The Crane Game, Oculus Style

crane We’re pretty sure the Hackaday demographic is a a person who sees a giant tower crane lifting beams and girders above a skyline and says, “that would be fun, at least until I have to go to the bathroom.” Realizing the people who own these cranes probably won’t let any regular joe off the street into the cabin, [Thomas] and [screen Name] (see, this is why we have brackets, kids) built their own miniature version with an Oculus Rift.

Instead of a crane that is hundreds of feet tall, the guys are using a much smaller version, just over a meter tall, that is remotely controlled through a computer via a serial connection. Just below the small plastic cab is a board with two wide-angle webcams. The video from these cameras are sent to the Oculus so the operator can see the boom swinging around, and the winch unwinding to pick up small objects.

The guys have also added a little bit of OpenCV to add color based object detection. This is somewhat useful, but there’s also an approximation of the distance to an object, something that would be very useful if you don’t have a three-inch tall spotter on the ground.

Video below.

20 thoughts on “The Crane Game, Oculus Style

  1. “Hey, that toy crane stole my suitcase!” Anyway this does make me wonder how they train real crane operators, do they have a simulator system or just put them in a crane or tell then to go nuts?

    1. I’m a Tower Crane Operator; Yes, there are some simulators, but they are very few and far between. As far as I know, the company in Montreal that made ours is the only one that’s making them in the world. Two 42″ screens in front and a 42″ each to the left and right, and uses head tracking with two ir emitters that the simulator operator wears on his head. Basically a Wii remote type system.

      Training in Canada basically consists of a 3000 hour apprenticeship with 400 of those hours being in school theory and the other 2600 being real world experience. Simulator time is not required and is something extra our union provides us.

      You get hired as an apprentice and spend the next two years going up, watching an operator do his thing and taking any opportunity you can get to get a little bit of seat time. An apprentice can only operate a crane when a licensed operator is next him. I’ve had one apprentice that on his first day on the job, first time climbing up a crane, I sat him in the seat and let him have at ‘er. It’s great when an apprentice is near the end of his hours. Some days I’ll just sit up there all day playing on my phone or tablet and let him run the crane all day.

      That’s just a short little video I recorded during my apprenticeship. That crane I’m on, by the way, is about 10 years older than me; it was manufactured in either ’72 or ’73.

    2. There is a tower crane rental company a few miles from my house, and they have a poured footing onsite. They often have a crane set up on it that’s about one section off the ground (it’s lower than the neighboring trees, anyway.) I presume they use it for training people to set up and/or operate them.

  2. I work for a South African based company that focuses on making training simulators primarily for the mining industry, with a couple of contracts extending into the realm of defence. We supply our products all over the world and we have offices in every continent except asia.

    Our systems are highly immersive, with a cabin that matches the machine that the sim is for with buttons and levers and guages actually purchased from the OEM. We have 3-4 six foot projection screens surrounding the user, with the cabin sitting on a Stewart platform providing 6DOF in movement.

    We have not done a crane yet, but if someone were to commission one, we will most definitely do it.

    “Crane Simulator 2009” might be cool and all, but remember, the operator will not have access to a keyboard or MS SideWinder joysticks when he is actually in the machine, so the training in the game will have little value.

    Here is a video of one of our older systems:

    1. Giant Crane or Mega Crane by Dickie. It’s fairly cheap, quite durable, easily taken apart (no glue). You also have some room to attach sensors. Which by the way are a potentiometer for rotation and a light barriere inside the trolley to cound gear wheel rotations.

  3. I was having a pint in a beer garden in Glasgow (scotland) there was a building site with two cranes across the street. operator of crane one would hang a “target” operator of crane two was trying to get the thing they had hanging to touch the target. was failry obvious when the instructor was doing it and when the n00b was.

    then they had someone on the ground laying markers and were doing the same. was quite interesting to watch, it appeared the instructor would set the load swinging, so the n00b had to get it under controll then place it on the target. So aye, there atleast they trained on days when site wasnt being used.

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