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“Prepare and prevent, don’t repair and repent.”

Workplaces are inherently hazardous, more-so for high-risk industries such as construction, oil & gas, manufacturing and healthcare. Some of the leading causes of workplace accidents include falls, improper contact with equipment and objects, exposure to dangerous environments, non-compliance with safety provisions, etc. The causes for it range high, and so does the numbers. Estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggest that almost 1 million workplace fatalities are recorded across the world annually.

The increasing number of fatalities, which is now so unfortunately commonplace, portrays that old-school methods are either a thing of the past or non-effective. 

The evolving industrial climate prompts for a solution that is innovative or out of the box. Immersive Technology, which renders immersive experiences through Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR), is envisioned to revolutionize industrial work and training by making it substantially safer and productive. This article seeks to explain how this most profound technology could change the face of industrial training.

Virtual Reality Training and its Need 

Virtual Reality is a form of complete immersive experience wherein the user is transported to a different world. The immersive nature of this technology makes it a more powerful training tool than a lecture, video or demonstration, as it prompts people to learn while doing, receive feedback, and perform repetitive training. As the information shuts off the real world, users are forced to give their undiluted attention, resulting in quicker learning and higher retention rates. 

The basic objective of any safety and health training program is to ensure zero harm and higher productivity. On-the-job training in a traditional setting involves a lot of risks, as the likes of it may be provided in new and uncontrolled environments. This makes it almost impossible to achieve the aforementioned objective. Virtual reality can, on the other hand, simulate a wide range of dangerous scenarios for employees to practice at the comfort of their homes or other indoor spaces; this means that employees can learn complex and dangerous tasks in a setting that feels risky but isn’t actually so, with a sense of realism that leads to a safe and productive work process. It develops life-saving skills and competencies in people while allowing them to fail initially. 

Apart from its powerful capabilities in impacting people training, virtual reality significantly reduces the training costs. Companies spend a truckload of money on training alone. Be it for planning, making travel arrangements, conducting training in real-time locations which may have its own risks, usage of equipment, investing on trainees, etc, companies are forced to spend more on training. Technology, through virtual reality, has given us an immersive way to train people effortlessly and effectively, with substantially lesser costs.

Applicable Areas

Virtual Reality and other transformative technologies are needed by most industries today. Here’s a snapshot of the role it plays in a few of such industries, especially with respect to safety training:

Construction

Statistics suggest that India accounts for 38 construction accidents every day. Annually, close to 1000 accidents are reported across the world.  This prompts for a change in the way we prepare these people for work, something that is transformative and can produce us different and satisfying results.

vr construction

In Virtual Reality, we have a tool that could render safety training in the most comprehensive manner. It creates stories, and stories have the canny ability to penetrate our brains, which helps the lessons rendered herein to be rooted. Early adopters of the technology, which includes some major construction companies across the globe such as Larsen & Turbo, Gilbane, etc, have gone beyond the pilot stage and have made Virtual Reality a part of their training curriculum.

Mining

Mining locations are fraught with dangers, due to the lack of exits and the scope for a chain reaction of compounding catastrophic events. Navigating a mine is hazardous, whether in emergency situations or otherwise. Add to it – operations in this domain come with plenty of hazards like usage of explosives, exposure to toxic environs, lack of proper ventilation, etc. Virtual Reality training exposes trainees to what they’ll be dealing with in the actual workspace. The virtual wall is surely more effective than blackboard exercises and videos.

Oil & Gas

The Oil & Gas sector is poised with a lot of challenges in terms of the high training costs, training effectiveness, and the high amount of risks involved in the job.

VR Oil & Gas

Virtual Reality could help tackle all these burgeoning issues through its immersive training experiences. Click here to know more.

Chemical Processing

Dealing with chemicals is one of the deadliest things. Virtual Reality experiences expose trainees to the chemical lab and its dangers without jeopardizing their safety. Major establishments like Schneider Electric have predicted that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality would become increasingly important for these purposes.

Military

The military is indeed a highly sensitive and vulnerable domain, where the smallest of errors can prove all too wrong. Virtual Reality has always been in the limelight in military circles, ever since it was a prototype. The U.S. Department of Defence reportedly spends an average of $ 14 billion or more per year on “synthetic” digital training (refers to a method that trains people for real-life jobs through digital environments). 

Military-VR

VR/AR-based military training, provided by means of satellite imagery or body-worn sensor information, is envisaged to help the armed forces collaborate and make decisions more effectively than traditional training. The prominence and capability of this technology would make it more compelling for widespread adoption, the signs of which are already telling.

Automotive

It is a tad ironic that we train drivers in safe roads today and expect them to adapt to riskier terrains tomorrow. While the practice seems to be generally harmless, the never-ending catastrophe of road accidents provides a different picture. Virtual Reality helps drivers to learn driving in an entertaining, engaging, and realistic manner and doesn’t withhold people from crashing themselves on a brick wall. It offers a safe and controlled environment and provides hands-on training on the nuances of driving in different scenarios. Toyota recently came up with a driving simulator that portrays the consequences of distracted driving. Termed as TeenDrive 365, the initiative prompted users to pick up a phone call while driving in the simulator to make them understand how this action could reduce their alertness and speed of reaction.

Virtual Reality training, as we know, enhances productivity while ensuring work comfort and safety. Automobile giant Ford has been a major advocate of this technology. Statistics released by the company suggests that the adoption of VR lead to a 70% reduction in the number of employee injuries. Moreover, the technology helps automotive companies to showcase their car models in a customized and immersive way, making them feel that they are seated right inside it.

Healthcare

Prevention isn’t just better, it’s crucial. A small mistake can have irreparable consequences. Virtual Reality provides healthcare professionals with hands-on experience, in an atmosphere so realistic that the doctor feels that he/she is really operating a patient.

Healthcare

The scope for Virtual Reality in the healthcare domain is vast though and isn’t merely restricted to training alone.This article from the Business Worl provides interesting insights into how this brilliant technology would go on to transform the healthcare industry.

Fire Safety

Fire safety hazards always seem unlikely, yet imminent. Organizations and institutions may have the best safety measures in place, but fire accidents are a possibility that cannot be ignored. Theoretical learning would only cater so much and wouldn’t necessarily equip people for emergency responses. Virtual Reality allows users to immerse in a 3D environment wherein they can use different fire extinguishers to douse the fire and learn appropriate responses to different emergency situations.

Mediums of Immersion

Virtual Reality experiences can be consumed using specialized headsets, sensors and hand controllers. Popular experiential mediums include Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, HoloLens, Magic Leap and Oculus Quest. Haptic Gloves enable the users to feel the shape and texture of objects, resulting in a more fulfilled experience. It adds to the immersion levels of the already immersive VR environment and could be applied for a wide range of VR portfolios such as training surgeons, military training, virtual assembly for manufacturing, providing realistic driving courses through virtual experiences, etc.

Use Cases

  1. We at TNQ InGage had the opportunity to work with an acclaimed construction company that highly regards the safety of its workers. We helped them in creating (and we continue creating for them), real-site scenarios through Virtual Reality (VR) experiences. These unique modules facilitate easier and efficient impartation of skill training and safety education for workers. The mode of training takes workers through experiences that may feel dangerous but isn’t necessarily so. People experiencing this found the training so immersive that it transformed their perception concerning safety norms. Yes indeed, nothing perfects as experience.
  2. An established hospital sought our expertise for training employees in responding to a fire accident. To meet this requirement, we came up with a VR experience that educated them on the different types of fires, their sources, the choice of fire extinguishers for the various types of accidents, hazard identification and fire evacuation. This enabled employees to effectively grasp the know-how of handling emergency scenarios.
  3. The military has been using Virtual Reality even before it got commercialized. As already observed, the U.S. Department of Defence reportedly spends an average of $ 14 billion or more per year on “synthetic” digital training (refers to a method that trains people for real-life jobs through digital environments). This is a VR  platform that can train infantry soldiers in realistic battlefields.
  4. Children’s hospital in Los Angeles (CALA) uses a Virtual Reality experience that trains doctors to treat children during emergencies. The doctor’s performance is monitored and measured so that the essential adjustments can be made in real life.

Benefits at a Glance

  1. The most highlighted facet of Virtual Reality, and perhaps the most transformative, is its ability to train people while they get a real feel of doing things. Experiential learning is considered as the most important method of knowledge transmission.
  2. Virtual Reality can effectively tackle all workplace learning challenges.
  3. The training costs for onsite training would be high. This is significantly cut down with VR  training.
  4. Virtual Reality enhances the retention levels of people to a greater proportion when compared to traditional training.
  5. It offers a risk-free environment wherein employees can undergo training and can even practice responses to dangerous scenarios without the risk of injury or death.
  6. It is scalable and can be deployed at the desired place and in the desired frequency.

Conclusion

Change is the only constant. The rapidly evolving industrial sphere makes digitization attractive and essential.  Investments on AR/VR, in particular, is exceeding expectations and would triple its size in the years to come. The global immersive market was estimated at $18.4 billion in 2018 and is envisaged to hit the $ 180 billion by 2022. We are witnessing widespread adoptions by various end-users including defence, real estate, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. Considering these trends, Virtual Reality is not only here to stay but would be an indispensable part across various industrial domains.