Europe’s Largest 3D Mixed Reality Laboratory Reopens in Magdeburg’s Port of Science

Europe’s largest 3D mixed reality laboratory “The Elbedome” in Magdeburg’s Port of Science was officially reopened in the presence of over one hundred guests from business, academia, research and government today, May 24, 2018, after extensive upgrading.

© Fraunhofer IFF
© Fraunhofer IFF, Viktoria Kühne
© Armin Okulla

Part of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF, the one-of-a-kind laboratory for virtual simulations opened in Magdeburg’s Port of Science in 2006. An upgrade of its equipment had become necessary after over ten years of successful use in research and development for numerous businesses and research organizations. The hemispherical mixed reality laboratory is sixteen meters in diameter and over four meters high. Virtual contents can be presented in high resolution and – with the aid of additional augmented reality glasses – even holographically on its 360-degree panoramic and floor screen measuring over 400 square meters. These stunning dimensions make the system especially suited for virtual interactive presentations of larger objects such as machinery, systems, factories or even entire cities on a scale of 1:1. Groups of as many as twenty people can immerse themselves in virtual worlds simultaneously here without any problem.

Multimillion Investment for Research

The Fraunhofer IFF will again be able to work together with research and business partners and clients on research topics of the future in its mixed reality laboratory. In particular, this will involve developing new technologies and applications for Industrie 4.0, the future world of work and the digital transformation of business and industry. The laboratory will primarily be open to higher education institutions and public research organizations. Small and medium sized enterprises (SME) will profit especially as well, though. Researchers at the Fraunhofer IFF intend to support them through collaborative partnerships in contract research and regional, national and European knowledge transfer.

A total of € 2.5 million were invested in the upgrade. Seventy-five percent of this came from European Union funds. The federal government and the state of Saxony-Anhalt each contributed 12.5 percent.

Minister for Economic Affairs, Science and Digital Transformation Armin Willingmann remarked on the reopening of the state-of-the-art simulation laboratory, “The reopened ‘Elbedome’ is a cathedral of virtual reality and thus a landmark of Saxony-Anhalt’s research landscape in. It keeps the Fraunhofer IFF a national and international leader in the cutting-edge topics of digital engineering and virtual reality. The upgrade funded by our state, the federal government and the EU ensures that 3D applications will converge with the capabilities of Business 4.0 here in the future. Many of our SMEs will especially profit from this.”

Visibly pleased, Fraunhofer IFF Director Michael Schenk observed, “The Fraunhofer IFF’s mixed reality laboratory is once again one of the most advanced facilities of its type in the world. It will help find new solutions for important future challenges that will affect us all as business and industry transform digitally and automation increases. Examples are the optimal design of human-robot work spaces or advanced manufacturing systems. The investments in the research infrastructure are an important signal for Magdeburg as a center of research and for business and industry in Saxony-Anhalt.”

Young Researchers Recognized

The Fraunhofer IFF and Carl Zeiss AG, project-syntropy GmbH and domeprojection GmbH, its partners involved in the upgrade, also presented the “Elbedome VR Award” at this event. College and school students and other young engineering enthusiasts were invited to enter a competition to create their personal vision of a virtual world for the mixed reality laboratory. The winners of the competition get to present their creation to the public on Magdeburg’s Long Night of Science on June 2. Andreas Pape, a student at Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, was the winner of the “Elbedome VR Award” and its purse of € 2,000. His virtual underwater world impressed the jury most.

3D Mixed Reality Laboratory “The Elbedome”

The mixed reality laboratory “The Elbedome” is the central element of the technical infrastructure of the Virtual Development and Training Centre (VDTC) of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF. The research institute is an important collaborating partner in applied research and product development for many regional businesses. Part of the Fraunhofer IFF, the VDTC is instrumental in implementing the state of Saxony-Anhalt’s Digital Agenda and Regional Innovation Strategy in the leading markets of “Energy, Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing, Resource Efficiency” and “Transportation and Supply Chains”. The VDTC was designated a “European Digital Innovation Hub” in 2018. This will now give businesses in Saxony-Anhalt increased opportunities to draw on a transnational, European support infrastructure as they transform their operations digitally, enhance their visibility in Europe, and facilitate their internationalization. The Fraunhofer IFF is thus an important hub and source of impetuses for the digital transformation of regional business and industry and a mainstay of the state of Saxony-Anhalt’s Regional Innovation Strategy.