Awarded Phase II Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

FactualVR has been awarded a $1,050,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science to develop “HyperTunnel,” a Mixed Reality/Virtual Reality (MR/VR) remote collaboration system that enables field technicians to summon an expert for side-by-side guidance and supervision through a shared virtual environment providing a real-time avatar to mimic operations on a virtual workspace. This provides the supervisor the ability to observe and understand the actions performed to provide feedback to field technicians.

This selection follows on the heels of our highly successful Phase I Grant. During Phase I, we built a prototype to enable an expert to virtually teleport and interact with a technician at a remote location, and for a technician to capture spatial contextual data, transmit it and display in VR at HQ, in order to facilitate a richer interaction between them. Demos of the Phase I prototypes are available here.

Funds from the Phase II grant will be used to enhance and commercialize FactualVR’s proprietary technology developed with Phase I funding.

An electric utility workforce that is rapidly retiring and the loss of institutional knowledge has created a vulnerability in the United States electric grid, especially during widespread power outages. To mitigate this challenging problem, HyperTunnel leverages a limited number of experienced electric utility field personnel to train and/or supervise a larger workforce.

The deployment of HyperTunnel is expected to accrue numerous benefits to industry, the U.S. economy, and society as a whole.

  • With respect to industry, there are a variety of commercial sectors and customers that will benefit from use of HyperTunnel, including electrical utility companies, oil & gas extraction equipment end-users (e.g. off-shore oil rigs), medical practitioners (e.g. teleport expert to a remote operating room), as well as any industry with significant capital infrastructure (e.g. manufacturing, telecommunications). These industries will benefit from repairs and upgrades being more effectively executed, fewer errors and equipment malfunctions, and less equipment down time resulting from field technician mistakes.
  • In terms of economic benefits, HyperTunnel will enable cost savings from leveraging experienced personnel who will oversee multiple sites from one central location; more cost-effective training execution as co-location is not required—saving travel expenses and opportunity costs; and risk reduction in the execution of tasks and savings in insurance policies. In addition, there is potential for reduction in risk related to injuries on the job, which would reduce the instance of work-related disability.
  • The primary societal benefit is derived from HyperTunnel’s potential to enable faster response and repair during power outages through utilization of centralized experienced personnel supervising multiple sites. This capability will reduce the amount of time households operate without electricity and power, therefore mitigating many of the dangers associated with power outages, such as exposure to extreme temperatures, food loss, and increased risk of bodily injury.

About the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science: The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.

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