Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
ITS PLC includes the latest technologies from
the video and computer games industry, such as
real-time 3D graphics, physics and sound. The
scientific aim is to define new standards in the
state of the art of synthetic environments for logic
control training, providing a platform expected to
be adopted by worldwide universities, technical
schools and industrial enterprises. The business
plan is to join the leadership of the business mar-
ket of the serious games for control education, a
goal mostly dependent of the acceptance from
both trainers and trainees of ITS PLC as a “de
facto” effective training tool. Hence, if one wants
to give this scientific and business opportunity a
name, then “control education” is the name of the
game. The remainder of this chapter is organized
as follows:
The next section discuses the role of serious
games in logic control training and education.
Then, computer applications prior to the release of
ITS PLC and based on interactive virtual scenarios
devoted to logic control training are very briefly
surveyed. This reveals the existence of room
and educational interest for a new generation of
training environments adopting modern computer
games technologies and practices that can seek
the leadership of the business market of serious
game for logic control education. Giving form to
this conclusion, the third section introduces “ITS
PLC Professional Edition”, starting by present-
ing its major features and new contributions to
control education and training. Then the software
architecture is discussed, including the successful
integration of the embedded graphics and physics
engines, the developed digital art and the inter-
faces with the external controlling hardware and
human users. The fourth section is a collection of
success stories in the still very short lifetime of
ITS PLC: the success of students and research-
ers that found a safe, inexpensive and effective
way to investigate real problems using virtual
scenarios; the success of teachers that took ITS
PLC in “edutainment” activities (Rapeepisarn,
Wong, Fung & Depickere, 2006) attracting young
children to automation programs; and finally,
the success of undergraduate students in better
understanding control science and its associated
technology by using ITS PLC as a computer game.
Section five concerns the near future, discussing
some improvements that will enable ITS PLC to
keep the leadership of the serious games for PLC
programming education and training. The last
section concludes the chapter summarizing the
most important conclusions.
SERIOUS GAMES IN CONTROL
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
In the last decades industrial plants became highly
automated. This means that most of the tasks
done in the past by humans are now performed
by computer controlled machines. Yet, this also
means that industrial automation has introduced
many social changes; namely, the demanding for
more knowledge workers than labour workers
and the dependence on electronic components
and computer programs of a significant part
of the economy of the developed countries. As
such, industry and governments are committed
in providing and preserving a modern work force
that can efficiently answer to the actual and future
technological demands of industrial automation.
Effective education and training play a major role
in this process.
Industrial control can take two forms (Dunn,
2005): continuous control and sequential control.
Roughly speaking, continuous control, which is
not relevant to this chapter, means continuous
adjustment of the input variables of the controlled
system by continuous monitoring the process
variables and comparing them to some reference
values. Temperature, flow, level and pressure are
typically controlled by continuous controllers.
Sequential control is an event-based process,
intended to force the controlled system to transit
along a predefined set of discrete states, usually in
a particular order and within a given time interval.
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