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How Virtual Reality Can Be Used to Upskill Oil and Gas Workers

How Virtual Reality Can Be Used to Upskill Oil and Gas Workers

By James Watson, CMO at Immerse


Immerse is unique in being able to offer a technology platform that enables enterprises to create, scale and measure VR training content, transforming learning and development (L&D) across a range of sectors, including oil and gas. Using VR technology, companies can provide training environments where staff can train, without the high costs and risks associated with real-world training.

The L&D challenge

Oil and Gas companies need highly talented, expertly trained staff, who can follow complex processes whilst adhering to stringent regulations. However, providing effective training is a challenge in the Oil and Gas sector: it’s expensive and difficult to transport staff to the site for training, and often impractical to take equipment out of service. Plus, practising emergency responses is impossible without putting staff in dangerous situations.

This is where VR training comes in. VR technology replaces the world with a realistic digitally-rendered environment. The user takes part in a simulated experience, interacting with their surroundings, virtual objects, and other participants. Using VR, Oil and Gas workers can be given intensive safety and emergency training without being put in real danger, and new workers can gain useful experience of their working environment before they actually reach the site.

Reality without the risk  

When we talk about the benefits of VR training, we often talk about the idea of ‘presence.’ This is the innate ability of VR to virtually transport someone to another place. The VR headset covers the face and blocks out the real world, allowing the user to feel present in the virtual environment, and encouraging them to react to audio-visual stimuli as if it’s real.

Digital environments can be visualised at a very high fidelity; you could recreate a large refinery, a confined space, or the experience of working at height, for example. As the brain is tricked into thinking these environments are real, visceral emotions such as fear and vertigo are provoked, allowing workers to practise working in stressful scenarios while they’re actually in a safe, controlled space without physical risk. Tracked hand controllers enable users to visualise and interact with believable digital versions of objects such as wrenches and gas detectors, and colleagues can collaborate in the same environment.

To give an example, Immerse worked with Shell to create a VR simulation of a storage tanker overspill, as part of an emergency response assessment pilot program. Realistic visuals and sounds recreated the intensity of the situation, and participants were challenged to use their skills and knowledge to minimise risk. The assessor could join participants in the VR or observe via a web browser, and they could also talk to participants and trigger actions during the simulation.

The future of training

Compared to more traditional methods such as lectures, PowerPoint slides, and basic computer-based exercises, this form of training elicits a much higher level of emotional engagement from the learner, speeds up the absorption of information, and improves retention.

There’s huge potential for dynamic, scalable VR training in the Oil and Gas space. A virtual drilling rig, for example, could be used for fire training, health and safety training, and employee onboarding. Multi-user VR means that several people can be trained at once, with skilled Engineers passing on their knowledge in the virtual environment. The content can be used multiple times and in many locations at once, and it can be continually refined as the real environments, machinery and processes are updated.

VR training can result in a more engaged, better equipped and safer workforce. There are few industries where this is more important than in Oil & Gas.

Published: 27-07-2019
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