Virtual training for engineers enters a new reality at VR World

Joseph Flaig

An Igloo installation (Credit: Igloo Vision)
An Igloo installation (Credit: Igloo Vision)

Collaborative experiences and feedback devices are stretching the boundaries of virtual-reality training for engineers and technicians.

Particularly useful in dangerous and expensive sectors such as oil and gas, virtual programs give recruits immediate understanding of new situations. At VR World in London last week, companies demonstrated devices that bring the technology into new dimensions.  

Go Touch VR, based in Lille, France, showcased feedback devices that attach to fingers to simulate touch – not just vibrations, which are found in haptic feedback devices. The clip-on devices press fingertips to mimic the click of buttons, apply sustained pressure when picking up objects, or flutter to simulate hazards such as flames. 

Combined with VR headsets and training programs, the devices create a lasting impression and can help with the formation of muscle memories, said chief executive Eric Vezzoli. “You interiorise the movement,” he said. “We put you in a condition which is more similar to reality, and your learning process gets better.”

Popular VR headsets commonly come with video-game-style controllers, but Vezzoli said his company’s devices remove a barrier between the user and the experience. “The people who use VR need to have the most transparent experience,” he said. “Everything you put between themselves and the reality is a barrier.”

Shropshire-based Igloo Vision has also removed the barrier of isolation, simultaneously putting multiple people into training situations to improve collaboration and situational awareness. The company installs planetarium-style domes and cylindrical installations, ranging from 16-capacity set-ups to a maximum capacity of 900. 

Igloo combined its installations with 360° video footage and a powerful video-game engine to simulate an oil refinery for BP. It also built a nuclear power station proof-of-concept, where users carried real tools such as Geiger counters to further enhance the experience.

Also used by the military, the Igloo installations encourage teamwork and let trainers see users’ reactions to give immediate feedback.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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