A paper presented by the Digital Engineering Research Group in the Institute of Mechanical, Energy and Process Engineering has won a prestigious best paper award at the ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences’ (IDETC) Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (CIE) in Portland, Oregon, USA. Entitled “The Evaluation of a Virtual Aided Design Engineering Review (VADER) System for Automated Knowledge Capture and Reuse” this work demonstrates the team’s successful application of an intuitive virtual reality interface for the capture and reuse of engineering knowledge and rationale.

Knowledge capture/reuse is a key challenge in engineering and other industries. Current manual methods are costly, time consuming and potentially capture the wrong data due to human error and poor knowledge relationship formalisation. Companies require low cost, fast, automated engineering knowledge acquisition for current and future product development and training.

Evaluated by industrial project partners from major UK/International companies - including aerospace, shipbuilding, construction and defence firms - VADER automatically and unobtrusively captures multimodal user exchanges during design reviews via the synchronous time-phased logging of software interactions, product models, audio, video and other input devices. By processing the captured data, review reports and records are automatically generated allowing fast product/activity knowledge retrieval.

VADER’s backbone is a unique ubiquitous integration and temporal synchronisation (UbiITS) framework which captures synchronised structured and unstructured data in real-time. Visualisation is via a 3D virtual environment or remotely via multiple tablets, laptops or other devices. Engineers can visualise and annotate 3D design models providing a timeline interface to search/visualise captured decisions from, say, a design review. This approach is generic and applicable to sectors other than engineering, e.g. finance, services, medical, etc. VADER also provides a foundation for novel blue skies research into understanding human interactions and behaviour during meetings and reviews of any kind. However, this work is also very much applied, indeed using the existing VADER solution provides significant opportunities for research/development projects, such as TSB and KTP, for companies requiring the capture of their ‘experts’ legacy knowledge, potentially providing business benefits over the medium to long term.

For the details of the news item, please contact Dr. Theo Lim.