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Building Virtual Reality Experiences for Your Business, Right Here in Western Pennsylvania

Today’s companies are struggling with the technical challenge of how to showcase the features, functionality and advantages of their products worldwide while overcoming logistical and cost challenges.

Virtual RealityWhat if you found out you can now fit an entire factory into a box or easily overnight 8,000 lbs. across the globe? Two companies with locations in Pittsburgh, Parker Hannifin (Parker) and OpenArc, have collaboratively developed a solution making it possible for Parker to “transport” a wide array of products around the world for marketing and training demonstrations. Parker Hannifin is a Fortune 250 global leader in motion and control technologies. For 100 years, the company has engineered the success of its customers in a wide range of diversified industrial and aerospace markets.

OpenArc is a technology consulting firm providing industry-leading technical talent placement, custom software development and technology strategy services to clients nationwide. OpenArc works closely with business clients and talent candidates to understand their strategies and goals to craft a customized approach to their needs. 

At times Parker uses a “Tech Truck,” a full-size tractor-trailer outfitted with Parker products to tour the country giving marketing demonstrations and training sessions to potential customers at each stop. But, what if a product (or products) are too large for a semi-truck, as with Parker’s 8,000 lbs. 890GT-B power inverter? Or what if you need to demonstrate an array of products working in synchrony, as in a cupcake manufacturing facility that utilizes more than 100 products from Parker’s Electromechanical and Drives division?

During a conversation between the two companies the question arose, “Why not just tear down the space constraints and logistical challenges by making Parker products virtual?” This piqued the interest of the team at Parker and OpenArc which responded by delivering a design and development plan for three virtual reality (VR) environments, each created to solve unique business challenges.  Ultimately, the initiative boiled down to three problems, three solutions and one shared technology.

Challenge #1: When sales professionals are at trade shows or client sites, how can they demonstrate product functionality in the context of a large manufacturing environment?

Solution: OpenArc created a Virtual Reality experience that allows trade show attendees and clients to interact with a real-life packaging line fully outfitted with Parker technologies. Users can switch into “Parker Vision,” which enables them to see the functioning Parker products within each machine. This environment gave attendees a unique and engaging experience and the ability to interact with real-life automation equipment in an experience that up until this point was considered impossible.

Challenge #2: How can our sales staff take hundreds of Parker products to a client site or a trade show so that potential customers can browse and interact with them?

Solution: By building a reusable Virtual Exhibit Hall, Parker can now “ship” the entire Parker portfolio of products. In the vast Exhibit Hall, customers can interact with each product while listening to audio tracks that provide additional information about the features and benefits of the product. A key differentiator is the product portfolios may be tailored to meet the specific needs of the audience.

Challenge #3: How can sales professionals quickly and, at a reasonable cost, take a four-ton machine to trade shows or client sites?

Solution: Through assets provided by Parker, OpenArc reconstructed an 8,000 lb. power inverter system in a virtual environment to demonstrate how the product is utilized on solar or wind farms. Customers can interact virtually with the product by walking around it and viewing the machine from all sides, and can open any doors or panels to examine the inner workings. To complete the experience, animations, voiceovers and info panels are included in the environment to highlight the unique features of the product.

Future State

Virtual Reality is not just for gamers these days. The VR landscape is emerging and there is a bright future for using this technology in industry. Software developers and innovative corporations are continuing to push the boundaries and discover unique ways to leverage virtual environments. Numerous companies are mitigating risk to people and equipment by utilizing VR for training in areas such as safety equipment, large construction equipment, and hazardous environments.

OpenArc and Parker want to lead the future of VR in industry. We are actively exploring new opportunities to apply VR with other technologies and applications right here in Pennsylvania for use worldwide.

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By Jeremy Miller, Parker Hannifin Electromechanical & Drives Division and Pete Bruns, Vice President Software Engineering, OpenArc, LLC