Starting sometime in the latter half of 2016, Michigan-based electronic company, DTE Energy, will implement virtual reality based programs into their employee training regimen courtesy of Vectorform.
The Detroit Free Press posted a lengthy article explaining how Vectorform has been working with DTE in building real-to-life VR simulations aimed at helping DTE workers train for dealing with downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, utilizing DTE-specific equipment and practicing safe working habits.
According to DTE’s vice president and chief learning officer, Shawn Patterson, he explained to the Detroit Free Press…
“We can evaluate, teach, coach, and make mistakes in these scenarios, obviously, without the consequences of it happening in the real world.”
And therein lies the benefits of VR tech as a teaching and learning tool. They explain in the article that a demonstration was held by Vectorform where they used a virtual chainsaw to cut down a limb and remove it from a line, as well as placing down cones to cordon off a dangerous area.
Vectorform co-founder and co-CEO Jason Vazzano also mentioned that the rise of VR this year makes it ideal for DTE due to it being “transformational technology”, explaining…
“This is definitely transformational technology,” […] “We’re going to see — just as we saw mobile phones in 2008 and the rise of Internet applications in 2000 — this year is really going to be the one for the rise in VR technology.”
Vectorform is relying on the HTC Vive thanks its 3D spatial awareness technology, where users can freely move within a defined space and their movements and tracking are replicated and rendered within the software. It limits the use of technology like the Omni-Treadmill, which allows VR users to actively move around in VR space using a treadmill instead of analog sticks. If you forgot what the Omni was like, there’s a reminder below from Pixel Planet.
The Detroit Free Press article actually does a fine job of questioning the real world applications of this kind of technology, as well as a lost sense of consequence. They note that performing dangerous tasks in a VR space might give the employees over-confidence in the real world, risking life and limb doing things they otherwise wouldn’t do.
According to Vazzano, there’s still going to be some drawbacks and limitations to using VR devices for training, but they sure beat mobile apps and browser-based training programs…
“[…] it’s a lot closer to reality from web-based or app training than we’ve done,” […] “There are ways we can simulate more life-like scenarios. We’re gong to see a much higher range of fidelity, and you’re going to see motion-picture special effects to drive realism.”
VR is definitely more practical than a web-based program, but I imagine Vectorform sees a sizable work contract in their future with other utility companies if things go well with DTE. Productivity and utility software can make a company a lot of money overnight with the right corporate deals, and updating and iterating newer and more advanced VR training sims is a gold deposit waiting to be mined.
The HTC Vive costs a breezy $800, and according to the article VR training is the most expensive form of training at the moment.
This news shouldn’t be too surprising; just last year Tech Republic did an article about the different fields where VR could be used to facilitate higher productivity on the job, and Forbes went more in depth about how VR technology could drastically change the healthcare field. So DTE adopting VR tech as a training tool isn’t as far-fetched as some people might be thinking.
(Main image courtesy of Barnacules Nerdgasm)