No-touch human-machine interface
A safety study we conducted on controlling systems via a touch panel showed that an operator had to make compromises when it came to personal protective equipment (PPE) and that maintenance and service times increased.
Technicians must always wear protective gloves when working with hazardous chemicals, but this makes touchscreens less responsive, if at all. This can lead to potential security issues if technicians choose to ignore certain security protocols to save time. For example, they remove protective gloves to operate the screens or use pen-like objects, which can lead to broken screens.
This gave our engineers the idea of developing an HMI controlled by voice and augmented reality. The goal: to enable technicians and engineers to operate with full PPE, while always being able to view manuals, drawings and technical information, order spare parts and receive real-time support.
Voice control has been around for a while; KINETICS started integrating this technology into our devices back in 2018. In plant construction, we use laser scanning technology to map facilities and overlay BIM models through augmented reality with Microsoft HoloLens. So it made sense to also integrate this technology into our no-touch HMI.
Through the use of augmented reality, we have effectively improved hands-free operation and provide real-time audiovisual feedback to technicians without the need for a control screen. This is a milestone in operator safety when handling hazardous chemicals. Maintenance personnel can now work in full PPE protective gear and still have full control over the tools.
Augmented reality also enables technicians to access all information related to a specific tool, from manuals to drawings to spare parts lists. The technicians can contact a 24/7 support hotline via the Microsoft HoloLens™; the goggles are capable of streaming live video to our service support team for accurate real-time walkthrough troubleshooting.