Mechanical assembly activities involve multiple factors including humans, mechanical parts, tools and assembly environments. In order to simulate assembly processes by computers for educational purposes, all these factors should be considered. Virtual reality (VR) technology, which aims to integrate natural human motion into real-world scenarios, provides an ideal simulation medium. Novel VR devices such as 3D glasses, motion-tracking gloves, haptic sensors, etc. are able to fulfill fundamental assembly simulation needs. However, most of these implementations focus on assembly simulations for computer-aided design, which are geared toward professionals rather than students, thus leading to complicated assembly procedures not suitable for students. Furthermore, the costs of these novel VR devices and specifically designed VR platforms represent an untenable financial burden for most educational institutions.

In this paper, a virtual platform for mechanical assembly education based on the Microsoft Kinect sensor and Garry’s Mod (GMod) is presented. With the help of the Kinect’s body tracking function and voice recognition technology in conjunction with the graphics and physics simulation capabilities of GMod, a low-cost VR platform that enables educators to author their own assembly simulations was implemented. This platform utilizes the Kinect as the sole input device. Students can use voice commands to navigate their avatars inside of a GMod powered virtual laboratory as well as use their body’s motions to integrate pre-defined mechanical parts into assemblies. Under this platform, assembly procedures involving the picking, placing and attaching of parts can be performed collaboratively by multiple users. In addition, the platform allows collaborative learning without the need for the learners to be co-located. A pilot study for this platform showed that, with the instructor’s assistance, mechanical engineering undergraduate students are able to complete basic assembly operations.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.