Singapore, German institutes collaborate to develop digital solutions

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Fraunhofer), a German institution for applied research, have launched a research institute on 6 June to develop digital technologies that help companies move into the digital era and remain competitive.

These include virtual and augmented reality technologies that will, for example, allow engineers to run diagnostics on machinery using real-time infographics presented in 3D on hand-held tablets, or to review virtually created products using virtual reality glasses before starting on physical production.

Located at NTU, the new Fraunhofer Singapore institute is also working with the BMW Future Mobility Lab at NTU to improve driving safety. Researchers aim to develop human-machine interfaces that detect drivers’ emotions, attention span, fatigue as well as facial expressions. This data can be displayed on windscreens or visual cockpits of future cars, pre-alerting drivers of their condition to minimize the risk of accidents.

Launched by Mr S Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), the institute aims to advance a manufacturing paradigm known as Industry 4.0, where Singapore companies incorporate data analytics, industrial internet of things (IIoT), and automation into their manufacturing processes.

NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said, “While we move from Gutenberg to Google in education, our industries are also doing away with the assembly line and welcoming cloud computing and automation. This new institute at NTU will create an ecosystem of technologies targeted for use by companies, and provide new training platforms for Singapore’s next-generation workforce.”

Supported by funding from industry partners, and with funding of up to $23 million from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the new institute can potentially boost Singapore’s Smart Nation ambitions, and promote the adoption of digital technologies across all sectors of the economy.

NRF CEO Professor Low Teck Seng said, “The current dramatic shift to a digital economy underscores the importance for Singapore companies to remain ahead by using technology to continually reinvent the way they do business and train their workers.”

Blending the virtual with reality

The institute will continue to work on research projects undertaken by the Fraunhofer Interactive Digital Media (IDM) in 2010 at NTU. These range from multi-touch screen panels to mobile applications with augmented reality technology.

It is also developing solutions that could benefit the public sector. Fraunhofer is working with NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine on the development of anatomy teaching through new imaging modalities. Such interactive learning models could aid students in grasping key anatomical concepts, potentially playing an important role in medical education at NTU.

The institute also aims to advance industrial training methods to simplify learning about complex machinery. Instead of thick manuals, engineers can learn how to maintain a jet engine onsite by using an app that provides a step-by-step guide in augmented reality on their mobile phones.

Apart from projects focusing on virtual and augmented reality, the center will also work on other digital solutions such as cognitive human-computer interfaces and 3D modelling. It will be working with other companies such as Delta Electronics and LDR Ltd.