Virtual Reality Fires On All Cylinders

In a recent posting  Anders Gronstedt, an expert on bringing new technologies to the learning experience, said that virtual reality simulators are a good option for any task “that’s too dangerous, expensive, or inconvenient to practise in real life.”

VR is a perfect tool to allow people to receive training in contexts where there might otherwise be a real danger to the trainee. Recently, DIT opened its new VR and AR development lab called Viral. It is a space that allows for businesses to interact with academics to develop practical applications for this nacent technology. I was particularly pleased to be asked to get involved in the launch event.

All DIT employees are required to undergo training in the use of fire extinguishers. Certainly those red cannisters are a feature of all our workplaces, but generally they occupy a place in our peripheral vision. And don’t ask me to remember which colour fire extinguisher is supposed to be deployed against which fire type. It’s hardly surprising that such recall is low; educationalists have long known that involvement in the learning process greatly aids recall. That got me thinking. How about if people were faced with a ‘virtual’ fire and had to respond by picking out the correct fire extinguisher. Using a HTC Vive system and working with Unity software, the team at DIT designed a virtual scene depicting a detached house with several rooms where virtual fires started and had to be extinguished by using a virtual fire-extinguisher – except the fire extinguisher was real – the team had ingeniously hooked up the controllers of the HTC to a real fire extinguisher. The prototype fire extinguisher had its debut at the Open Labs launch in February. The reaction of those who tried it was unanimously favourable; as with all the best learning experiences, respondents, yours truly included, found it to be a whole lot of fun. And of course no one was harmed in the learning process.

As hardware prices continue to fall, with the release of tether-free systems from Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, VR-based training is being brought to new audiences. Market researcher Tractica forecasts that the business market for VR hardware and content will grow to $9.2 billion by 2021. If you want to see more practical examples of the use of VR in training you should attend ARVR Innovate taking place on May 10th in the RDS.
Early bird tickets on sale