Updated: Jun 19
Virtual Reality (VR) software is increasingly being used to train maintenance personnel. In practice, these applications seem to become obsolete relatively quickly, which means that they are not used optimally. However, customization means going back to the programmer, which takes time and a lot of money. BlueTea has developed the VirtualStudio® package, in which it is possible to independently adjust scenarios through configuration. Among other things, this saves time and money, offers opportunities to constantly present employees with new challenges and keeps progress going.
EFFICIENT AND SAFE
The simulation of (maintenance) activities as part of training is increasingly based on virtual reality (VR). The advantages are apparent. On the one hand, training through VR or other forms of virtual training hardly takes up any additional space and resources in the form of "real" installations, machines or vehicles. In addition, it is a method that allows people to learn in a safe way. After all, you can't really burn yourself with VR, you can't really fall or get electrocuted.
This sometimes raises the question of whether VR is 'real' enough for learning. I can assure you: it is,” says Ruud Dullens, Smart Training Expert at BlueTea. “The conditions you are in with VR activate the brain just like in real life. This allows you to remember mistakes and learn from them just as well as in real life. Or maybe even better. After all, you can make an infinite number of mistakes and destroy things without creating an unsafe or costly situation.
In addition, VR is also a way of imparting knowledge that corresponds to Ebbinghaus' "forgetting curve". The curve he developed shows that after learning a certain amount of material, the knowledge is quickly forgotten. However, when the information is presented multiple times, the curve shown in the second figure emerges. This shows that people retain more and more knowledge over time; even after a long time. VR applications are a solution in this respect as they allow activities to be repeated "indefinitely".
Ebbinghaus' forgetting curve - anchoring knowledge through repetition
Dullens: “However, VR is not suitable for all companies. If you need to learn how to perform maintenance on a small standard object, you might as well make it "real". Whether it's assets that are hardly available for learning purposes or extremely complex assets, VR and provide an immersive virtual learning environment the possibility of safer and above all more efficient training, such as chemical plants that you cannot turn off, or helicopters that you cannot turn off, complicated machines or production machines that simply have to work in dangerous conditions, or maintenance jobs that require a lot of preparation to get there safely often justify the costs associated with VR solutions.”
CREATE VR SOFTWARE
Advanced software packages and expertise are required to run a VR application. The final application is created in about four steps.
The programmer begins by programming the environment in which the maintenance will be performed: "the world". He also programs the relevant assets - the machine, an aircraft engine, a system - with the appropriate properties. Finally, the programmer adds the relationships between the different assets and programs the desired scenarios. In the fourth step, the customer starts using the application.
VR training is suitable, among other things, for very complex, scarce technical assets that are not simply available for training
Practice shows that the environment itself in most cases does not change quickly, and the asset generally remains as it is. However, maintenance procedures change regularly, especially when it comes to servicing new products that may not be fully developed yet," Dullens says Regulations are changing and this requires different quantities to be measured than originally.”
You can then do a number of things: go back to the software developer and ask them to adapt the software, continue working with outdated software that ultimately results in employees not being properly trained, or put the VR application aside and to back down.” “The associated costs are high in any case,” says the smart training expert.
To solve this problem, BlueTea has developed a VR software (VirtualStudio®) that pushes the transfer of the software to the end user in the development process. The base still consists of “the world” and the assets that the programmer builds. It also programs all possible interactivity of the different elements.
You can update software quickly and cheaply by configuring it instead of programming it
After that, the programmer's activities stop and the software goes to the user, who then creates their own scenarios. It is no longer necessary to program, he only has to configure. Specify the different parts by logical functions, such as "If this happens, then this must happen," explains Dullens.
Stay with what you know.
Since the user now configures his own scenarios, the necessary intensive communication with the programmer regarding this component is no longer necessary. After all, the user is not a programmer and vice versa. It is also not necessary to work out all possible training scenarios in detail in advance. In practice, however, this is not possible because using the software also leads to new insights and the desire to do things differently. New insights. During the training, the trainer finds out, for example, that activities can be carried out better in a different order. Or he finds that it is necessary to build in an additional check because a large part of the users forgets a certain action.
Collaboration between the developer (DEV) and the user (OPS). Where this is possible for the user, he adapts the software independently
But other developments can also mean that scenarios have to be adjusted. For example new laws and regulations. The launch of a new lubricant or the further development of knowledge in the field of safety. In addition, it is possible to change the situation slightly, as is the case in the real world. Training units that have to be repeated are therefore no longer predictable and still require maximum concentration. For example, a vehicle may be parked elsewhere, making certain points inaccessible and requiring the mechanic to perform other actions before getting started. Or an operator has left a machine on and it is still very hot. The service technician then has to decide whether he should wait or, if necessary, carry out another job first in order to use the time efficiently.
VirtualStudio® uses "gamification" to impart knowledge. In short, the learning environment resembles a computer game in which the user has to solve certain tasks. If he can do this well, he can rise to a higher level. If he makes mistakes, the software offers the problem again. Often in a different way to keep it fun and challenging.
Dullens: “Of course you can vary endlessly in the way you apply the game element. In any case, experience shows that players are extremely motivated to reach the next level and eventually reach the final level, which earns them a diploma." or certificate.
Players are extremely motivated to reach the next level
Finally, both gamification and the fact that the user can create their own scenarios allow learning materials to be individually tailored to a specific person. Depending, for example, on their previous knowledge, their level of education, their intended activities or their background, they are given specific knowledge and information.
This offers endless possibilities. You can react to technicians who are sent to a customer abroad by configuring that a measuring device does not measure in our units, but in English units, for example. People who already have specific knowledge can possibly skip modules or go through them faster. Finally, the software simply keeps track of the results, so it is always clear how a specific employee is performing at a specific time and, most importantly, where they need help."
The programmer "creates" the world and assets, the user writes and configures the scenarios
With the first applications, BlueTea is only at the beginning of a period in which the cloud-based program will be further developed. This makes it possible to play a game with several people instead of individually. This can also be used to train cooperation and communication.
Finally, I would like to state that not every application is suitable for VR. You can see that some companies are insisting on the use of VR, which ultimately results in an application that puts a lot of strain on the IT department, but the impact is actually small. In practice, other activities can only be trained via VR. For example, preparing an operating room in a hospital for use. There are many aspects that play a role in this, but this was not included in the "real" training. "Since all operating theaters are fully occupied, VR offers real added value here," adds Dullens.