Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute developing virtual reality prototype to train workers

Pittsburgh, as much as any place on Earth, knows what happens when massive, worldwide changes in manufacturing make the old ways of doing things obsolete. Jobs disappear.

If we are indeed going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0) as many have speculated, then the old manufacturing skills won’t be enough for workers to succeed in the future. Industrial workers will need to know how to handle automation, machine-to-machine communications and the Internet of Things.

The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute inside Mill 19 (itself a former steel mill) at Hazelwood Green has been quietly working on these problems since 2017. It brings together a diverse ecosystem of more than 300 consortium members and partners across industry, academia (including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University), and government to make robotics, autonomy and artificial intelligence more accessible to manufacturers.

The ARM Institute is now developing a collaborative project to demonstrate how virtual reality can help train workers, giving them the skills and credentials needed to compete in the new economy.

Virtual reality image courtesy of the ARM Institute.

“Many potential and current manufacturing technicians have prior (knowledge, skills and abilities) that can easily be upskilled for robotics and automation,” says Linda Wood, senior certification manager for the ARM Institute.

California-based SimInsights will provide the virtual reality environment and assessment for the project. Ohio-based APT Manufacturing Solutions Inc. will provide the real-world template as well as subject-matter expertise. And New York City-based IBL Education will provide integration capabilities to allow the project to be hosted on the Open edX platform.

Funding for the initiative was provided through the country’s Office of the Secretary of Defense Manufacturing Technology (OSD ManTech) Program.

“It is a privilege to collaborate with the ARM Institute on this innovative project as it is aligned with our mission of teaching and assessing skills using technology,” says Rajesh Jha, founder and CEO of SimInsights.