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News 07.09.2017

Winners of the Challenge Finland competition: Virtual reality is a major opportunity for industry

Market forecasts predict the development of markets worth up to hundreds of billions of euros in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the coming years.

The VARPU consortium is exploring the use of VR and AR technologies in industrial applications. The project is focusing on key areas of Finnish industry, such as mechanical engineering, the process industry, power plants, the built environment, training and security.

"Until now, virtual and augmented reality has been developed to meet the needs of the entertainment industry. We are examining market forecasts and considering where the greatest potential lies. Because little use has been made of these technologies in other industrial sectors, Finland has an excellent opportunity to join the leaders in virtual reality expertise," says the director of the VARPU consortium, Professor Roope Raisamo of the University of Tampere.

According to Raisamo, the key problems in the sector are the underdeveloped nature of, and lack of standards in, user interfaces. VARPU aims to make the production of 3D models more cost-efficient and develop user interface solutions to meet needs in selected industrial sectors.

"The project’s results will be needed in industry and society in general. Thanks to the topical nature of the results, VARPU is raising wide interest among companies," Raisamo comments.

Finland has excellent opportunities to become a leader in exploiting digitalisation

The consortium is conducting research in close cooperation with industrial companies, so that practical use can be made of the results in company facilities and projects. This will lead to beneficial solutions which can be used to generate significant volumes of business and exports for Finland.

One of the companies involved in VARPU is the power company Fortum, which views digitalisation as an opportunity to respond to pressures for change in the energy sector.

"VARPU provides us with a good environment for important R&D. The project is enabling us to engage in R&D collaboration that we might otherwise have been unable to justify. Finland is home to a much higher number of expert, innovative enterprises than we dared to hope," says Miko Olkkonen of Fortum.

Fortum has not only developed VR and AR technologies, but has made a particular investment in their introduction and application in its own power plants and alongside other industrial enterprises. The company has presented its experiences in seminars in Finland and other countries such as the United States and Russia.

From post-party broadcasts to virtual reality

The Oulu company Fincloud has long been engaged in making 360-video productions and promotional solutions. Many of the company's customers are media industry players, but it has also been collaborating with industrial enterprises, such as Fortum, for many years. With the help of VARPU, Fincloud aims to develop and expand its business opportunities, particularly in the industrial sector.

"In the past, we have produced musical entertainment and live broadcasts of the follow-up parties to the Independence Day reception. We are great at all aspects of production and promotional technology, but now want to develop a more comprehensive offering that meets a range of industrial needs," says Juha Kela of Fincloud.

Juha Kela is also involved in VARPU via another company, Finwe. Finwe develops products such as 3D user interfaces and VR application solutions.

"Through its research resources, VARPU brings us plenty of user interface expertise and opportunities to develop AR solutions. On the basis of this versatile project consortium, Challenge Finland has helped us to find new partners. Improvements to security, productivity and usability are bringing added value to our work. This is a good overall solution for us," says Kela.

New technologies can help to visualise complex wholes

The Helsinki-based Stereoscape combines 3D product visualisation, digital product information and smart interaction into solutions that run on traditional display devices in both AR and VR environments.

"We make complex products, services and processes easier to understand. AR and VR are key tools in such work. We serve our customers at various stages of the product life cycle and joined VARPU in order to expand our solution portfolio," says Heli Nelimarkka, Chair of the Board of Directors of Stereoscape.

Nelimarkka explains that interesting opportunities lie in areas such as companies’ customer and internal training, and cooperation between remote experts and field workers. The streamlining of content production is a key challenge when turning opportunities into business activities.

"New interactive technologies, such as target recognition, eye control and floating menus, pose challenges to user interface design when combining real-time sensor data with a virtual environment. Development of this competence forms the core of the project," says Nelimarkka.

VARPU’s timing is perfect. If solutions developed through the consortium successfully make the transition to a real user environment, Finnish industry will secure a major competitive advantage.

For further information, please contact

Professor Roope Raisamo
Director of the VARPU consortium
University of Tampere
+358 50 570 2007
roope.raisamo(at)uta.fi

Miko Olkkonen
Fortum
+358 40 518 7535
miko.olkkonen(at)fortum.com

Juha Kela
Finwe
+358 40 769 4061
juha.kela(at)finwe.fi

Heli Nelimarkka
Stereoscape
+358 45 671 4474
heli.nelimarkka(at)stereoscape.com

The following organisations are involved in Varpu – the Virtual and Augmented Reality Content Production and Use project consortium: Kii Oy, Stereoscape Oy, Nokia Technologies Oy, Granlund Oy, 3D Talo Finland Oy, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Rejlers Finland Oy, Ruukki Construction Oy, the University of Tampere, Aalto University, the National Land Survey of Finland, the University of Lapland, Finwe Oy, FinCloud Oy, Sky High VR Oy, Fortum Power, Whitepoint Oy and Heat Oy. Three other companies also belong to the project consortium.


Tekes Challenge Finland competition

In the Challenge Finland competition, researchers have worked on solutions - that are of use to the private sector - to major problems. The companies involved have embraced the most commercially promising ideas and collaborated with the researchers in developing them further.

A total of 33 winning R&D consortia have been selected for the second stage of the competition. These include a total of 98 companies, with their own innovation projects funded by Tekes, and 21 research organisations. In addition, several companies, which are funding or otherwise supporting - and benefiting from - the work of the research organisations, are participating in the consortia without Tekes funding. The projects involved in this two-stage competition have been funded by a total of around EUR 47 million.

The competition, which is partly based on Government key project funding, has enhanced the interaction between research and the private sector, and the commercial exploitation and impact of research results in the creation of innovations.

Read more about the competition and its winners:

 

Tekes provides funding for the development and utilisation of virtual and augmented reality solutions in business, as part of the Team Finland Mixed Reality campaign.

Text: Kaiku Helsinki
Photo: Fotolia