Computer gamers help develop safer mooring system

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 16 December 2019

ShipInsight


Southampton, UK-based maritime energy efficiency firm, Azurtane, has joined forces with the School of Media Arts and Technology at Solent University to leverage the skills of student game developers in a high precision kinematics (HPK), marine vessel docking project. The objective of the development work is to convert high precision positioning data generated by Azurtane’s HPK technology into a user interface that will enhance the vessel commander’s visualisation of the docking movements, reducing docking time and fuel consumption, as well as increasing safety.

Azurtane approached Solent University to ascertain if one of the programming degree courses utilised software that could be adapted to convert the positional data transmitted by Azurtane’s HPK into a highly visual digital twin – a screen or tablet interface that mimics the typical visual information available to a ship’s navigator when he or she is observing and managing docking manoeuvres.

Gamers

“Our aim is to develop an intuitive, highly visual interface that presents positional information produced by our HPK in the most quickly assimilated way in order to make coming alongside easier for navigators on the bridge of a vessel,” Don Gregory, Azurtane’s MD said when explaining the concept for the vessel docking interface. “The students are taking the real time data from the HPK technology to produce an aerial 2D visualisation that acts as a navigation guide, displaying heading, speed and rate of rotation of the vessel in relation to the dockside. This will allow the navigator to dock the vessel with a 4cm accuracy, even without direct visual contact of the dockside.

Azurtane will be working with two students in the 3rd year of the BSc (Hons) computer games (software development) course to undertake the initial visual design, prior to progressing to coding the input of millisecond data streams that will position the trial vessel with pinpoint accuracy. The user interface is due to be delivered for user trials on Red Funnel’s high-speed ferry, Redjet 7, in March 2020.

Explaining the reason for the collaboration with Solent University, Gregory said that “any industry needs fresh ideas and up to date communication methodology. Without specialist in-house digital design expertise, where better to get the very best than from students on computer game development courses. We have been in contact with several universities in the gaming field including the highly rated Leuven University in Belgium. But Solent University proved ideal due to its close proximity to our business and a very “can do” attitude by both teaching staff and students.”

Dave Cobb, Course Leader for Computer Games (Software Development) at Solent University says, “Students at Solent University, learning the techniques, languages and mathematics of game software may not be aware how transferable their skills can be. Gamers must be captured by and drawn into a game. That is also true in navigation. The closer an interface is to the user’s mind’s eye, the more likely it will be embraced.”

Azurtane is not only funding this industrial placement opportunity for students but is looking to continue and build on the partnership with Solent University with the aim of collaborating on future projects that will advance the safety and efficiency of deep-sea vessels.

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