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Virtual reality demo gives remote control of a robot via 5G

12 June, 2019

Visitors to Rittal’s stand at the 2019 Hannover Fair could take part in a demonstration in which they used virtual reality (VR) glasses and two VR controllers to control a two-arm industrial robot, connected to an edge-based 5G network. The task was to plug a large replica of a conductor connection terminal onto a rail, insert a cable into the terminal, and disconnect it again. There was immediate optical and acoustic feedback on whether or not they were successful in the task.

The aim of the demo was to show how edge-based 5G networks could be used to control robots with almost no latency. It was organised by Rittal, the Fraunhofer Fokus Institute for Open Commmunication Systems, and a new Rittal sister company called German Edge Cloud (GEC), which supplies private edge cloud infrastructures.

To grip and move objects remotely using robots, you need to be able to estimate the depth and distance of the objects and the robot arms. Fraunhofer researchers have developed an application that uses two fisheye cameras to stream an all-round view from the robot arm into the VR glasses in stereo 3D, giving viewers a realistic "robots-eye" view.

Communications are performed at 60GHz via a 5G radio cell consisting of a base station with a mobile radio antenna. This ensures a smooth VR environment and almost instantaneous control of the robot.

The Hannover demo showed how users wearing VR glasses could control a two-armed robot almost instantly via 5G
Image: Fraunhofer Fokus

The demo was using a system called Open5GCore – one of the world’s first standards-based and manufacturer-independent 5G core networks. When used in combination with on-site edge computing, it allows secure real-time communications.

“Companies know that they have to network their machines and systems intelligently to make the most of their industrial data,” says GEC managing director, Dr Sebastian Ritz. “Together with our partners, we are demonstrating how secure real-time data processing for Industry 4.0 may look. At the same time, the combination of edge computing and a 5G network provides the basis for an intelligent, real-time use of data to create more added value.”

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