Product Review – VISCOPIC Pins

VISCOPIC Pins is a model centric tool to assist in Field Service operations. It is primarily a stand-alone field-based tool, however can be extended with a customer selected 3rd party communications tool, such as Microsoft Remote Assist.

Currently, the basis of everything in VISCOPIC is a 3D model, thus you will need a model before you can do anything. Viscopic provides a few models for educational purposes, one of which is an ice cream vending machine.  We will be using this model for the duration of this document.

Future releases will allow you to scan and place Pins in a real-world environment, which can then be imported into the VISCOPIC Editor for annotation and further work.

We will start with a quick introduction to VISCOPIC’s browser-based administration tool and quickly migrate to their Windows based configuration tool. Once we have a model and workflow set up, we will go back to the browser-based administration tool and their apps.

VISCOPIC currently supports the HoloLens and all iOS iPhones and iPads that support ARKit.  Android support should become available in Q3 2019.

Administration

When you sign up for VISCOPIC you will receive a login to their browser-based administration tool, currently located at https://portal.viscopic.com/. The login screen should look something like the following:

Because of the model centric nature of VISCOPIC, I suggest that the first thing you do is to download the Windows app, which is located under the “Downloads” tab.

This app is easily installed using a standard Windows installation wizard. The first time you execute it you will be prompted to login.  Use the same credentials that you used to login into the administration portal.

Projects and Models

After you are logged in, you will get a dialog to create a new project or open an existing one. One very important note – always be sure to save your work periodically.  Although VISCOPIC will always prompt you to confirm that you want to close the project when you are done, it does not ask you to save the project when you exit the application.  As well, if the application ever crashes, something that can happen to any software, then you want to lose as little data as possible. The VISCOPIC Editor does, however, have an Autosave function which is explained later in this document.

Let’s create a new project. The first thing you will want to do is to import a model, which is done by clicking the Model Import icon on the menu bar.

We will import the ice cream vending machine. When first imported, the machine looks a bit odd, which is because the default view for this model is from the bottom.

We correct this by clicking on the model icon and clicking the +X icon in the Scene Settings dialog on the right sidebar.

The model can be rotated with the left mouse button, re-positioned on the screen with the right mouse button, and grown / shrunk with the mouse wheel.  If you click on the Model Explorer on the left side of the display, you will see that this particular model is quite complex.

Workflows

VISCOPIC Pins uses the concept of a Workflow as the basic stream of work.  A model can have any number of Workflows attached to it and each Workflow would be tied to a View. When a model is imported, it will have a view with the default name of View 1.  As this is a very unusual name for a Workflow, you will probably want to rename the view to something more descriptive.

To add a Workflow, you simply need to add a View by clicking on the + icon. You will notice when you do this that all Pins that are currently displayed with your model will no longer be seen, which makes sense because the Pins are Workflow elements and the Workflow starts empty.

It is very important to note, however, that when you create multiple Workflows, although the Project is only uploaded once for each model, using the Save Online icon, each associated View will need to be independently uploaded, using the Portal Upload.

As well, you will need to make sure that once a Workflow is uploaded you remember to give rights to the appropriate Viewers.

Finally, if you delete a View and its associated Workflow, this will not automatically be deleted on the Portal.  To fully delete a Workflow, you will need to also manually delete it from the Portal.

The Marker

Once the model is imported and positioned, the first step will be to assign a marker by clicking on the Add Marker icon below the menu bar.

This is a tag that will need to be affixed to the device so that it can be correctly recognized by VISCOPIC and be uniquely tied to the Workflow you define. Any given marker can have numerous workflows. Workflows are best managed by making a unique View for each Workflow.

When attaching the marker to the machine it will need to be placed in a strategic location that not only can be readily scanned, but also won’t be diminished over time due to exposure to the elements.

If you took the default settings when importing this model, then there is a good chance that the marker will at first appear to be huge, relative to the machine. This is because .obj and .fbx files don’t have any scaling information stored in the file.  All the other file formats supported by VISCOPIC store scaling information.

This is easily fixed by correcting the scaling of the model.  Go to the model icon and change the Scene Scale. In this case, let’s change it to Centimeter. 

After doing this the marker is suddenly a more realistic size. You might also notice that the marker was automatically aligned to the model’s surface.

Go back to the editor and select the marker, and you will see positioning guides now overlaid on the marker.

Use the arrows to position the marker on the device. For this example, I chose the top right corner of the left side panel.  If you rotate the model, you will see how the marker maintains its position relative to the model.

Now we need to discuss how the markers are obtained and printed. You can get a PDF with all of the various markers by clicking on the Marker PDF icon at the right side of the menu bar.

Look through that PDF file for a marker that is consistent with the Marker ID you are using in your model.  Naturally, you will want to make sure that you don’t use the same marker for more than one machine, otherwise

Pins

Now that the marker is set, you are ready to start giving the user a set of instructions.  This is done by placing Pins. Each Pin is a step in a sequence of instructions.  Clearly, you will want to have your workflow clearly defined before you start placing Pins, however we will be somewhat random in this example.

Click on the Add Pin icon  below the menu bar and when you bring your cursor back into the model area, you will see that a Pin is now following your cursor as soon as it is over the model.

As soon as you click on the Pin, it is placed wherever your cursor was at the time of the click. When you select the Pin by clicking on it, you will see the familiar positioning arrows, just as you saw with the Marker.

In addition to the positioning arrows, when you click on the Pin you should also see a property window on the right side-bar.

Here you can change the Pin’s name, as well as its shape and positioning & rotation.  You can also add content to the Pin, such as text with icons, media, holograms and lines.

If you add text, you are given a dialog with a list of available icons and a text editing dialog.

You can enter numerous text elements.  By default, they are shown in the order added, however they can be re-positioned by dragging and dropping. You may quickly notice that the text can easily be lost to the background or the model.  Unfortunately, VISCOPIC doesn’t yet allow you to change your text characteristics.

When you add media, it is placed above the text.

Now we will rotate the model and place a second Pin on the back cover and give it an instruction to remove the cover.

With the model, you remove the back cover by selecting the Model mode, clicking on the back cover to select it and then click on the Hide Selected Parts icon.

Cover Selected
Cover Hidden

Holograms

One very powerful and unique feature that VISCOPIC offers is the use of Holograms. Normally when you are working with a device in the field, the only thing that VISCOPIC will display are the Pins with their associated instructions and media. Holograms are a mechanism where you can take part of the model and display this in addition to the Pins.  A simple example of where a hologram would be useful would be where a user should activate a lever.  A hologram of the lever can be created and animated to show it moving into the desired position.

Showing and Changing Connections

It is possible that after defining your workflow and implementing it in VISCOPIC that you may want to add Pins in mid sequence or change the order of the Pin sequence. This is accomplished by showing the connections.  To see the connections, click on the Connector icon under the menu bar.

When you do this, lines will be drawn from Pin to Pin indicating their sequence of execution. Connections can easily be deleted by selecting the green arrow on the connection and pressing the delete button.

Connections are added by clicking on the Marker or a Pin and completing the connection.

Selecting the Marker
Making the Connection

You may notice that as soon as the connection is established, you are prompted to make a connection to your next destination.

It is quite common to have decision trees in a workflow.  For example, if a measurement is taken and it is beyond a given threshold, a different set of steps may need to be followed.  This is easily accomplished by making connections to multiple targets from the Marker or a given Pin.

Uploading

Once you have finished working on your project, you will want to upload it to the portal so that it can be used. This is a two-step process that is not obvious from the user interface.  First, you will need to save your project online, which can be done by clicking the Save Online icon on the menu bar. You will only need to save the project once, even if you modify the workflow numerous times after saving. After the project is saved, then you will want to save the Workflow. This is done by clicking on the Portal Upload icon on the menu bar. You will want to save the Workflow whenever you make changes so that those changes can be propagated to the users.

Autosaving

VISCOPIC has an auto-save function that automatically saves your Project every 5 minutes. While this won’t catch everything if you exit the program without saving your changes, it can save you some grief.  It is worth noting, however, that if you recover a Project that has been auto-saved, the application will not restore the model and will ask you to locate it so that it can be added.  Maybe a bit annoying, but as long as you don’t lose your model, it probably isn’t a big deal.

Note that you don’t restore autosave Projects just by opening them.  Rather you need to go to the Autosaved Projects when the application starts and select the Project you wish to restore.

Configuring in Portal

Once you have saved your Project and Workflow, you will want to go back to the administration portal to ensure that they have been properly saved. This can be done by looking at the Pins Projects and Pins Workflows tabs, respectively.

Now that the Workflow is stored in the portal, you need to decide who can access it. Access is broken down into Viewer Devices and Device Groups.  While Device Groups can be defined at any time, Viewer Devices can only be defined when a user loads the VISCOPIC App on their device and scans a QR Code generated by the system.

Adding Users and Device Groups

Device Groups are defined under the Device Groups tab. Device Groups are modified by clicking on the pencil icon.

Viewer Devices are found under the Viewer Devices tab.

Viewer Devices are created by clicking the add button and having the device scan the resulting QR Code after the VISCOPIC App has been loaded.

The VISCOPIC Viewer

I am using an iPad Pro for the purposes of this documentation, so it is very possible that what you experience when you use a HoloLens will be somewhat different.

Shared Sessions

One very powerful feature of the VISCOPIC Viewer is that it can have Online Sessions, confusingly referred to as Shared Sessions, in the app.  The Online Session allows for multiple people to share the same view as the person hosting the session, a great tool for sharing an AR experience with others. Because of bandwidth concerns, however, all participants in an Online Session will need to be on the same LAN.

Due to technical limitations, the usage of the VISCOPIC Viewer will not be covered in this document.  Please join us for the workshop to get a full immersion into this tool.