Scott Mcmillan – Safety Manager, Technology and Innovation, Melbourne Water
Using Virtual Reality (VR) in the industrial world has commonly focussed on the technology and the immersive content that can be built. These are definitely important factors, but as companies become more flexible with their office hours, the training offered hasn’t kept up.
A huge advantage to immersive training is that it works around you and your team’s schedules. Melbourne Water has been using VR for training staff in how to treat snake bites with an emphasis on prevention methods so that you don’t have to interact with a snake in the first place. This training transports you to our virtual classroom where you learn about how to treat a snake bite with the correct first aid technique.
Once you’ve learnt the skills, you’re teleported out to a real Melbourne Water location that is known to have snakes present and asked to locate ‘snake hot spots’. Unfortunately for the user, once this is done you get bitten by a snake and need to use your newly learnt first aid techniques to immobilise the limb.
This is where the training gets truly immersive.
After removing the headset you pick up a real snake bite bandage and wrap your arm tightly so you can understand how uncomfortable the experience really should be. Once satisfied that the flow of venom has stopped it’s time to put the headset on once again to scan the bandage and analyse your results.
The reason this training has been successful for us is that it doesn’t just focus on using new technology for the sake of it. We now have a completely portable trainer that works anywhere without the need for an internet connection or the costs of organising a trainer. Staff can take one of the headsets to different sites and even home to train their family.
Most importantly, it’s self-paced. It’s delivered when you want to do it, not when it’s been scheduled in by your manager.
Melbourne Water is a progressive business and now one of the more advanced water utility company when it comes to VR usage. We have a mandatory process to use VR for major project design reviews, so that our technicians, operators, cleaners, and managers can all review a new building design for defects before they have been incorporated. These design reviews are expected by staff, and project managers would not do it any other way because our people can see and experience the benefits of this innovative process.
The world is rapidly changing and there is enthusiasm from workforces to try something different.
The advantages of VR are that it can transport you to new settings and situations, and let you simulate and experience anything that you can imagine, which is the only thing that should limit your ideas.
My advice to anyone else looking to invest in VR is to ask your colleagues what their actual problems are and then think of VR as one potential solution but not the only one. Start with the problem, not the technology. Think big!.