which in turn assimilates it and generates the necessary code to perform the defined operations, which may include the production of the part itself (for 3D printing, for example)”, says the scientist of FCTUC.

Thus, the new tool makes the programming of a robot “accessible to anyone, since the programmer no longer has to know the specific code of each machine, how to program a particular robot, that is, its details, the specific language used, the characteristics of the robot, etc., that is, all this can be hidden from the programmer, which focuses only on the operational aspects “, points out, quoted by FCTUC, Norberto Pires.

The team believes that the developed system, in collaboration with DOLL Engineering, will have “a vast field of application in the near future, radically changing the way of programming industrial robots”.

Consequently, “it will significantly reduce the projection and manufacturing time of the products, reducing the associated costs”, emphasizes the researcher.

“The integration of virtual reality technology into today’s industrial robotic systems is undoubtedly a turning point in reducing complexity for end-users,” concludes Norberto Pires, noting that “current robot technology still requires advanced programming expertise “.

The study was recently published in the international magazine Industrial Robot, Emerald.

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