A new face, a new name: in July 2017, Dr. Mario Aehnelt was appointed Head of the Visual Assistance Technologies Center (formerly the Interactive Document Engineering Competence Center).
Vincent van Gogh said, “Change is as necessary as the renewal of leaves in spring.” After all, life is inherently about change. And there is plenty of life to be found at a research facility such as Fraunhofer IGD—particularly in the Interactive Document Engineering (IDE) Competence Center. In July 2017, IDE was given a brand-new name: Visual Assistance Technologies (VAT), and Dr. Mario Aehnelt was appointed as new Head. Dr. Aehnelt, age 39, succeeds Professor Bodo Urban, who is entering well-earned retirement in 2018. Aehnelt explains, “The transition will be very gentle. Professor Urban will remain an active member of the organization until his retirement, and we will continue to exchange information and insights.” Aehnelt has been part of Fraunhofer IGD for many years. His first foray was an internship in 2000, followed by undergraduate and final-degree dissertations. Since 2002, he has been a permanent member of staff. In April 2017, he defended his doctoral thesis on Cognitive In-Process Support for a Mechanic: forging a link between the technical and psychological aspects of cognitive information assistance.
A focus on visual assistance
The reason for the changing of the guard was clear. But why a new name? “Strictly speaking, the term interactive document engineering had not really described what we do for a number of years. Our focus is visual assistance,” states the father of two children. The team therefore expressed a wish to move with the times, and to choose a name more reflective of the competence center’s actual tasks. A workshop was held in May 2017 to answer the question: what direction does this center want to take in the future? The answer: visual assistance continues to point the way forward. As Aehnelt underscores, “The new name, Visual Assistance Technologies, abbreviated to VAT, mirrors this fact.”
Enhancing proven technologies
The nature of the center’s research will not change significantly. But against the backdrop of ever greater digital transformation, Aehnelt intends to shift the emphasis more towards predictive analytics: “We do not want to just analyze the past and the present, we also want to open up a window on the future, and make forecasts—for instance with Health@Hand, Plant@Hand3D, and Machine@Hand.” The new VAT Head will continue to leverage proven technologies, but intends to add new capabilities. In other words, users in manufacturing, medicine, and other fields will be able to harness Fraunhofer platforms and methodologies to visualize future states. This will allow them to assess, for example, how modifying a specific parameter will impact production.