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Immersive Semantics-based Virtual Environments for the Design and Validation of Human-centred Aircraft Cockpits

Aerospace industries aim at reducing product development times and cost but face a major obstacle, the need to build several physical prototypes for verifying various factors during design. Human factors considerations in the design process of aeronautic products play a crucial role for the reliability and resilience of the systems involved, from an operational and error tolerant point of view. For system design purposes there is significant utility in applying human task and cognitive workload analysis, however in existing systems the analysis and the analysed artefacts are decoupled and implemented as separate entities. Such separation leads to high manual effort for integration, while missing chances for automation and thus cost-reduction. Semantic representation of scene content and application entities is necessary for several kinds of intelligent virtual engineering tasks. Existing systems fail to implement a closed loop between semantics and 3D geometries and generally suffer from scalability and real-time performance issues. i-VISION will progress the current status of cognitive-human analysis of operations in aircraft cockpits using VR technologies, by advancing the methodologies with requirements from modern operating conditions. It will offer the ability to publish, access and query on-demand geometric shapes and their metadata with scalability.

The i-VISION project has three distinct and complementary scientific and technological objectives:

  1. Human-Cockpit Operations Analysis.
  2. Semantic Virtual Cockpit.
  3. Virtual Cockpit Design Environment.

The unique combination of research in the areas of human factors, semantics and virtual design will lead to a substantial progress and cost reductions in cockpit design and validation. i-VISION will enable designers and engineers to visualise, manipulate and interact with the digital mock up in an intelligent manner allowing for decisions to be taken very early in the design process and thus helping to reduce costly errors.

The overall work plan covers a 36 months period of industrial driven requirements, research, development and realization of final demonstrators. In the first phase, all the necessary input, mainly from industrial partners, will be collected for developing the requirements in terms of technology and application. These requirements will be analysed in order to develop the specifications of the technological modules. During the second phase the detailed design and implementation of the individual i-VISION components will be performed. The development of a human-cockpit operations analysis module will provide the means and tools for engineers to design aircraft cockpits based on advanced human task analysis methodologies The creation of an immersive tool for augmenting the existing design knowledge in a virtual scene-graph will act as a virtual knowledge-base. Finally the integration of the modules in a single knowledge-based environment will act as the industrial demonstrator on which the validation activities will take place. In the third phase the industrial partners along with the support of research and application partners will define detailed pilot cases and scenarios for validating the i-VISION prototypes. In parallel to the previous work, dissemination and exploitation activities will be performed together with project management activities.

i-VISION will deliver three distinct technological components that are integrated and validated together with the industrial partners. The “Human-Cockpit Operations Analysis Module” will act as the basis for the human task and cognitive workload analysis. The “Semantic Virtual Cockpit Module” will provide the semantic-based scene graph architecture and management engine. The “Virtual Cockpit Design Environment” will be the advanced design environment for interactive and intuitive virtual prototyping of modern aircraft cockpits, facilitating knowledge-based simulation technologies. The knowledge-based technologies of i-VISION will accelerate the design process through the systematic reuse of knowledge, while allowing for faster and more flexible prototyping of aircraft cockpits. The analysis of human operations will result in highly competitive cockpits from the end-user’s perspective and will increase the utilization of future aircrafts by allowing human pilots to operate in extreme weather and traffic conditions.

As industrial partners, EADS G and EADS IWF have first-hand experience in using integrated prototypes for cockpit design and validation and thus can readily apply the results in commercial cockpit development. The SME IT vendors have the chance to individually augment their product portfolios and thus achieve impact on both European and international markets.

i-VISION is funded by the EU, under the FP7, thematic area: Transport (including aeronautics).