Using augmented reality, auto manufacturers can integrate virtual computer-aided design (CAD) prototypes into actual modules or vehicles to find and solve assembly problems before production begins. The Unifeye Prototyping System from Metaio (Munich, Germany) with digital cameras from Allied Vision Technologies (AVT, Ahrensburg, Germany) makes it possible. As a pioneer in the area of augmented reality technology, Metaio develops software products for systems driven by visual interaction in both real and virtual worlds. The company’s Unifeye software platform not only lets operators place 3-D animations directly into live video streams, but also supports the seamless integration of images from the external user environment.
The Challenge: Combining Real and Virtual PrototypesCAD and virtual prototypes have long been part and parcel of the engineer’s toolkit at VW, Daimler and Toyota, and the time and cash investments in prototype construction have fallen considerably. However, it is still necessary to test the integration of new components, such as a new motor for an existing vehicle model: does the unit fit into the engine compartment? Can it be installed without new problems arising? Is there enough room for brake assemblies and cable connections?
The Solution: Unifeye PrototypingAugmented reality provides answers to questions such as these: thanks to this technology, engineers can combine virtual prototypes with real components. Metaio is at the forefront of augmented reality and develops software products for visually interactive applications in real and virtual worlds. In cooperation with measurement arm specialist Faro (Lake Mary, FL), Metaio developed Unifeye Prototyping, a system that can reduce development lead time and prototype costs, for example, in the automobile industry.
With the Unifeye Protyping System, engineers can measure virtual CAD prototypes with real elements. In so doing, they can check whether future components can be installed in an existing vehicle during an earlier phase of development, and problems can be identified in a timely manner.
The system consists of a Faro measuring arm, with a digital camera from Allied Vision Technologies (AVT) attached. Using the measurement arm’s 3-D positioning, the physical prototype can be precisely located and measured in space with the help of measurement software. The camera delivers a live video stream of the object. Metaio’s augmented reality software processes the video data as the virtual 3-D element is integrated into the real image.
The camera’s exact positioning using the measurement arm enables the virtual 3-D images to be adapted in real time to the changing angle of view and to be precisely overlaid onto the live stream. A combined image is presented on the monitor in which the virtual prototype is built into the real one. Engineers can precisely view how both elements integrate with each other. Using the arm, they can move the camera to capture more detail or to view the object from different angles.
Draftsmen can immediately see in real time if a bolt for a virtual screw is missing or if the geometry of both parts is less than optimally aligned in any way. This capacity allows for the exclusion of errors during preproduction, which previously could only be found on the first physical prototype of the new component.
The Requirements: Image Quality and Compact ConstructionThe digital camera used is a Guppy F-080C color camera from AVT; its extremely compact construction and suitability for industrial environments make it a good choice. It connects to the system computer via a digital FireWire interface (IEEE1394a), allowing image data to be transmitted quickly and reliably-critical for real-time processing. The Guppy F-080 delivers XGA resolution (0.8 megapixel) at an image rate of 30 frames per second. “At Unifeye Prototyping, it’s all about detail. The AVT Guppy won us over with its high image quality and compact dimensions that don’t limit arm movement ,” says Dr. Ronald Müller, product manager industrial AR solutions of Metaio.
Allied Vision Technologies