Fraunhofer FEP: Joint project secureAR wins Technology Award


New technologies such as augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing are rapidly opening up opportunities for entirely new business models and the future of work in industry. However, internet-based services also bring additional challenges in terms of data security and user acceptance. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding various interdisciplinary projects. At the closing conference, the joint project "secureAR" won the Technology Award with its open, cloud-based service platform and a new AR assistance system equipped with OLED microdisplays from Fraunhofer FEP (Dresden, Germany).

The use of internet-based services, so-called "smart services", in industry is continually offering new possibilities for companies to network with customers and new markets and can also make them more resilient for the future.

In industry, factories will have to manufacture individual single products even more flexibly in the future than they do today and achieve greater profitability. The technical possibilities of new technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems and cloud computing must be taken into account. Employees in the production of the future can be supported in the best possible way by modern AR assistance systems and the technology can be integrated into production and service processes. This enables an improvement of working conditions as well as production processes and also opens up completely new business models and services.

One of the challenges is to guarantee data protection and data security for AR content. This is an important factor because AR technologies can be used in many sensitive application areas. In addition, the integrity and reliability of AR content can be compromised if sensitive data leaves the protected data environment.

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is specifically funding interdisciplinary projects to further develop and test innovative business models as part of its "Future of Value Creation" research programme. The focus of "Internet-based services" was on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies.

The seven partners from industry and science in the joint project secureAR are also working on the development of a cross-industry and open cloud-based service platform with open industry interfaces. This service platform captures data along the entire value chain, from planning to production processes to plant maintenance, and enables location- and situation-based provision and visualisation of the data via a novel AR assistance system.

The service platform is being developed and verified taking industrial manufacturing at Airbus and Siemens as an example. The project results for this are based on the latest research findings from the fields of computer vision, machine learning and data security.

Fraunhofer FEP is contributing its decades of experience and extensive know-how in IC design to the development of OLED microdisplays for the data glasses developed in the project. This is characterised by the fact that it can be integrated into the user's equipment, offers the possibility of individual fit adjustment, and is equipped with high-resolution yet low-power OLED microdisplays for display.

Overall, the prototype's hardware is modular and can be adapted to different requirements in an industrial environment. Individual components can be removed depending on the intended use, reducing weight and thus further increasing comfort. In addition, the AR assistance system was integrated into protective gear that is already in daily use by the project partners. The project partners thus achieved a significant improvement in ergonomics and increased user acceptance.

A high-level fit of task and technology is of central importance for a human-centred use of the developed solution. To ensure this, a detailed context of use analysis was conducted. This offers the possibility to create profiles about user groups or personas and to gain insight into the actual state of the work process under consideration.

At the end of June 2023, the final conference of 13 innovative projects of the initiative of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research on "Innovations for data-based value creation" took place in Kassel. In addition to numerous pitches, secureAR's project partners were also able to present and discuss their results during the conference.

In addition, the projects competed for one award each in the categories "Best Publication", "Technology" and "Sustainability". The independent jury consisting of Prof Dr Susanne Robra-Bissantz of the Technical University of Braunschweig, Daniel Knapp, member of the board of directors at andrena objects, and Erik Mertens from the Project Management Organisation Karlsruhe awarded the project secureAR with the Technology Award of the BMBF much to the delight of all project participants. Bernd Richter, head of the department Organic Microelectronic Devices at Fraunhofer FEP is pleased: "The whole consortium was very happy about the award. It is a great acknowledgement for the developed AR assistance system and the service platform as a result of the previous years of good, joint cooperation and motivates us to realize further steps in the project."

The project results and the services developed can be transferred to small and medium-sized enterprises industry-wide in the future via the open service platform. The digital platform is designed as an open ecosystem that is available to all developers and customers. The OLED microdisplays as components for AR data glasses and systems can be developed customised by Fraunhofer FEP and are also available as evaluation kits.

Caption: AR assistance system equipped with power-saving 720p OLED microdisplays (photo: Fraunhofer FEP)

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