For her master’s thesis, Yessika Legat has created a software-based architectural visualisation system using augmented reality (AR) at the Simulation and Software Technology facility at DLR.
The city built by Yessika Legat is colourful. Various-sized skyscrapers are arranged in rows, laid out in a variety of zones connected by red and green paths. Currently it is all on Yessika’s computer screen, but anyone wearing the accompanying mixed-reality glasses will find themselves standing right in the centre. Houses, zones, paths – creating a city in a metaphorical sense – Yessika’s simulation makes the software components come to life.
Those not experienced in the field often have difficulty understanding how software is designed and built. This is why the Simulation and Software Technology facility at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) is developing methods to visually represent software and its underlying architecture. This is where Yessika’s city enters the equation – for her master’s thesis, she has focused on the visualisation of software-based architecture using augmented reality (AR) and the mixed-reality Microsoft HoloLens headset.
AR can be used in many different ways in the area of software-based architectural visualisation, explains Yessika; for instance, through voice and gesture control. Anyone wearing the glasses can move through her virtual city. The city represents elements of OSGi-based software, a vendor-independent, dynamic software platform used at the DLR facility. Each region in the city represents a software instance, where the houses represent classes or services. The houses can be positioned and scaled in any way using the HoloLens, and notes and audio recordings can be added as needed.
From Chile to DLR
Yessika studies computer visualisations at the University of Koblenz. She decided, early on, to write her master’s thesis in cooperation with a business organisation. In addition, she was determined to work with VR (virtual reality) or AR. On the Internet, she found a DLR job advertisement for a related topic and asked herself whether there might be other projects. At the time, she was completing a technical internship in Chile, so she agreed to meet with the head of the department, Andreas Schreiber for a video conference interview. He was in Canada, which made the time zone differences significantly easier to deal with. One telephone call later, Yessika started her work at DLR in October 2017.
Initially, Yessika planned to convert an existing visualisation in VR to AR. But she changed the focus of her work after realising that the conversion would be too time consuming. So, instead, she decided to write about the added value of AR when visualising software-based architecture in general. By doing so, Yessika is engaging in fundamental research with state-of-the-art technology, which her friends outside the area of informatics find particularly impressive. Nevertheless, Yessika would not invest in her own AR glasses. “They do have many cool features, but there are still quite a few limitations,’ she says. “The field of view is very small, for instance.”
Travelling on business for the VRST
Yessika is very happy with her working environment at DLR: “I really feel at home here. There are lots of nice young people, and the atmosphere at work is always excellent,” she explains. The highlight of her time at DLR – Yessika travelled to Sweden to attend a conference on virtual reality in November 2017, where she acquired a great deal of inspiration for her work and networked with experts who are also working with the HoloLens. “It was an exciting experience, and I think it is wonderful that students are given this opportunity,” reports Yessika.
Her virtual city is another exciting experience that many different visitors will one day be able to enjoy. It helps developers find their way around new programmes. Managers can use it to visualise their company’s operations more clearly. People without experience of information technology can more easily understand the complexity of software. All of this is possible, in the colourful city on Yessika’s screen.