Ben Bennett, Managing Director of Virtual Reality (VR) developer Luminous Group, explains why this burgeoning technology can improve training outcomes in the engineering sector.
If you ask someone to tell you about VR, the likelihood is that they will mention something about gaming and entertainment. While these areas are massively important and play a key role in the advancement of the technology, they barely scratch the surface of what VR technology is capable of. Far beyond gaming, this innovation has the potential to affect every aspect of industry, from the healthcare sector to space travel and city planning, the possibilities are endless.
One industry we are particularly excited about applying this technology to is engineering. The big car companies and aerospace contractors have been using VR for over a decade, paying millions for machines capable of carrying out intricate VR work. Today, technology has advanced sufficiently and become cheap enough that many other businesses can now make use of VR to train their engineers.
From on the job learning without leaving the classroom to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in the real world, VR is making waves in the engineering sector and will have a significant impact on the industry going forward.
Immersive classroom learning
While classroom teaching has always been vital when it comes to learning the theory behind a process, nothing beats practical learning like being out in the field doing the job. VR changes this, allowing in-depth practical learning to take place in the comfort of the classroom, reducing risk and cost. The virtual world brings all the benefits of real-life learning, but with the added advantage of being in a controlled, simulated environment.
Logistics company UPS is already using VR to train its drivers to understand and identify road hazards in a classroom environment, and this is only the beginning. Vivid simulations that closely mimic real-life scenarios create learning experiences that are more memorable to the individual. Once they have the VR headset on, learners have a 360-degree view of their environment that they can interact with, including sounds and hazards, helping to prepare them for real world situations.
Preparing for the worst
One of the major benefits of VR training in the engineering sector is that it allows learners to practice potentially dangerous scenarios without ever actually being in danger. Likewise, practicing in the virtual world means there is no chance of accidentally damaging expensive equipment and machinery. This is why high-fidelity simulation training has been used in the aviation industry for decades, helping inexperienced pilots to improve their abilities and practice emergency scenarios in the safety of a simulation.
As technology improves and costs decrease, it will become more viable for fully immersive VR to be applied to other kinds of training within the engineering industry. The potential benefits for increasing skills and improving safety are immense, with simulations that are able to mimic real-world physics, forces, collisions, and even weather, allowing engineers to fully test their abilities without ever being in danger. The beauty of VR is that, once fully immersed, the learner’s brain treats it as though it were a real-life experience, believing what it is seeing and experiencing are real.
Bespoke real world training learning
While some general simulations may prove beneficial for learning fairly ubiquitous tasks, when it comes to something more unique, you'll need a more bespoke solution. It’s important to tailor training solutions to each business’ learning environment. For example, it may be more beneficial for a chemical plant to fully map out its facility to improve the training of its engineers. Likewise, an oil and gas engineer might need to learn the intricacies of a rig before ever setting foot on it.
Luminous Group are already working with clients to create bespoke digital scans of environments such as warehouses and ports, which can then be used to build accurate 3D simulations for use in VR. As technology continues to improve and get cheaper, the use of individual mapping will become more extensive, allowing employees to be trained in a highly realistic bespoke virtual worlds.
We now know this technology isn't going away, and more money is being pumped into the development of VR than ever before. As technology continues to improve, more and more companies will look to the virtual world as an effective means of training their employees, and engineering is one sector where it can have a big impact.