Zehnder + Teslasuit Part 2: VR Training in the Oil & Gas and Energy industry with Teslasuit + a visit to the TEC»Next Conference
Teslasuit Enterprise Training
In our first installment we explained the features of the Teslasuit, a haptic suit technology that allows you to feel physical sensation in a Virtual Reality environment, track your bio feedback and control movement within the VR experience.
One of the most effective uses of Teslasuit’s haptic technology is to enhance the experience of Virtual Reality in Enterprise training solutions. Imagine feeling the sensation of vibrations of machines, the heat from a fire, or the feeling of rain and wind in Virtual Reality while training for a hazardous job - that is the experience Teslasuit brings to the VR mix.
VR Training in the Oil & Gas industry
When it comes to safety training, no investment in technology is too small, especially where lives are at stake. The Oil and Gas industry has understood this for some time now, which is why they are one of the leading industries pushing the limits of Virtual Reality training.
The value of Virtually Reality for the Energy industry was first realized in VR Models of buildings and job sites. Walking through an exact scale and replica model of a job site site, engineers, operators and safety personnel have the ability to look at the area and equipment spacing to ensure that it’s free of potential hazards before any construction has even begun.
Industry leaders who were already invested in VR technology quickly saw the value in using these virtual replicas, or “digital twins”, to create training modules for their workforce. With VR, they discovered, not only could you experience the site before even building it, you could also simulate what happens in an upset condition and show the consequences.
I attended the TEC»NEXT conference, a new “Technology and Energy Conference” in Baton Rouge, to get a glimpse of how far the industry has come along in IoT, Industry 4.0, and using Virtual and Augmented Reality for training and employee safety. There I was able to meet with Louisiana companies creating VR training for some of the biggest names in Oil & Gas to discuss the potential of Teslasuit in enhancing VR training and safety for hazardous jobs.
“A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a thousand pictures. VR is worth a thousand videos.” - Athicha "M" Dhanormchitphong, Immersive Technology Architect, ExxonMobil
One of the teams I met at the conference was Athicha "M" Dhanormchitphong and Kyle Daughtry, both immersive technology architects who are leading the charge in VR Training. They took me through a training simulation they created that is currently being used for training at ExxonMobil’s digital garage facility.
Within seconds of putting on the VR headgear I was transported to an offshore oil rig in the dead of night. Kyle controlled my experience by using by triggering various problems that needed solving. Using the computer keyboard he initiated an oil leak, which I quickly discovered and reported to maintenance by speaking out loud “I need maintenance for a leak at EC-13”.
When the virtual maintenance worker arrived and began fixing the leak, I had an immediate sense of accomplishment. This feeling wouldn’t last, however, I was still at the mercy of Kyle who was controlling the experience. “Okay nice work, he’s fixing the leak. I’m going to start a fire below you, you should see smoke rising at your feet.” As the white smoke rose up from the platform in the dark of night of my virtual world, Kyle instructed me to open a box behind me that contained a gas mask. “Put on the mask!” he said as I literally grabbed at thin air to virtually take hold of the gas mask in the virtual world.
With my vision now clouded by both a dirty gas mask and the smoke rising all around me, I found myself in a bit of a panic in both the virtual and the real worlds. Then, with my sense of urgency, the two real and the virtual world seemed to fuse together.
“Okay, now I’m going to trigger an explosion, and you’ll need to find the point of egress.” Luckily I had seen their presentation on this exact training scenario earlier that day, so I knew the stairs to get to safety were right behind me. Quickly, I turned my body to face the stairs, then I moved my arms rapidly back and forth which allowed my virtual self to run to the stairs in time to escape the fire now engulfing the platform.
“You made it! Nice work!”
I took off the VR headset as if I had just fought a fire and was taking off my fire helmet. “Wow, I really got lost in the virtual world - that was intense!” I gasped. I’m certain Athicha and Kyle had seen this reaction to their work before, but it obviously has not worn out on them. They were full of smiles, knowing my reaction was proof of their successful work. “Pretty good, eh?”
Saftey Training at ExxonMobil’s digital garage
Haptics in Training
In a training scenario, the Teslasuit can enhance the experience by allowing the trainee to feel the warmth of the fire, have more fluid control of movement, feel the pressure of wind or rattle of the explosion. It could also track the precise movement of the trainee and provide feedback on their perspiration or heart rate for safety monitoring.
Some VR training modules are created to teach operational or maintenance tasks. In cases such as this - a trained professional can first be recorded performing the tasks while wearing the Teslasuit. Then, when it’s time for training, the trainee wearing the suit can be guided by the pre-recorded movement of the professional.
“We see a big potential and demand for technology that enables users get haptic feedback and immerse themselves into virtual reality. This is especially true for the manufacturing sector, where companies are striving to obtain ergonomic and handy VR tools for training purposes.” - Ilya Simonov, Director of CROC Virtual Reality Center
When it comes to hazardous job training, you want to give workers as close to a real-life experience as possible without putting them in harm’s way. Allowing them to see and hear what it’s like to be in a dangerous situation and properly training them to control or escape could be the difference between life and death. Virtual Reality has stepped in as the technology to accomplish this, and the training modules I experienced at the conference, well - they kind of blew my mind.
Operating a crane on an offshore rig in a Virtual Reality training environment with Tantrum Lab
Preparing for Industry Disruption
While at the TEC»NEXT conference I couldn’t help but notice the buzz in the air that seems to exist at all events where industry leaders are discussing the future of technology. There is a certain excitement that comes with exploring the possibilities of technology to solve industry pain points. Those preparing for the inevitable disruption to the industry know that exploring the possibilities now will increase their chances of successfully navigating change in the future.
Along with IoT and Industry 4.0, Virtual Reality and Haptics are here to stay and are already being used for training purposes in the Oil & Gas Industry around the world. If it improves safety, saves money, and more importantly, saves lives, then it’s a no-brainer why global companies are investing now.
Ready to explore the beyond?
Over the next few months, we will be exploring use cases for the Teslasuit and sharing our discoveries. If you missed Part 1 you can read it here. We already have some ideas in mind for the energy sector, tourism, healthcare and sports/entertainment. We’ll even look beyond enterprise solutions to applications for consumer entertainment and gaming and explore how brands might use haptic technology in their marketing.
While we are sharing our thoughts, we’d love to hear your ideas and feedback as well. If you’d like to talk to us about Teslasuit please reach out to Nick Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504-962-3732 for more information.