by George Nott

VR gives training provider Harness a head for new heights

Sep 10, 2018
Augmented RealityBusiness IntelligenceCareers

Workplace training provider Harness has unveiled the first of 20 virtual reality experiences which will be integrated into its education programmes.

The ‘Working at Heights’ asset – which is in the final stages of production – presents users with a scenario in which they must identify all potential safety hazards, and another in which they must build an unprotected edge at height.

“This affords the employee a complete idea of what it is like to work at height, and gives them the opportunity to learn a range of skills such as hazard detection while still remaining in a safe environment,” Harness, which has facilities in Brisbane and Toowoomba, as well as Papau New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia, said.

Further VR training tools will be available soon and involve working in confined spaces, working with fire, and giving first aid.

“There is always a risk that someone will complete all their training, but when they actually get to a 50-storey building or an oil rig in the middle of the ocean, they decide that line of work isn’t for them. VR technology means that trainees can experience what it’s like to be in these dangerous settings before they actually have to go there, hopefully reducing the chances of this happening,” Harness, which was established in 2006, said.

The virtual reality assets are part of a two year VR programme at Harness, which it says will increase knowledge retention in users and give its clients a higher return on investment on their training spend.

The assets are being developed by Activate Entertainment, a creative studio in Brisbane.

“It’s only a matter of time before VR becomes widespread. I’ve really enjoyed working with Harness because they are so forward thinking. They’ve taken a conventional way of doing things in a traditional industry, and thought ‘how can we make this better’? And the answer is VR,” said Activate founder and managing director Tyronne Curtis.

“Once traditional industries start to see the value in VR, it’ll start to be used more and more. And in workforce training and development, we’re already seeing the positive effects it’s having with engagement and ultimately safety,” he added.

The Working at Heights experience starts with an employee being met by a VR supervisor who gives them a number of tasks to complete. The employee must then identify all potential safety hazards in a scene (each decisionis recorded to give a score at the end).

The employee is then taken to another area, where they must build an unprotected edge at height. Finally, the employee returns to the original site, where their analytics are displayed for the hazard identification stage, and they are shown whether they completed the construction task effectively.

Data from the experience can then be exported into a learning management system.

Effective tool

Virtual reality is considered a highly effective training tool, by giving users a closer to reality experience than texts and slideshows could ever hope to achieve.

In June, Dementia Australia announced it was rolling out its hugely successful virtual reality based training workshops nationwide.

The ‘Enabling EDIE’ workshops use a virtual reality app developed by researchers at Deakin University run on Samsung Gear VR headsets to put participants in the shoes of Edie – a 65-year-old man with dementia who wakes up in the middle of the night in bed with his wife, needing to go to the bathroom.

Deakin University is also behind the so called ‘FLAIM trainer’ which tests prospective firefighters by putting them in virtual scenarios such as a petrol station on fire, a kitchen blaze and an aircraft engine in flames.

Last year, the University of Newcastle announced that its School of Nursing Midwifery would be using Samsung GearVR and HTC Vive headsets to run a simulation of a delivery room, presenting midwifery students with an emergency neonatal resuscitation scene.

VR is effective in bridging the “overwhelming shift” between a classroom and a real-world emergency room, the university said.

VR based training programs have been delivered at UNSW’s School of Mining Engineering for almost 10 years, giving students an immersive experience of what it’s like to work underground. VR is also used by fast food chain KFC to provide ‘hands-on’ training for cooks.