Setting the course for the future

Setting the course for the future

Teaching and learning with Augmented Reality at Deutsche Bahn

In a modern society that is undergoing rapid change, companies face major challenges. In order to remain efficient and economical, they must constantly adapt to change, modernise and find solutions – for all areas of the company. They are supported by advances in science, improved infrastructures, global networks and new technologies.

The question of knowledge transfer plays a decisive role in modernization in many companies. Teaching and learning in a professional context make a significant contribution to a company’s success. This is particularly true for companies in which training requires a great deal of time and money, or in which the training content has to take place on site or on machines during operation. Training in hazardous situations or a shortage of teaching staff also pose complex challenges for companies. Modern technology now offers an efficient and convincing solution, which also brings crucial advantages in the didactic-methodical area: Augmented Reality (AR) revolutionizes teaching and learning.

Deutsche Bahn has identified the need for a modernised knowledge transfer within the company and recognised the opportunities offered by technical progress. Together with the startup VISCOPIC, the project “3D-Durchblick” was launched, which raises training and education to a new level. The further training of employees as well as the induction of new colleagues is since then much easier, faster and more efficient – thanks to the use of AR.

Unlimited learning with AR glasses

In the past, training meant that several participants gathered in a room with rows of chairs and tables. Some had brought something to write with them, others a coffee mug and, when the teaching staff appeared, it often didn’t take long for a beamer to hum and a screen presentation to convey the theory. Depending on the content of the training, this was later followed by a practical part, possibly involving greater logistical and material effort, smaller training groups, and extremely inflexible timing and location. This is how Deutsche Bahn employees know it – from earlier times. The Group has switched to a modern training concept and, with the help of AR, is making teaching and learning attractive and of high quality.

This groundbreaking technology has an almost unlimited potential for implementing innovative learning scenarios. By using AR, theoretical content can be interactively presented, adequately supplemented at the optimal time and explained in a multi-layered way. This makes it possible to do justice to different types of learners and to better reach them individually. Practical learning can first be practiced on a realistic representation. This makes it possible to establish a stronger practical relevance already in theory and to optimally prepare training courses in the real situation.

AR is particularly valuable in practical training and has clear advantages over classical methods. The problem with conventional trainings without Augmented Reality is that real training objects cannot be brought into the classroom. For this reason, Deutsche Bahn has so far provided specialist knowledge through PowerPoint presentations and exercises at real switches. This makes practical training in the necessary technical depth difficult, place bound and time-consuming. New technologies enable processes to be outlined directly on virtual models and representations and subsequently, enlarged upon the real component. Also applications that are rarely available for training in reality can be presented in AR training courses.

AR applications also make onboarding processes considerably easier for new employees, for example when colleagues learn how to handle a machine that is new for them without the help of an additional person. Usually this leads to an increase in productivity, as capacities are not limited in the training. In addition, AR extends the scope for decentralized training and collaboration. Technical experts can be connected to the AR glasses via video chat and give the learner tips or explain backgrounds. In this case, the trainers have access to the learner’s field of vision in order to instruct the learner, to select parts of the field of vision or to explain the context.

Ideal learning – in an extended working environment

The reasons why AR and VR have such decisive advantages in learning and teaching lie in the fact that the working environment is very different. The following factors are central:

  • Complexity: In a real learning environment, the complexity is very high. Other objects and actions in the learner’s environment can negatively influence and distract the learner. In the extended working environment opened up by the new technology, a reduction is possible, i.e. unneeded, disturbing or irrelevant components can be hidden. The clarity is much higher.
  • Dynamics: In conventional learning environments influence on the dynamics of the environment is not possible.  By marking or highlighting certain components, objects or processes when learning with AR, the environment dynamics can be influenced.
  • Contents: Thanks to AR, the content of a training course can be better controlled and adapted faster than in a normal learning environment. Individual parts and their functions can be displayed that would otherwise be installed in complex machines and would therefore not be visible.
  • Expenditure: In normal learning situations, material, time and costs must be expected, which often makes training inefficient. AR trainings eliminate these disadvantages.
  • Consequences: When practicing complex situations, hazards can arise for the trainees, the instructors or third parties. Learning with holograms, on the other hand, is realistic and yet safe.
  • Flexibility: In contrast to real learning situations, Augmented Reality training courses are available to everyone everywhere and at any time and from any location.
  • Individualisation: Thanks to the new technology, learning can be made more flexible and individualised.

3D-Durchblick – the leading edge of Deutsche Bahn

It is these advantages that convinced Deutsche Bahn to cooperate with VISCOPIC in the 3D-Durchblick project. Since then, AR has been used profitably for the Deutsche Bahn. How important AR has become in the area of training and how the quality of teaching increases, becomes clear in the concrete implementation:

The primary goal of 3D Durchblick is to increase the reliability of maintenance personnel – especially in the inspection and fault clearance of control and safety systems, such as point machines.

Using an AR application, maintenance technicians learn how to carry out complex processes that are necessary for their work. Hardly visible components can be shown clearly with AR data glasses and their function and maintenance can be understood. The recognition of defective parts or necessary repair steps and the control of results are easily taught and trained. With the help of AR, technicians can also be better prepared for rare events, as the additional costs for realistic simulation of this situation are comparatively low. Without the use of modern technology, vehicles would have to be taken out of service and made available for training purposes. This would result in train cancellations and thus high costs. The positive effect of this efficient training is that train delays can be avoided.

At Deutsche Bahn, training content often revolves around complex components, such as switches, which in turn interact with other components that are often invisible from the outside. This demanding system with its dependencies and interrelationships is difficult to illustrate. AR can do more: no matter how large and complex a component is, it can be displayed comprehensibly with all components and decisive aspects. This way, correlations are presented logically and the didactic quality of teaching increases.

Three Apps with one goal: better learning and teaching

AR is used to display animations and interactive tasks in trainings and learning, which can be used step-by-step to learn processes and test reactions. VISCOPIC supports Deutsche Bahn Netz AG with the development of three different applications for tablets and the Microsoft HoloLens:

App ” Switch Inspection “: In this application, the maintenance technician wears the AR data glasses HoloLens while moving on the real switch to check and maintain it. At the switch, the important inspection points are highlighted by virtual markings. The technician can already see from a distance where he has to check the switch. If he moves towards such a point, measurements and data that are relevant for the inspection are displayed. These remain in the inspector’s field of vision while he examines and maintains the switch.

App ” Point Machine”: In this application the hologram of a switch is projected into the room. The hologram can be used to display installed parts, name components and simulate processes. An additional function for tablets includes a quiz, which interrogates learning content.

App „RBC-cabinet”: The application makes it possible to learn processes at a Radio Block Center cabinet (RBC cabinet) responsible for the safety of a moving train. As with the “Point Machine” app, components and operations can also be displayed here.

In all applications, a “trainer” and a “student” mode can be distinguished. In trainer mode, the teacher shares his field of vision with the student. This means he can select and explain operations while the student sees the same holograms in identical perspective. This makes it clear to the student what the teacher is explaining and facilitates learning.

VISCOPIC – Technology with added value

VISCOPIC’s products closely integrate theory and practical instruction at Deutsche Bahn, making learning easier and improving the quality of teaching. DB Netz sees a great added value in these training contents, as cause-effect correlations are better illustrated and the reliability of action is increased. Optimally qualified employees are indispensable for smooth, precise quality assurance.

Deutsche Bahn already uses the enormous advantages of learning with AR in various employee training courses. This makes it easier to transfer knowledge and carry out practical training units. Employees who have been trained by the AR system so far confirm the positive effect of the innovative technology. 94% of the participants were convinced in  first joint tests that the use of AR offers enormous advantages.

AR is also an efficient solution with high quality and a long-term perspective for training and education in your company. VISCOPIC’s software products and individual use cases help you to use Augmented Reality profitably.

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