Publications / 2013 Proceedings of the 30th ISARC, Montréal, Canada

Employing a Virtual Reality Tool to Explicate Tacit Knowledge of Machine Operators

A. Vasenev, T. Hartmann, and A.G. Dorée
Pages 248-256 (2013 Proceedings of the 30th ISARC, Montréal, Canada, ISBN 978-1-62993-294-1, ISSN 2413-5844)

The quality and durability of asphalted roads strongly depends on the final step in the road construction process; the profiling and compaction of the fresh spread asphalt. During compaction machine operators continuously make decisions on how to proceed with the compaction accounting for projectspecific aspects as: ambient conditions, road geometry, roller type, asphalt mixture characteristics and behavior of other machines.

In discussions over quality improvement in road construction it is often suggested to robotize rollers. To operate such robots would of course require operational strategies and routines. The reality of this moment is that these operational strategies and routines are not documented. To identify the existing best working practices and, ultimately, to proceed with developing automated robotized compactors, the knowledge of machine operators should at first be explored and described in a formalized way. Unfortunately operators have difficulty verbalizing their expertise. Observation of behavior, as machine movement patterns, could be helpful to extract the operational strategies, but such observations are time and labor consuming. To overcome this burden we developed a Virtual Reality (VR) environment. In this VR environment operators perform compaction virtually, and their operational choices are traced and analysed.

This paper describes this VR development and explains how it helps in following machine operators and extracting their (tacit) professional knowledge. The road geometry and the working conditions are visually represented; the operators show - rather than explain - how they would proceed with the compaction process in the given conditions. Movements of virtual machines are documented, analysed, visualised and discussed. This VR approach is expected to contribute to learning, to more formal description of operational strategies; stepping stones towards compaction algorithms for roller robotisation.

Keywords: Visualization, tacit knowledge, road compaction, rolling pattern, virtual reality