Reflection Flag: IW.HUB
Isaac Bonora on
Integrating with the IW.HUB by Idealworks, a subsidiary of the BMW Group, the Reflection Flag is here to solve the lack of understanding found when working around Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR). Enabled by a two part intervention, the mast head is able to reflect the surroundings; mimicking humans in relation the the IW.HUB where the pole controls affords quick manual override in event of device confusion or failure.
This project was completed in collaboration with the BMW Group + QUT Design Academy and Idealworks. The industry link afforded the research opportunities and resources to work effectively on the IW.HUB within the limitations of the COVID lifestyle. Contacts in Germany, working daily with the AMR, enabled deep insights in to how the device works daily. This way of working at a distance on something novel afforded unique design challenges where direct contact wasn’t possible. Enabling a novel workflow to reach my final design intervention.
The intervention shown here is the culmination of a months long discovery processes. Interviews with industry professionals and researchers were conducted. Across 2 rounds, I was able to interview 3 individuals, from someone who works daily with these devices to a research associate looking at cutting edge interaction design for the QUT Design academy.
What is the IW.HUB?
Existing interfaces of the IW.HUB afford basic interaction in the world. With blinkers on each corner to indicate intent of direction, similar to that of a car. A light at the front and back to indicate which direction it is currently driving. As well as optional peripheral flags which include signal lights to display basic status.
Currently ways to interact with the IW.HUB is with specialized equipment such as an XBOX controller to take manual control. Something that is not typically laying around in the warehouse. As well as a software platform called Any.Fleet that is the brains of the operation that enables operators remotely to set missions and control tasks from a laptop. Again, another piece of kit that your typically warehouse worker who interactions with these devices will have access to.
“I watch it every day, I know where it’s going”. Which is fine, when there’s a few robots in this hall. But, at that time they wanted in three months, a 100 robots in that environment. So I was like, “you’re not gonna know where that robot needs to go”. When there’s way more. - Interviewee who worked closely with the IW.HUB
Described by one Interviewee, this quote highlighting, that although a blue collar worker may know where these robots are going today with just a handful. The future plan to have hundreds in a space will quickly reveal the need to understand these robots quickly with simple cues is necessary. This quote was then the basis for a lot of what I was trying to solve.
Located 2 meters above the IW.HUB, the Mast head reflects the space around itself through the use of simple RGB LEDS. This is preferred over an expensive as a lofi solution suitable for industrial applications with rudimentary responses to the relationship the IW.HUB has with humans in it’s space.
Proxemics by Hall et al (1968) informed the responses the MAST has when people navigate their way around the IW.HUB. Visualized by 4 zones, Proxemics defines the types of spaces we have around us from PUBLIC SPACE to intimate spaces. This theory has been applied to the mast head with public space being represented as a small green light at the top with intimates spaces close to the IW.HUB, are represented as a strip of LED’s with flashing animations to indicate closeness.
In conjunction with the mast head, The intervention enables the ability to take control at a moments notice just by tapping your PDA, a device these warehouse workers already have, to unlock and take control of an IW.HUB FOR short amount of time. This enables a friction-less experience by allowing warehouse workers remove a AMR from a situation if required. Or just simply move some stock around.
This is achieved by intuitive controls. A simple but tactile trigger on the back of the PUK enables a familiar experience to blue collar workers. Similar to that of pallet jacks.
Increased functionality is achieved with a gimbled top to turn the IW.HUB with precision. The PUK controls also include a basic monochrome display that can convey important situational information typically withheld by Any.Fleet back on the operators computer.
What has been discussed here today is backed back BMW’s future as the primary stakeholder and client of the IW.HUB. Research in to their vision reveals to us that the the future of manufacturing is the culmination and collaboration of human precision and robotic performance. By building expectations in a space and enabling seamless control, the Reflection Flag elevates the IW.HUB to a greater level of collaboration envisioned by BMW and other industry leaders. Affording an efficient product.