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Eureka! Sensing solutions with perceptual computing

May 1, 2000

6 Min Read
Eureka!  Sensing solutions with perceptual computing

When "gee-whiz" technologies first appear, the practical-minded may dismiss them as passing fads. There’s no doubt this approach can be prudent at times, but it would be a mistake to overlook a new virtual reality tool called perceptual computing.

For designers, who operate in one of the most visual of all disciplines, seeing large amounts of data clearly and intuitively can unlock a world of information and ideas. That’s the premise behind Muse Technologies’ software, called µuSE Development Environment 2000. Muse coined the name as an acronym for multidimensional user-oriented synthetic environment.

Converting Information
Essentially, the company’s perceptual computing tool deciphers vast amounts of information and translates it into sensory output—sound, graphics, and in some cases, motion. Appealing to the senses, according to Muse founder and former chief scientist Creve Maples, helps to feed the mind data in an extremely natural way, which promotes understanding and learning.

Maples and Craig Peterson, managing director, strategic development, perfected the software while at Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM), and then licensed the technology from Sandia to form Muse in 1995. "Muse addresses information overload in a variety of forms, particularly manufacturing, engineering, aerospace, and other advanced segments of the IT world," says Charlie Fitch, technical manager, product development. "It helps achieve the goal of engineers dealing with radically different types of data—namely, how to understand all of it."

Muse is a software "shell" that takes data from any source (CAD, FEA, moldfilling simulation, pressure transducers, and so forth), integrates it with any input device (keyboard, mouse, joystick, microphone, or touch screen), and converts it into a four-dimensional realm (length, width, thickness, and time) on up to nine computer screens. Users can then manipulate the data using voice or other input commands. Unlike traditional virtual reality technology, which is far more expensive, this system doesn’t rely on head-mounted displays or data gloves.

The software also permits multiple users connected via TCP/IP-compatible networks to look at the same simulation results—review data, fly around it, manipulate it, and change their position in space and time independently or cooperatively.

From NASA to Earth
Why would a tool that’s been embraced by NASA and the military make sense for more practical matters? What makes this software so relevant for plastics designers is the ability to see potential design errors during concept stages. The Muse FEA library lets you animate any variable in a number of ways. For example, using color, you can animate vectors of melt flow direction or pressure. Audio techniques allow you to listen to a tone that represents the pressure at the injection point, and the tone increases as pressure increases.

Here’s an example: Data from a C-Mold simulation is "read" into Muse. Vectors showing velocity of the melt front appear in the animation. When two melt fronts meet, the vectors mix as well, providing a visual confirmation that the plastic is remixing and the potential for knitlines is reduced.

Although the data for this simulation comes from the C-Mold application, it cannot be viewed or manipulated until Muse is added. The same is true for any modeling or analysis software connected to the Muse shell. "In every industry where we’ve applied this software," says Fitch, "users consistently find things they’ve never seen before in their data. Their most common response is ‘A-ha!’"

Peterson and Fitch, a former C-Mold developer, recently worked with a Fortune 50 automotive OEM that had little experience with injection molding but was familiar with the perceptual computing process. Using Muse software, Peterson created a C-Mold reader to take data from moldfilling simulations into the Muse environment. "The company was working on the bumper grille for a high-end vehicle," Fitch says, "and after trying several different designs in Muse, knitlines were moved off the cosmetic surfaces and key areas were optimized for structural integrity."

The OEM involved in the project also concluded that it was able to do these jobs faster and be more certain of the results. "It’s all about eliminating risk," adds Fitch, "being able to fully analyze it before going to a final design, and saving time and money." Reinforcing ribs on the back of the grille with the potential for sink marks and melt front splits were also evaluated. Peterson and Fitch used a surface morphing feature, an addition to the FEA library, which allows users to see pressure drops. They mirror the shape of the ribs on the back.

Muse 2000 is a developer product that’s easy to use, according to Fitch, as long as the programmer has C or C++ and open GL programming experience. For those who prefer, Muse can write customized applications such as the C-Mold reader. Prices for the software start at $15,000 for a WindowsNT platform and $22,000 for Unix.

Interfacing with MuseWorking with the Muse system is a fairly intuitive process. Users can fly through a design, use a head tracker to change direction of their views by simply moving their heads, or issue voice commands. Here are the basic user-interface features:

The Craft is the primary vehicle for moving through and exploring a Muse-based synthetic environment. Users can switch at any time between three different crafts that each move differently, giving multiple ways to travel through data. It controls numerous features such as lighting, attaching and manipulating objects, and viewing additional data. The nose of the craft serves as a pointer for selecting objects in the environment for closer examination or control.The Flat Panel provides the most basic means of interacting with the system. Its controls serve as on-screen equivalents of joysticks and other hardware devices so that users working without those devices can still issue every possible command to the system.Voice commands can be used to increase speed and efficiency. Muse can "talk" to the user, and by using Application Specific Language, developers and users can build a lexicon of custom phrases that automatically execute commands and functions.Users can grab or tether to objects in the environment. Tethering is as simple as pointing the Craft nose toward an object and then either clicking the Flat Panel Control console’s Tether button or pulling a joystick trigger. Once tethered to an object, the user can move and rotate the object. Locking to an object enables a user to move along with the object and see what the object sees.For real-time collaboration, Muse automatically manages the linking, communication, state maintenance, group, and subgroup synchronization between shared environments.The Craft has virtual walls on which user information can be posted. These virtual bulletin boards are called Sidewalls and can display information specific to the application, including text, running video, photographs, graphs, schematics, or anything else suitable to the application.Muse allows users to control the speed and direction of time, as well as to stop time. This capability proves most useful, of course, in simulations and with other time-critical data, allowing a user to slow down events to observe them more closely, run time backward from a critical point to analyze its development, or stop time entirely to see a snapshot of the environment’s current state.Users can mark a position within a simulation (time), in the environment (space), and the application state, and return to any or all using built-in teleportation commands. By returning to a marked time, a user jumps to a different point in the course of the simulation without changing the current viewpoint. Users can return to a marked time, space, or state with a single command.Contact information
Muse Technologies Inc.
Albuquerque, NM
Christina Ward
Phone: (800) 711-3899
Fax: (505) 766-9123
Web: www.musetech.com
E-mail: [email protected]

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