Students from Porto Design Factory and Aalto Design Factory cooperated in a 9 months project to present HELE.
HELE is the result of a ME310 project proposed by Konecranes, the global leader of lifting business, with the intent of: "Redesigning Overhead Cranes’ User Experience".
Overall concept of overhead crane controllers have not changed in decades, while new features have been implemented on cranes over time, which resulted in big and confusing controllers and control logic. The bulky outdated controller restricts other tasks and tends to get lost between operations. The current controlling logic and controller takes up to one year to master and need to be relearned at least briefly before every work shift and operation. Also, every crane unit has its own unique feel that needs to be learned even by experienced operators.
The challenge led to a solution focused on future generations and intuitive enough that would allow operators to use it with little to none training time.
Focusing on future generations, we targeted our research on the latest device controlling technologies since the beginning of the project, with a strong focus on gesture controllers. We soon found out the properly trained overhead crane operators already had a simple, easy to learn, normalized signal language which came to corroborate the direction we followed.
Since the crane control is done with a hands-free device, we felt the need to provide feedback to the user so he would be aware of every crane operation. This feedback is provided by a headset controlled by voice. The headset is attached to safety glasses, where the crane controls are enabled assuring that the crane is only active after the operator confirms activation through the interface. The headset also works as an interface to enable and disable Konecranes smart features, access to Konecranes Truconnect and check the crane operations history.
To prove our concept, we developed a gesture reading ring and an interface that allowed us to properly assess our findings and control a crane through gestures.
Besides the reduced training times, the solution provides other potential upgrades too.
Due to a faster channel to Konecranes Truconnect and so to Konecranes tech support and the ability of checking operations history it enhances workplace productivity.
It also brings operators together with machines, improving human-machine relationship through the visual and audio feedback together with the voice inputs used to control the system.
We envision this product as a real hands-free product, so the next step is replacing the gesture recognition ring by a 60 GHz radar sensor with high definition gesture recognition technology that can be easily integrated in the headset due to its size. This allows the operators to only need to couple the headset to the safety glasses and they have all the tools needed to control the crane.