Three of leading automation distributor RARUK Automation’s Universal Robots collaborative robots have recently been used in Solarflare Studio’s new augmented reality display.
The installation was designed by the award-winning creative technology studio, in partnership with creative agency Pulse Group, for a global energy company’s new landmark headquarters in Budapest, Hungary.
Solarflare Studio utilises artificial intelligence, holograms and virtual and augmented reality to create world-class projects. Untethered to a single approach, Solarflare Studio’s industry specialists push the boundaries of frontier technologies to deliver unique experiences. The creative studio works with agencies and brands to explore the possibilities of using new technologies to elevate events and campaigns. To date, the studio has worked on immersive digital projects for Wimbledon, Lego and Asics to name a few.
Solarflare Studio’s latest installation combines robotics and augmented reality to create an immersive display in the visitor centre of the global energy company’s recently constructed headquarters. As part of the energy company’s sustainable vision for 2030+, its new 28-storey building houses greenery from the central atrium to the rooftop.
Designed by Foster + Partners in collaboration with Finta Studio, the cutting-edge development aims to set a new benchmark for both Budapest and Hungary to drive a sustainable response. Upon entry of the visitor centre, there are several installations that Pulse Group and Solarflare Studio created to visualise the sustainable, ecological structure of the impressive building and engage visitors of all ages.
“We are delighted with all the technological solutions that Solarflare Studio worked with us on to bring to life this world-class installation,” said Zoi Gazila, creative director from Pulse Group.
‘The Future is Now’ is the name of the robotic installation. Three Universal Robots UR5e cobots are mounted on a table, positioned around a 3D model of the new HQ that stands just over one metre tall. Each robot is fitted with a webcam facing the model, as well as a 27in OLED monitor. The screens show a real-time augmented reality layer to view inside the building.
The installation is open to the public and designed to be interactive. Using hand-tracking technology, the robots are able to detect human motion. This allows visitors to control the robots with hand movements. As the robots move around the 3D building model, visitors can access different educational AR hotspots on the screens and learn more about the new facilities.
“By combining robot arms and augmented reality displays with gesture-controlled user interaction Solarflare were able to create a unique visitor experience,” said Stuart Cupit, Solarflare Studio’s co-founder and chief of technology.
The impressive project required Cupit and the studio to find ways to combine different technologies into one fully integrated display: “Some of the technical challenges included custom coding a unique user interface where users’ hand movements control the robot’s position to trigger augmented reality hotspots, designing and 3D-printing a custom mount to allow the robot arm to hold a 27in OLED monitor, and creating a real-time augmented reality layer to view inside the new building. The whole Solarflare team got involved with our blend of creative, UX, software and hardware skills. We are very proud of the end result.”
When creating a robotic installation that is open to the general public, safety is paramount. Cobots are known for their ability to work safely alongside humans in industrial settings. The team at Solarflare Studio also built an invisible laser safety curtain into the installation, around the perimeter of the display. This ensured that if a visitor were to reach across the laser curtain, the robots would power down preventing any potential accidents.
“We investigated at least half a dozen different robot arms during the scoping and found the quality of service from RARUK and Universal Robots was key to choosing the UR5e arm. A combination of hardware specification but more importantly knowledgeable technical support and the offer of a trial arm during development meant that we were able to reduce risks and be confident it was the right solution,” Cupit explained.
RARUK Automation provided expert advice and assistance during the decision-making process, as well as thorough after sales technical support. Cupit concluded: “RARUK has been a great help throughout development, saving time at every stage. We would definitely recommend them and use the UR arms on future projects.”
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