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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The (virtual) reality of training | Offshore Technology

Lloyd’s Register has developed a Virtual Reality (VR) Safety Simulator to help support training and knowledge transfer in the energy industry and illustrate the need for a continued focus on safety and risk assessment. Patrick Kingsland spoke to LR’s VP of Marketing and Communications, Peter Richards and Global Academy Training Manager, Luis De La Fuente, about how it works.

With VR we can bring some of that hands-on practical experience into the classroom.
Photo: Offshore Technology

Patrick Kingsland: What are the key challenges the offshore industry faces today in terms of safety training? 

Luis De La Fuente: The oil and gas industry is very cyclical. During downturns you have skilled people leaving and companies can be left with a knowledge gap with only a handful of experienced people. Challenging times often result in less training as training budgets get reduced or are transferred elsewhere. During boom periods you often get a sudden influx of new talent who are often less experienced. And some of the more skilled personnel who were let go during the downturn leave the industry and decide not to come back. This means you lose quite a bit of hands-on knowledge and experience. For us, the whole goal is to work out how to reduce that learning gap, and get a person to a competent, senior level in as short amount of time as possible.

PK: How could virtual reality help reduce that learning gap in your opinion? 

LF: Well one good way is to introduce as much theory as possible so that when staff get onto the job sites they are familiar with what they are doing. But you still have a gap there between theory and practice. With VR we can bring some of that hands-on practical experience into the classroom without necessarily having to put guys out there where it’s more dangerous.

Peter Richards: It’s about making the training environment more immersive so that you can really start to understand the potential hazards you are going to be exposed to. VR also provokes a reaction from individuals on the implication their actions will have in an offshore environment. And because it’s interactive people are coming away from our VR experience and actually talking about safety training in a positive way. Bear in mind this is not a subject that generally generates that level of enthusiasm.

PK: How has VR technology improved over the past few years and where did you look for inspiration?  

PR: I think we’re now at a stage where VR is at a tipping point. The technology has got a lot better and the cost has come down. It’s more viable to look at it as a realistic mainstream application as opposed to where I think we were four years ago when everybody was talking about virtual reality but it was really just an overgrown 3D video.

During this gestation period we were closely following the technology to see how it was developing. In conjunction with a number of agencies we looked at gaming technology in particular. The hardware we are now using deploys handsets as well as head-sets. This gives us the ability to interact more with the environment as opposed to the initial development of VR which was just a headset.
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Source: Offshore Technology