If you look at the ICE 4 in the “BR 412 Simulation” on the Android tablet, you are immediately impressed, because every detail has been thought of in the digital version of the train. And with good reason: the intention of the “BR 412 Simulation” – “BR 412” represents the series of the new ICE 4 – is that train drivers get to know the ICE 4 better and reinforce the content of their training.
Of course, such software can only partially replace the experience of training in a real train. For organisational reasons, however, it is hardly possible to assign an ICE 4 permanently for training purposes. New vehicle models are often only available in limited numbers and at just a few locations – at present only two trains are in trial operation service. In order that regular service can commence by the end of 2017, DB Fernverkehr has commissioned DB Systel to develop a mobile 3D simulation, with which parts of the training can be digitally supported and repeated at any time. The simulation behaves just like the real ICE 4 and also issues warnings in the event of critical alarms. Users can select from several modes. In various units different scenarios are presented. For example, users learn how nose covers can be opened and spring-loaded brakes can be released by hand, or how pneumatic springs can be lowered in the event of a fault.
Video (in German only): Users have four options to choose from: “Introduction (learn how to use the app)”, “Learn (complete exercises with hints)”, Practice (complete exercises without hints)”, and “Discover (explore the ICE 4 simulation for yourself)”. The video shows each training step users need to complete to learn how to open nose covers manually.
© Deutsche Bahn AG
During their training, but also subsequently, train drivers can use the app to familiarise themselves with the functions of the ICE 4 and can learn and consolidate a variety of training topics on an interactive basis. “We have distributed the app to all drivers, even those who are not undergoing training for the ICE 4. This means they all have the opportunity of taking a live look at our first learning app for the tablet”, says Verena Klees from DB Fernverkehr. For the trial operation, only about 150 employees received instruction initially, although a further 300 will be included for the series operation. With the BR 412 simulation, their training sessions can be better integrated into the work processes: “Our main objective is to promote the sustainability of learning by enabling this learning to be focussed on personal needs and then consolidated”, says Klees.
A train is digitised
The origin of this project was an event at which the responsible personnel at DB Fernverkehr were shown what is possible with digital visualisation. At DB Systel, the “WorldInsight” platform bundles numerous topics of digital 3D visualisation and 3D real-time models. These models often had a different focus and were optimised for the desktop. However, as all train drivers already have tablets anyway in order that they can carry the full regulations with them and use them for other activities an obvious idea emerged: this could be the basis of a mobile learning application for the new ICE. For use as mobile learning applications, however, a lot of new development was required.
The raw data for visualising the ICE 4 comes directly from Siemens, the manufacturer of the train. DB Systel has edited this data in such a way that it can be used in the application. In addition, DB Fernverkehr has made videos available that enable the user to recognise certain processes and steps visually – for example, when someone is standing by the train and carrying out actions. On the basis of all this data, a model of the train was created. “At the same time, we had to understand the specialist logic of the exercises, so we needed a sort of screenplay”, says Martin Respondek at DB Systel. And also an idea of how a user moves through the application. For this reason a click-dummy for tablets was created at first. In principle, therefore, a graphic sequence from which the screen design was derived and which permitted a reduction in the interactions. Even at this early stage of development, train drivers and instructors were involved in various workshops, in order to find out their needs regarding the use of the app. The implementation of the virtual learning environment, therefore, is also evidence of the excellent collaboration between DB Systel and DB Fernverkehr and all their departments.
Next stop: Virtual Reality
And the “BR 412 Simulation” also demonstrates where the journey is leading in technological terms. The step toward learning in virtual reality (VR) is no longer a very big one. Learning content of the application, such as opening the nose cover, has already been adapted as part of the EVE innovation project (Engaging Virtual Education) for a VR environment. With EVE, users can step into this virtual learning environment, which records their natural movements and gestures. Functions become positively accessible, enabling the learning to be significantly intensified – particularly in the case of training topics such as a fire in the train or other scenarios that cannot be taught on real trains or in simulators.
Video: The first steps in virtual reality training. Users are confronted with a technical problem and instructed to go through the right procedure to open the nose covers manually.
© Deutsche Bahn AG
Training by means of an app on the tablet will not replace on-site training, but will be an excellent supplement – and is a first step on the road to the digital classroom. It also demonstrates a further innovative possibility as to how DB Systel can help with the digitalisation process.