Bridge Tech of The Future: Ulstein’s Bridge Vision

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August 29, 2012

ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ front bridge view.

Norway’s Ulstein Group unveiled a new technology today that could potentially revolutionize bridge resource management and the way crews interact with bridge equipment.

Called ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™, the concept system is more reminicent of something you’d expect to see in a big-budget sci-fi flick, vice a ship’s bridge. The system offers a catalogue of user-focused innovations including: gesture-controlled infographics displayed on bridge windows; a system that automatically adapts to the individual user’s preferred setup; and a new breed of user-defined ergonomic work stations.

“It is a bridge revolution rather than a bridge evolution,” says Tore Ulstein, Head of Market and Innovation and Chairman of the Board of Ulstein Group, of the patent pending technology.

So what is so revolutionary about this product? Just have a look at the trailer.


Innovation through collaboration

To develop this 21st century technology, engineers from Ulstein hooked up with graphic and interaction designers from The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO) to come up with an interface that is as advanced as it is functional, and yet also user-friendly.

“Together, we’ve created a human-centred operational environment for the future ship bridge,” says Product Manager Bridge in Ulstein Power & Control, Arne Ove Rødstøl. “Our focus throughout has been on the user, and the concept includes work space designs and new ways to interact with bridge systems.”

This human-centred approach guided the entire development process, Ulstein says.

Together, AHO and ULSTEIN painted a detailed picture of the end users – the crew – and how they perform tasks during various operations. With nearly a century of maritime experience, ULSTEIN brought valuable insights to the analysis while AHO researchers added details after spending time on offshore supply vessels observing how the crew actually used the equipment on the bridge.

“The observation process yielded several remarkable findings. Findings that would not have been revealed through standard feedback, due to the fact that the users are often unaware of the details of their movements in a complex work situation,” says Kjetil Nordby, Associate Professor at AHO.

Ergonomic Benefits

User conditions at work stations took a paramount role throughout the development phase of the project. “The human body works best when it can alternate between sitting, standing and walking – or as stated by a noted ergonomic expert, ‘the next position is the best’,” explains Nordby.

The ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ system offers an innovative new bridge chair design, with multiple sitting positions and a new console design. In addition, the new bridge can also adapt both the workspace and software setup to individual user’s specific requirements.

“The ergonomic benefits of ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ will help reduce fatigue during complex operations and increase the crew’s ability to concentrate” claims Nordby. “This diminishes the potential for accidents, injury and ill health.”

Window on the future

ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ aft bridge view.

Perhaps the most eye-catching element of the system is the use of optical projections (pictured above) on bridge windows. This allows vital information to pop up directly on the windows (full frame head-up display) on the aft bridge and on monitors directly below the windows on the front bridge. Operators can then access controls and information by using intuitive touch-commands and gestures.

“Captains often say that the most important information is outside the ship. The beauty of ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ is that you do not have to choose between internal and external information because both can be viewed simultaneously,” Rødstøl says.

The system prioritizes information based on the operation and situation of the ship. For example, when the ship is in transit mode, illustrations will be presented on a large, seamless surface below the windows on the front bridge. A real-time overlay is also possible, where the head-up display provides information on operationally critical tasks by showing elements the user cannot spot directly, such as fog, darkness or elements hidden behind objects. The display systems can also turn the bridge into a simulator for training or preparation before a critical operation.

Simplicity, safety and sophistication

Despite it’s seemingly advanced facade, Ulstein insists that the new bridge system is designed for easy installation, and the user interface is simple and identical on all systems on the bridge. This consistency, Rødstøl says, means less training for crews and all-around safer and more efficient operations.

Of course, like all concept technologies, it’s too early to tell whether the new bridge technology will catch on in the market.  But hey, we can dream.

Do you think ULSTEIN BRIDGE VISION™ has what it takes to cross the, er, bridge, from concept to reality?

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