Gaming has helped Pixeltek to develop virtual reality (VR) based tools for training in various industries.
Two years back when Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturing Ltd (MVML), Chakan, was exploring an idea of using new technology to maximise efficiency and minimise wastage of paints at its paint shop during training, they turned to the Mumbai-based Pixeltek Gaming Solutions Pvt Ltd, a well-known gaming company that was providing virtual reality (VR) technology to its customers from realty sector.
After experimenting for almost an year, Pixeltek developed a VR based technology, later named PixelSpray VR, for MVML that can be used for training its employees in the paint shop. Thus, Pixeltek began its journey in the arena of VR-based tools for industrial application.
Simulation: The common thread
Virtual reality technology has made the transition from gaming and entertainment arena to industrial set up as an effective training tool because the simulation software requirements are the same in both sectors. Taking the first-mover advantage in this high-potential area, Pixeltek Gaming Solutions, a well-entrenched player in online gaming for the last 13 years, started developing VR tools for industrial applications.
Pixeltek’s first taste with VR in non-gaming arena was in realty space as the software used for gaming and VR is same. “An extension of gaming is simulation. One of our longest serving clients is a motor sports simulation company. In creating VR experiences, the gaming background helped us as the software used is the same for gaming as well as VR. We have a team of software developers who can create VR experiences. We started with real estate players and then moved on into developing training app for companies,” said Vitek Goyel, CEO, Pixeltek Gaming Solutions Pvt Ltd, exclusively to IPF.
Proof of VR is in visualising
Seeing a huge potential for VR, the company pivoted from gaming to VR technology application in industries. When a team from Mahindra Group approached Pixeltek two years back to explore the possibility to use VR tool in paint shop, the company developed PixelSpray, which can work using any commercially available devices, for training painters.
“We at MVML Chakan are extremely happy to be associated with Pixeltek to come up with this innovative virtual reality training tool, Pixelspray VR. We are proud of the fact that this is a first of its kind of innovation implemented in shop floor training, and we believe that it can be expanded for multipurpose industrial uses,” opined Anant M Khond, HOD Paint Shop, Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturing Ltd.
Using VR-based training tool, Mahindra wanted to reduce the usage of paints, thereby saving on cost, and most importantly, reducing the environmental impact. “Virtual training method can be conducted 24/7 and in much lesser space compared to real, conventional training process. PixelSpray helps user in getting real-time data, feedback, grades and scores,” said Goyel.
After witnessing the benefit of VR technology, Mahindra, one of the few companies that have been on the forefront of using new technologies in their manufacturing plants, plans to expand it to its other units pan India.
“We have so far put about 35% of our painters through the program and are extremely pleased with the results. Even experienced shop floor painters are finding it useful. We are confident that this is going to result in significant savings by reducing defects. We have had no hesitation in recommending adoption of this technology within our group of companies and to other related industries,” said Khond.
Skilling with virtual tool
Skill development is a major challenge before companies since it is a continuous requirement not just to train the new recruits but also upskill/reskill the existing workforce to help companies remain competitive in the marketplace. “There are other large companies who are on the lookout for VR-based technologies in their production line as they have realised that VR can be put to good use in their shop floor. Wherever training involves high-cost consumables, VR can be an ideal choice of training. Also, while real world training involves recurring cost of materials, in the case of VR it is just one-time cost of software, which uses simulation method to train the workers,” pointed out Madhav Shanbhag, VP, Pixeltek Gaming Solutions Pvt Ltd.
The company offers interactive VR – where there is input & output – which can be used by trainer (company) to evaluate the performance of the trainee. Pixeltek plans to market this product to other car manufacturers and industries that use painting as part of their production processes. “While the software is currently being used for training in the paint shop, we plan to expand the software to include tasks such as welding, machine assembly, etc. Our goal is to approach other manufacturers in India, and around the world, to license the technology to them,” stated Shanbhag.
Pixeltek has started a project for a company to experiment the use of VR technology in welding process. For machine manufacturers, welding is an essential and one of most critical part of their manufacturing processes that involves a lot of training before an employee can be put on the production line for welding. Identifying and rectifying a defect costs far higher than investing in technologies like VR, which can be used for extensive training of employees in virtual environment.
Pixeltek is also doing a project on machine assembly, where VR can be used as a guide for servicing and maintenance.
Augmented reality, the next frontier
In addition to VR, Pixeltek is working on augmented reality (AR) technology for industrial applications. AR can be used for machine maintenance and in connected devices (with IoT) to get real-time sensor data of machine. However, unlike VR, currently there are not many commercial devices available in market for AR.
“AR is still in an early stage of development and is going to become innovative in an year or two as the launch of some devices like Microsoft’s Hololens is expected to take the AR to the next level. AR will be used more for onsite applications (such as maintenance),” said Goyel.
Virtual reality is the future platform for training in areas such as painting, welding, assembly and other factory operations. It is low cost, environmental friendly, safe and provides critical analytical data that the employer can use for internal resource monitoring. And this is what Pixeltek wants to tap.
While gaming continuous to be the core business for Pixeltek accounting for larger part of its revenue, the company expects contribution from non-gaming business to increase in future. “VR-based products contributed about 10% of revenues. With introduction of industrial VR, it has raised to about 50%. PixelSpray is the first product and we intend to take it to the next stage. Our plan is to take our current pipeline of solutions to other industries and also explore overseas market,” Goyel concluded.
An extension of gaming is simulation. One of our longest serving clients is a motor sports simulation company. In creating VR experiences, the gaming background helped us as the software used is the same for gaming as well as VR".
- Vitek Goyel,
CEO, Pixeltek Gaming Solutions Pvt Ltd