How do you train your workers to look up, down, in, under or around an environment using a flat screen or piece of paper?
Perth-based software development company Sentient Computing has the answer for that, along with a bunch of other industrial scale problems in the mining and energy fields. Sentient creates powerful and immersive Virtual Reality training, 3D visualisations, process control and automation solutions that are delivered through cutting edge gaming technology.
The innovative company was founded in 2000 and began branching out in 2008 to offer 3D data visualisation, animations, and interactive safety and training packages. Sentient is staffed by a passionate and experienced team of engineers, game designers, developers and artists who together have worked to deploy more than 250 training package solutions for more than 30 clients around the world.
Sentient works with large miners such as Rio Tinto, FMG and BHP and energy giants Woodside and Shell.
Having the ability to display information in 3D can be useful across many areas.
Companies can use it to train their workers to "visit" site prior to arriving, operate complex and expensive equipment in remote places, or showcase complicated assets.
With 3D, companies can provide a collaborative environment where team members from all around the world can work on design or planning problems together or provide an up-close and personal view of a distant project to investors.
However, if they want their workers to experience the full ‘learn-by-doing' immersion of a VR headset that allows them to interact with virtual tools and equipment, VR training is a must.
In the past, with equipment like an HTC Vive virtual reality system, a room of at least 2m by 2m was required. Throw in an appropriate computer and headset and the budget blows out to about $5000.
In this day and age, who can afford these high costs?
Now, with Sentient's process of careful storyboarding and collaborative design, and the latest portable VR technology, companies do not need to spend nearly as much.
Sentient's Lead Project Manager Leonie Yann said the company uses innovative technology to create data visualisation packages and VR training programs mainly for the resources sector.
Virtual environments start from either an engineering model or can be created from scratch, with high accuracy when drawings and reference images are supplied.
"Clients use our virtual environment to help their learners really understand where they need to be when they get to site," she said.
"We help our clients solve their business problems by helping their people make better decisions once they get it out into the real world."
Leonie said traditionally Sentient has created bespoke VR training packages for customers, but these days they realise there are a lot of generic training processes out there that could be built for VR and utilised by multiple companies, so they're now creating packages that can be bought off the shelf.
These pre-made yet customisable, learning products use VR headsets that allow for life-like multi-user experiences. Furthermore, deployment is becoming easier thanks to portable VR headsets like the Oculus Quest products.
VR can offer customers greater value by enhancing their existing training, rather than being a full replacement.
Leonie said many of Sentient's clients still use in-class presentations or e-learning modules, to ensure they cover the theoretical elements of training as well as the practical elements; using VR to reinforce the learnings, not replace the entire course.
This approach has many advantages for clients; they can have their workers try out high risk procedures safely and out of harm's way, with learners able to ‘learn-by-doing' in VR, while presenting the remaining topics in a format that is better for learner retention and engagement.
Site operations can also keep on running, with no need for interruptions for learners to be able to engage with the practical steps of an operation.
Sentient offers the full range of training content enhancement through 2D and 3D animated and interactive e-learning modules, and Virtual Reality training modules.
One of the most popular and beneficial VR training packages to date is Sentient's Hazard Awareness VR training package, which allows learners to enter a full 360-degree immersive environment that physically requires users to search for potential hazards in a range of different work environments.
Sentient's Hazard Awareness VR training module can be bought off the shelf for general areas such as underground mines, offices, workshops, mine sites and oil rigs, with tailor-made environments and hazards also available for an additional cost.
The module puts users to the test and gives them the chance to recognise and analyse common and random hazardous events in a safe and controlled environment, and put into practise what they have learnt in the classroom or through other online eLearning modules.
Sentient's Hazard Awareness VR training package starts at $5000.
Sentient is creating remote virtual environments that are better than actually being there.
Click here to find out more.