- Deakin and Australian hydraulics company HYDAC have worked together to develop a virtual reality training environment for maintenance staff around Australia.
- The project has pioneered the use of virtual reality to provide accessible real-time training on complex hydraulic machinery.
- HYDAC Virtual Reality Training has set a new benchmark for hydraulics training in the advanced manufacturing industry in Australia.
- The online format means hands-on training is more accessible and does not require travel – resulting in positive social and environmental impacts.
- HYDAC Virtual Training can be used to create bespoke training experiences that can benefit a wide range of educational institutions, organisations and businesses.
Learning online through virtual reality
Deakin University has partnered with HYDAC Australia – a world leader in motion control and fluid technology – to train operators on their machines by use of sophisticated virtual reality (VR) software.
Deakin researchers have collaborated with HYDAC to develop a leading-edge training program that can be delivered remotely using virtual reality. The innovative technology allows for students and trainers in different locations to come together in a virtual training space.
The training is unique in that it simulates hazardous events that would be impossible to demonstrate safely in real life. Students are able to virtually interact with equipment and receive real-time instructions and feedback from a professional, qualified technical trainer in the use of complex hydraulic machinery.
The project paves the way for a new training era for the hydraulics industry and other related sectors.
As a global company with staff located throughout Australia, HYDAC sought out Deakin’s virtual reality expertise to overcome the challenges of distance training with a cheaper, but equally safe alternative to face-to-face training.
When the lockdown restrictions were introduced in 2020, the Deakin/HYDAC development team collaborated “face-to-face” virtually through the VR training environment for four months to refine the development of the software and user interactions of one of HYDAC's most complex hydraulic devices.
The VR environment that was created demonstrated other possibilities for virtual interaction over distance, such as virtual meetings. Through the use of low-cost VR devices, Deakin and HYDAC were able to continue the design and development of the VR training system during COVID-19 without interruption.
‘This was fantastic use of technology to enable businesses and educators to continue their training regimes safely through the COVID-19 restrictions. But it is also the way of the future.
‘It is exciting for Australian industry. We are pioneering solutions that haven’t been available before,’ said HYDAC’s managing director Mark Keen.
Paving the way for future virtual reality training experiences
Deakin is one of the leading Victorian universities providing virtual reality training solutions to industry and has a strong track record of successful collaborations. Virtual reality experts from Deakin’s Motion Lab virtually recreated one of HYDAC’s most sophisticated machines – the wheel lock hydraulics pressure unit – allowing user interaction within a virtual environment.
The HYDAC Wheel Lock Hydraulics Pressure Unit virtual reality model and user experience design went through an iterative six-month development cycle, involving Deakin Motion Lab staff, HYDAC engineers and end users. The virtual reality model directly translates the real-world Hydraulics Pressure Unit device’s engineering plans, down to its minute details. Through the software, users communicate via voice, use natural hand gestures, and assemble and disassemble complex machinery with tools and hand movements that mimic real processes, whilst being guided by instructors and task panels.
Hydraulics training requires expensive and heavy equipment. Hands-on training on complicated hydraulics machines is limited to specific locations and specific times. HYDAC’s virtual reality training provides an unprecedented opportunity for physically-distanced students to gain access to an expanded training program in the use of complex hydraulics machinery. For economic reasons, this level of training has not previously been possible on a broad scale. The VR technology removes the need for travel and provides training to staff located in remote areas, such as the mining sites in the Pilbara, where this type of machine is located.
By removing the need to transport several tones of equipment around training centres throughout the country, the VR training also plays a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The project gave the Deakin team an opportunity to focus on user interaction aspects of VR training, enabling hands-on interaction that reflects real-world processes. We were able to develop a consistent and connected virtual training experience on a complex machine involving a teacher and students in multiple locations. ‘It built our confidence and expertise to develop other sophisticated VR training programs for HYDAC and other clients, helping them to overcome the barriers of distance and cost
Professor Stefan Greuter
Director of Deakin Motion Lab.
Accelerating digital transformation
Deakin’s Motion Lab is home to one of Australia’s leading motion capture and virtual reality/augmented reality facilities. Its researchers have specialised in developing innovative content through virtual reality, augmented reality, real-time animation and motion capture, supported by world-class technological capability.
The virtual reality software sets a new benchmark for advanced hydraulics training in the advanced manufacturing industry in Australia. The Deakin/HYDAC collaboration has made hands-on hydraulics training more accessible to students, contributing to an increase in the number and quality of students working in advanced manufacturing.
With the capability of generating bespoke training and support packages, HYDAC believes that this technology will lead to a new business sector and is in the process of employing new staff with specialist skills.
The collaboration also presents new opportunities to capture user interaction issues early in a development process. This has significant potential for prototype development in industry. Deakin’s Motion Lab team recently undertook a fully immersive collaboration process during the development of an occupational health and safety project with the Australian construction company Kane Constructions, without requiring a single face-to-face meeting.