Augmented and virtual reality in industry is predicted to become a US $80 billion market by 2025, according to Goldman Sachs. Its impact on shipbuilding will be no less dramatic.
Goldman Sachs AR & VR Research Business Unit leader Heather Bellini states that AR and VR have the potential to transform the way people interact with the products of almost every industry. But before turning to shipbuilding, let’s clarify the definitions.
Augmented reality inserts digital information into a real-world environment. It is often done via tablet or smartphone. Virtual reality uses a headset to immerse users in a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional, 360-degree environment. Certain software and hardware makes it possible to control and manipulate aspects of this virtual world.
VR is Standard in Larger Shipyards
Germany-based 3D maritim network is a group of IT companies, research institutions and users driving 3D applications in the maritime industry. Network members specialize in AR, VR, 3D reconstruction, enrichment of 3D data and human-machine communication. “VR is already standard in Germany’s larger shipyards. There are still challenges, however, regarding the large data volumes,” explained spokeswoman Wiebke Peters.
“In the field of AR, there are early experiments with applied research concluding in promising scenarios with the potential of increasing efficiency in production and operation,” she said.
“Challenges here include the fact that in ships you’re surrounded by steel, which impedes utilization of AR mobile applications. Furthermore, current tracking algorithms for AR—to determine a user’s position in relation to the object to be augmented—have been developed for relatively small objects, such as cars. Ships are big and complex. For this reason we have to use customized technologies that take this challenge into account.”
AR, the New Cutting Edge
Index AR Solutions is an augmented reality pioneer in the United States. The company states that by 2026, the US enterprise market will be worth an estimated $49 billion. It also hails its teaming partner, Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), “a trailblazer.”
“All of this leads to the most significant saving—reduction in risk.”
NNS is the sole designer/builder of US Navy aircraft carriers. According to AR team engineer Mary Claire McLaughlin, augmented reality is a “new cutting edge” technology. “A user is kept in his physical environment, in this case the compartment he’s in on the ship. He can see the bulkheads and the equipment, but also has digital information.” McLaughlin further described AR use in a video.
Turning to VR, 80-year-old Danish ship design firm Knud E Hansen (KEH) has developed a new tool called ShipSpace that allows designers, engineers and stakeholders to validate design ideas and communicate effectively about vessel concepts.
KEH simulation products head Robert Spencer explained to NauticExpo e-mag how it works. “There are a number of ways. The first one is purely as a communications tool that allows all the engineers to be in the same place when considering a design problem. The cost-savings from avoiding confusion and rework are huge in any significant project,” he said.
“Second, the ability to properly exploit external domain expertise, be it captains on the bridge or owners touring their vessel. Previously, to achieve the same level of understanding required construction of expensive physical mock-ups.”
According to Spencer, engineers and designers benefit from being able to “walk through” the design in ShipSpace. “Holding design review meetings within ShipSpace makes numerous problems that are difficult to appreciate in CAD very obvious,” he explained. “All of this leads to the most significant saving—reduction in risk.”
“The shipbuilding industry moves slowly,” he acknowledged. But “over the next 5 to 10 years it seems obvious that all significant vessels will have a VR component in their design process.”