Service engineers of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) are currently testing how PDAs (personal digital assistants) can be controlled with gestures and voice. ACV, Fraunhofer First, Loquendo, SAP, Siemens Business Services and Graz University of Technology are co-operating with EADS in this pilot project.
Nowadays, a PDA or small laptop is part of the standard equipment for service engineers in many industries. Often they use these devices to call up construction plans, checklists and other work aids from a central server using GPRS. The problem is how to operate the keyboard if, as is the case at EADS, the operator is working in a confined space inside an engine and is also holding tools?
The solution is to simply tell or show the computer what needs to be done. For this purpose, the engineers have a small computer attached to their belt and an ultralight headset with microphone, earphone and camera on their head. They use their voice to control actions via the computer's menu, and instructions are displayed or relayed audibly on the PDA. And if the environment is too noisy for voice control, a camera recognises nine different gestures with which the PDA can be controlled. EADS engineers will test the first prototypes in Toulouse in September 2006.
A recent survey from EADS points out that 50 per cent of working hours are spent on searching for the right information - and it is difficult to examine an aircraft engine with a stack of paper in your hand.
We believe that in a few years there will be a large market for such solutions says Siegfried Bublitz from C-Lab, the innovation centre of Siemens Business Services, which is assisting with the research.