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Case study

Orange | Controlling a robotic arm with HoloLens and 5G


Controlling a robotic arm with HoloLens and 5G

5G has huge potential for businesses, especially in industries like manufacturing. But how do you show people what this new generation of connectivity can do for their company?

With this challenge in mind, Orange contacted Mr. Watts. They had a special request and asked us to develop software to control a robotic arm with smartglasses.

Robots working together with humans

The robotic arm was a showcase project for the visitors of a conference organized by Orange. German manufacturer Staubli, who specializes in robotic solutions for industrial environments, supplied the connected robot. We were responsible for writing the software that connects the arm to the HoloLens.

To emphasize the real-time capabilities of 5G connectivity, we designed a digital twin of the robot arm that made the exact same movements as the robot itself. The smartglasses allowed people to simultaneously watch the digital version and the real-life robotic arm.

“With the robotic arm, we wanted to show how robots and humans can work together by connecting both the robot and a HoloLens to an Orange 5G network. Low latency and ultra-reliability are crucial for this use case”, says Oliver Nerinckx, Product Manager Device Industry 4.0 at Orange.

Fancy a piece of chocolate?

During the conference, the robotic arm was installed near a table filled with chocolates. When the HoloLens users pointed to a piece of chocolate, the robotic arm took the exact piece from the table and then placed it in their hands. This is made possible by the HoloLens’ hand-tracking capabilities.

Moreover, communication between the arm and the smartglasses is two-way. Not only can the user send a command to the robot, the HoloLens also reads data that is sent by the machine. For example, when the arm displays information about its position, those parameters can be replicated on the digital model displayed by the HoloLens.

What can it do for businesses?

Most manufacturing companies have an abundance of IoT sensors that provide real-time information. The robotic arm is a perfect example of how you can benefit from this data over a 5G network. When a machine gets blocked, downtime can be costly. Fortunately, most systems automatically indicate when something is wrong by sending out an error code.

Thanks to an application for a smartglasses solution like HoloLens, a technician can read the code and immediately see the problem on the digital twin. By unlocking and visualizing the information, the product line will resume much faster and thus significantly reduce downtime. This is just one example of how the combination of smartglasses and 5G connectivity can be a game changer for businesses.

“We wanted to show customers, for instance, how they can easily check the status of a machine without running the risk of being hit by the robot”, says Oliver Nerinckx. “It is also a great solution to quickly restart processes after an error in a robot cell.”

What’s next?

Would you like to discover this technology with your own eyes? You can do so in the Orange experience center. This facility in the port of Antwerp is the place to be for visitors of Orange who are interested in new technologies. One of the solutions displayed here is Staubli’s robotic arm and the HoloLens that we equipped with our software.

In the future, this showcase project will probably lead to new use cases for the HoloLens. When visitors decide to do something with this innovative technology, Orange will provide the connectivity and Mr. Watts can deliver the best software to create real business value.

“Mr. Watts has been our partner in crime for this demo. After a brainstorm session, we were immediately on the same page. It’s clear that Mr. Watts has excellent expertise in this field. I am looking forward to working out a full end-to-end use case together.”

Oliver Nerinckx – Product Manager Device Industry 4.0 at Orange.

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