Our Virtual Reality demo is here and ready for action! You don’t need any expensive equipment to make the most of it either – just a modern smartphone and a cheap headset like Google Cardboard. We’ve intentionally designed it – and will design all future VR activities – to work seamlessly with the kind of tech that we use every day as well as the high-end equipment like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Essentially, this is the beginning of VR being integrated into our online training solutions in a sustainable, practical way.

What is ‘VR’?

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment within which the user is made to feel physically present. It’s not a new technology - having first come to prominence and then faded in the 90s - but with recent advances in smartphones, games machines and computers it's coming back in force.

VR presents us with a wonderful opportunity in eLearning generally and the Construction industry in particular. Tasks which are potentially dangerous for a trainee to practice - and make mistakes with - in real life can be practiced safely in a virtual experience. Working at height, dealing with hazardous substances and operating machinery are just a few examples of activities that you can gain safe virtual experience of before performing related tasks in real life. You can find out more about VR and its uses in eLearning and more about eLearning in Construction by following the links.

The demo

Our demo is based on the Pre Use Inspection process that operators of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms have to perform each day before using a machine. We chose a handful of the steps from a process we know well through our work with the International Powered Access Federation, and turned them into a VR learning experience where you are guided through the process step by step.

The approach

Many VR products operate as self-contained solutions that are not integrated into an LMS or a training module. This means that it's nearly impossible to track, report and measure what the user does – and doesn’t do – in the virtual environment.

We decided to approach VR differently. Our solution functions through an App on the user’s smartphone, and the user is prompted to access it at certain points in the eLearning module, with alternatives available for those with an incompatible phone. Our VR experiences are fully integrated into the eLearning and produce data that can be analysed; such as what the user actually did, in what order they performed tasks and how long it took them to do each one. This data can also influence what happens in the rest of the eLearning module once the user has returned to it after the VR activity.

The Process

We began the creative process of making the VR demo by throwing around a bunch of ideas and seeing what stuck. We then took the sticky ideas and fleshed them out, creating a storyboard that broke every chosen step of the process down in detail. After giving shape to the idea, we needed to get the technical requirements sorted and start development. This was where our 3D guru and developers got stuck in, and where we learnt a lot!

As we developed the demo, we realised that there was a lot more to it than we had expected. The level of detail required in the planning and specifications, getting the frames-per-second rate right so as to avoid nausea, generating the best textures for the MEWP and the surrounding environment… the list is long and will be the subject of another blog post next month. Suffice to say that we've learnt enough to do it better and quicker for our next VR experience (that we've already started designing!).

We decided that, since it was a demo and aimed at people who hadn’t done the pre use inspection before, we’d provide a lot of support - called learning architecture - for the user inside the virtual environment. The result is an immersive, guided Pre Use Inspection activity!

 

Here’s a screen-capture video of our demo in action just to whet your appetite.

 
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If you want to experience the full demo then get in touch!