This year’s winner - Team safAR - impressed the judges after responding to a challenge from construction materials manufacturer Boral to come up with a way to prevent its workers from being accidentally electrocuted after incorrectly isolating – or turning off – heavy machinery in its manufacturing plants.
Now in its third year, the Maker Games encourages UNSW students from multiple faculties to come together and design prototypes that solve real-world problems as set by industry partners.
The cost of making a simple mistake while trying to isolate a machine can be fatal, with an average of 27 workers dying each year from electrocution, while more than 530 people are hospitalised with electrical injuries, Team safAR said in its pitch to the judges.
A worker wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset loaded with the safAR software simply needs to look at the machine in question to be offered AR video prompts that direct him or her to safely shut it down.
“It uses augmented reality, and also machine learning to recognise the machine. And then augmented reality provides a visual reminder or alerts if the machine is on,” said team member Saloni Goda, currently studying computer science.
“The software uses AR object recognition and speech recognition,” added colleague Derek Sun, a student of maths and commerce.
“So it's a really easy-to-use tool that any construction worker can look at the machinery and instantly get feedback on what they should do in the field. It uses some small safety glasses, which are essentially similar to [Microsoft’s] HoloLens, that give you a VR/AR kind of display. So that while you're in the field, you can operate our software hands free.”
Up until now, workers in industrial plants like Boral have had to rely on long and complicated manuals to follow the correct procedure, with risks of harm increasing when people specialising in this knowledge are away from the workplace.
“When we went to Boral’s Maldon concrete factory, we realised that over the next 10 years, there's going to be a generational shift, especially in the training and how they're going to be doing electrical isolation,” team member Charles Chan (civil engineering) said.
“So this is the best opportunity to cut in and teach the new people the strict method and giving them step-by-step instructions.”
Other prototypes presented by the Maker Games finalists were:
- An app-controlled system to protect the home against bushfires
- A mask that protects water utility workers in India from inhaling deadly hydrogen sulphide
- An app that simulates trading on the stock market as well as real life events affecting personal finances
- A virtual reality house inspection app
- An augmented reality remote inspection tool for fire engineers
- Drones and robots that can safely navigate wet and dry environments in water vessel tanks
- A robot that can calibrate and test optimum microphone positioning for audio hardware manufacturers
- Wearable clipboard/tablet device holder enabling nuclear plant workers to carry out inspections hands-free.