TYLin built and tested a proof-of-concept augmented reality (AR) train dispatch system.
Since the 1980s, train movement on the American rail network has been managed by dispatchers at transit control centers using multi-monitor screens and video walls. TYLin won a grant from the Transportation Research Board to pilot a new concept for train movement management. This project confirmed AR, the interactive technology that overlays digital content onto the real world, could inspire a more adaptable, space-saving model for future transit control facilities.
The result was HoloRail, a proof-of-concept train dispatcher user interface that employs AR to create a 3D experience from an open-source dispatching program. Dispatchers experience a track layout superimposed on their existing setting while still being able to see and hear what goes on around them. The new interface allows dispatchers to use hand and head movements and voice commands to manage the same details as on their multi-monitor displays, such as track diagrams, alarms, train and station information, and to set train movements.
Eleven train dispatchers and support staff members from the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) and Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) participated in user testing of the interface. HoloRail proved to be a viable solution for train dispatching, with positive feedback from the participants.
The new interface is not intended to replace existing train control software but has been developed as a “middleware” solution that takes the data and information from an existing train control system and adapts it to an AR environment. With rapid advances in headset technology, the comfort fit, field of view, and battery life will be improved.
- The requirements for the AR interface were developed based on the discussions with and feedback from the onsite user research.
- This study shows the potential of AR and should serve as a launch pad for innovation within the industry.
- Using such an interface could decrease space requirements, simplify IT infrastructure, introduce flexibility, and reduce the costs for future transit control centers.