It’s actually quite simple: Mix the egg yolks, add a little mustard, salt, sugar, and drop by drop of oil – the mayonnaise is ready. On an industrial scale, things are a little different. For example: The machine from the Baden specialist Ika does something from the outside with its stainless steel finish, the various inlets and the electronic control. But you don’t get a real impression of what exactly is going on inside, how complex it is when the ingredients are mixed together.
Unless you got in touch with the brothers Marcel and Pascal Stiegelmann and put on computer glasses. Then you can also look inside the machine, more precisely into its digital twin. Because of course what you see with the glasses is not real. The brothers’ company, Realworld one, used the design data from the computer to create a virtual replica of the machine. The viewer can almost stick his nose into the mixing chamber, where all sorts of wheels and shovels turn. Just try the mayonnaise, you can’t.
Is that the future? In ten or 20 years, will people be walking around with glasses, or better still: with almost invisible electronic contact lenses? Which enable you to immerse yourself in completely different worlds at any time? Or with which you can enrich the world with all kinds of additional information? In technical jargon, one speaks of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). Much of this is already feasible today, only the glasses are bulky and the image resolution is low. Many therefore do not expect too much from these technologies, have already written them off again, suitable at best for niche applications – and all that after the great hype a few years ago.
The brothers, 28 and 26 years old, are still betting on this future. They don’t see a niche in this either, they rather expect a fundamental change in the way computers are used. “We believe that computer platforms will be replaced by VR and AR.” Your goal: to portray reality as perfectly as possible. Just like with the mixer, which, by the way, can not only produce mayonnaise.
Ika is known in the industry as a manufacturer of medical devices that are sold worldwide. The brothers Marcel and Pascal are the sons of the Ika company boss. The two did not set up their own company Realworld one as a service provider for Ika, even though they of course work with Ika. However, you have bigger plans. You have created a platform that should enable industrial companies to make use of the possibilities that VR and AR offer. “We are focused on industries with which we work and where we understand the companies exactly,” says Pascal Stiegelmann. He means life sciences, mechanical engineering, chemistry.
But why do such companies need VR or AR? Usually the first example is maintenance. This means that not only an expert can help a fitter who works directly on the machine. “Service employees can also be trained in this way,” says Pascal Stiegelmann. Since the machines already have design data from the computer, these can also be transferred to a VR project. The Realworld one platform does not care which VR glasses or which other device the customers want to use, it works with all common systems from Microsoft or Oculus, for example.
Realworld one is convinced that a VR system can also be used just as well for sales and marketing. The two of them have worked out an example of what this can look like in their company. Samples of an electrochemical synthesis device are distributed on tables in a virtual room. The participants in a sales event or a training course can go to one of the tables with their avatar, i.e. their virtual figure, and try out the machine with all its functions.
The Stiegelmann brothers are also thinking about other use cases, such as filling the entire virtual space with visualizations of data. “That could be, for example, a map with superimposed performance figures,” says Pascal Stiegelmann. In addition, the company is currently testing whether a VR system can also be used to conduct personnel interviews. Realworld one believes that this could save a lot of trips. In addition, the company’s employees are also working on concepts for trade fairs and conferences – especially now that many trade fairs have to be canceled due to the virus, this could be a business area.
The corona pandemic has already caused demand to rise. The company already has around 40 customers, including well-known names such as Sigg, Festo and Carl Zeiss. “Many already use the platform regularly,” says Pascal Stiegelmann. In China, in particular, they accepted their offer, where they are much quicker to adapt new technologies. Marcel Stiegelmann has a special relationship with China anyway: he started learning Mandarin at the age of twelve, today he speaks the language pretty well – a big advantage when it comes to making contacts. 25 people are already working at Realworld one just to further develop the software. Another 70 to 80 employees take care of new content – the Stiegelmanns also see great potential in this content.
However, it is also clear to both of them that the technology is still at the beginning. They therefore anticipate that it will take ten to 20 years for a change to take place in the general spread of VR and AR technologies. They are by no means the only ones. Apple, for example, has already invested a lot in these technologies, and the first fruits can already be seen – glasses, as is often assumed – but the Californians have not yet brought them onto the market.
Facebook, which announced the imminent breakthrough of VR a few years ago, is also heavily involved in the topic, among other things, the group has bought the company Oculus, a developer of VR glasses. Microsoft, another IT giant, is also involved, including with its Hololens glasses. With the specialization in some industries, Realworld one hopes to find a niche for itself that the big ones don’t occupy. The company obviously has the necessary staying power.