From video games to industrial simulation

Havok, a company that built its reputation on video games and movie special effects, moves into industrial simulation platforms. What might this mean?

05/03/2011


One of the discussion topics that comes up again and again these days is how industrial control system designers can use the fantastic capabilities of digital imaging in industrial HMIs. Some in the business contend that workers raised with Xbox or PlayStation game controllers in their hands find a typical industrial control system hopelessly boring. (See a recent example of this discussion from ABB.)

Sensing an opportunity, Havok is launching a new division to work with military and simulation platforms that will reach into industrial applications. Just in case you don’t recognize the name, Havok (an Intel company) is a major provider of interactive software and services for digital media creators in the games, entertainment, and simulation industries. It works with many game developers, including Microsoft Games Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, THQ, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Bungie, and Naughty Dog. Havok’s cross-platform technology is available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation3, Android Gingerbread, iOS, Wii, PlayStationPortable, PC Games for Windows, Apple Mac OS, and Linux. The list of games that incorporate Havok software at some level is very long.

So Havok has launched a new business unit dedicated to developing and supporting military and simulation systems. It intends to capitalize on its expertise gained from years in the games industry, and says it wants to develop interactive, high-fidelity simulation environments of incomparable realism. To lead the initiative, Havok has appointed Cory Kumm direct the new group. He has more than 14 years of experience defining, developing, and delivering products, services, and training programs for entertainment, commercial games, and the military. 

There is little doubt that a company like this could create some truly spectacular simulation platforms. With enough money, you could create an entire virtual plant and see anything you wanted up close. Such things already exist, at least to some degree, but they are probably very crude compared to what could be next. The questions that we have to ask are if such things are truly necessary to engage the next generation of plant operators, and if having those capabilities will actually make running a plant more effective.

Time will tell. System designers will have to consider these developments carefully. Ultimately one of the major determining points will likely be (I hope) how such graphics help operators cope with abnormal situations. Studies show that we should not underestimate the effect that an operator can have in a moment of panic if he or she is not clear on what is happening during an upset and what the next step is. Operators in those situations generally make the problem worse.

Of course there is the possibility that such simulations may be a huge advance in training. That will require a lot of creativity for how the capabilities are applied, but creativity is something that game producers seem to have in abundance.

www.havok.com/simulation

Peter Welander, pwelander(at)cfemedia.com



No comments
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Water use efficiency: Diminishing water quality, escalating costs; Lowering building energy use; Power for fire pumps
Building envelope and integration; Manufacturing industrial Q&A; NFPA 99; Testing fire systems
Labs and research facilities: Q&A with the experts; Water heating systems; Smart building integration; 40 Under 40 winners
Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Protecting standby generators for mission critical facilities; Selecting energy-efficient transformers; Integrating power monitoring systems; Mitigating harmonics in electrical systems
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.