“Welding Interaction in Future Industry”, or “WIFI”, is the title of the research project. Its purpose was to develop alternative interaction solutions for the field of industrial welding. These solutions should not only support welders, but also people with reduced strength or paralysis of the arms and legs.
Welders need both hands to guide the torch, their gaze must remain with the arc at all times, and any movement of the fingers can cause an inaccuracy in the seam. Helmut Friedl, project manager at Fronius International, explains the initial situation: “Up to now, there has not been a solution that allows welders to completely set various parameters, such as amperage or arc length, without there being any interruption of the welding process. An alternative form of parameter input could make the welder’s life considerably easier.”
“This problem is comparable to that of people who can only use their hands to a limited extent as a result of a stroke or accident, or those who are paraplegic,” explains Mirjam Augstein, a researcher at Campus Hagenberg of the FH OOE. “With the help of the WIFI interface, however, they are able to operate computers or power sources without having to use their hands,” says Augstein.
The control method works with the help of voice commands. “We have developed a voice control system based on the needs of both target groups. This will be used in industrial welding equipment and as a supplement to LIFEtool’s mouth-controlled computer mouse,” explains the professor, who teaches the FH OOE’s Communication and Knowledge Media course. This allows the welding process to run efficiently and gives people with disabilities access to new fields of activity. Voice control offers people with physical impairments the opportunity to play computer games and participate in e-sports events.
Karl Kaser, Head of Research & Development at LIFEtool, sees great potential in the cooperative relationship: “The WIFI project shows that industry can benefit from our experience in the field of assistive technologies. At the same time, solutions and aids for people with disabilities could become cheaper in the future if they are produced in large quantities for industrial use.” The jury of the Science Award for Inclusion (WINTEC) was also convinced of the positive effects of the cooperation project. WIFI received one of the three WINTEC Awards for 2018 from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection.