Engineering in the Intelligence Era – It’s Pretty Cool Stuff!

There are some exciting things going on in Hampton, Virginia. The world of modeling, simulation and visualization engineering is getting a futuristic makeover using the latest virtual reality technologies.

The Center for Advanced Engineering Environments (CAEE) at Old Dominion University is a NASA-funded research facility aimed at integrating computational, communication, networking and human performance technologies into the analysis, design, testing and manufacturing process. And it’s blending of virtual reality and artificial intelligence is cutting-edge.

“We are moving from what we call the Information Age to another era, the Intelligence Era,” CAEE director Ahmed Noor recently told Desktop Engineering. This is the result of advances which enable artificial intelligence to mimic cognitive characteristics of humans, Noor said.

CAEE’s technologies are aimed at encompassing and digitizing the entire product lifecycle, from concept and product development through operation, upgrade and disposal.

“Future high-tech systems will be complex systems-of-systems, developed through just-in-time collaborations of globally distributed teams, linked seamlessly by an infrastructure of networked devices, tools, facilities and processes,” Noor said.

One of the cooler projects CAEE has been working on is the intelligent avatar which will guide engineers through the design and digital simulation process. These virtual assistants can perform laborious and mundane tasks like automating model generation, as well as problem solve and even help out during physical testing.

An engineer will be able to call the assistant up as needed, for querying or retrieval of information.

In addition, the assistants deploy some neat interaction technology. Brain-based interfaces use brain signals to register thoughts and multimodal interfaces recognise gestures and facial expression so that the avatar and engineer can interact with each other in a more human way. One of the avatars can “see” when a user looks confused, and will ask if they need assistance.

Tabletop and autostereoscopic displays are also being developed by CAEE, the latter displays three-dimensional images that can be viewed without the use of special headgear or glasses, and the former is a touch-and-gesture-activated screen on top of a table which allows small groups to collaborate on a design.

The CAEE’s Icatcher is a 3D stereo projector which allows engineers to view their designs just as you might experience them in an I-Max theater. And, using EON IPresence tele-immersion technology, CAEE has developed a system whereby engineers located around the world can virtually interact with one another.

It’s a sure bet that some of these technologies, like the autostereoscopic display and IPresence tele-immersion, will eventually be combined to allow geographically dispersed engineers to work on a virtual design simultaneously in real-time, leading to a whole new level of collaboration and productivity.

How do you believe the convergence of technologies and devices will impact engineering in the Intelligence Era?

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