Virtual reality is giving the industry a way out of the coronavirus crisis. Robotics advisors are now visiting factories virtually to keep business going and to avoid a slowdown of automation efforts in the manufacturing industry.  

PRESS RELEASE: The COVID-19 crisis is halting industry efforts of doing business together. Factories are either sealed off from visitors or shut down entirely. 

To solve this issue, some companies are looking for alternative ways of doing business. One of them is Gain & Co, an independent group of advisors on robotics & automation that often needs to visit companies in person.

The advisors are now starting to conduct factory visits from home, using virtual reality glasses. At the destination, a factory worker is live streaming video of the production facilities back to the advisors with the help of a 360-degree camera. A new way of working has emerged:

“Our work is dependent on our physical presence on the premises of the manufacturing companies we help automate,” says CEO of Gain & Co, Søren Peters. “Without these virtual visits, we wouldn’t be able to help companies realize their automation goals – which is now more important than ever.”

Difficult transition to replace physical presence

According to Peters, it is a challenge to do business during the COVID-19 crisis, because people are used to dealing with customers in person, especially in the manufacturing industry. Adjusting to a new reality without physical presence takes time.

A robotic advisor, for example, needs to inspect the manufacturing facilities intended for automation. This work requires great visual oversight of not just the machinery but also its environment.

“In our daily work, we need to look around and examine the facilities from many angles. It’s normal for customers to overlook areas with a high robot potential, so we need to be able to look at places they are not actively showing us,” says robot engineer and advisor at Gain & Co, Mikkel Viager and adds:

“With a regular video call, we wouldn’t have this ability. It requires a live, 360-degree video for us to work efficiently.”

VR breakthrough creates new ways of working

When in-person meetings are ruled out, the demands for technology and collaboration increase. Although virtual reality (VR) is not new, technical limitations have kept the technology from more widespread adoption.

“Many VR solutions suffer from a long response time between sender and receiver. This makes effective, real-time collaboration difficult,” says Viager.

The search for a working technology led the Danish advisors to US-based Imeve, a company rooted in the former engineering team of Nokia. Imeve invented a solution that lives up to the expectations of the professional team of Gain & Co.

“As more companies and countries limit or halt travel, businesses worldwide are being forced to find remote working solutions. Videoconferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype can replace a conference room, but, until now, there was no substitute for location-dependent meetings like facility walk-throughs, site inspections, and site-specific training,” says Imeve CEO Devon Copley. “Using AVATOUR to visit a location alongside someone thousands of miles away feels more like an in-person visit than a videoconference.”

Virtual visits keep the wheels turning

Several other companies are also making preparations to enable themselves for virtual factory visits. One of them is windmill producer Siemens Gamesa, which hopes to soon be able to further automate its production across its global factories.

“It’s essential for us to keep a steady production flow and to continue our efforts to automate it, regardless of the coronavirus crisis. Therefore, it is very important to introduce efforts like that of virtual factory visits, which both help keep the wheels turning and minimize the risk of infection,” says global Head of Tooling at Siemens Gamesa, Claus Lindberg Nielsen.

“We hope other companies will get inspired by this new way of working, so we all get through this crisis as smoothly as possible,” says Peters. 

Manufacturers are “opening up” factory doors virtually during the coronavirus crisis in order to keep automation efforts going. Photo credit: AVATOUR.

Robot advisors are able to look around the production facilities virtually with the use of VR goggles. Photo credit: AVATOUR.

Søren Peters, CEO, Gain & Co

Mikkel Viager, advisor & robot engineer, Gain & Co

About Gain & Co

Gain & Co is a team of independent advisors on robots & automation. The company helps manufacturers automate production and succeed with robotics across three continents. Gain & Co is privately owned and based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

About Imeve

Imeve is a world leader in real-time remote collaboration, live 360° video, and virtual reality. Founded in January 2018 by key members of the groundbreaking Nokia OZO team, Imeve’s technology has powered some of the highest-profile live VR events in history, including the Coachella music festival and the UEFA Champions League playoffs. Their new AVATOUR platform is the world’s first multiparty immersive remote presence service, with a wide variety of applications across industries. Imeve is privately owned and based in San Francisco.

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