NGN INTERNATIONAL BLOG
Serious games:
How VR can save lives
of plant workers


Mar 23, 2020
Generally speaking, virtual reality was initially designed not for games.
Its origins can be traced back to the 1950s, when it was first applied for military purposes, completed with a newly created VR headset. More developments followed later and drew attention of the U.S. authorities. Some projects powered by this new technology – space applications and defense manufacturing – even received funding.

The early 1990s witnessed the game boom: the time of personal computers and home video game consoles getting in every home. Game developers experimented with VR trying to add realism to their products and often failed or ended up with a user-unfriendly product.

The real game changer came into play some 20 years later. In 2012, a startup named Oculus came out of nowhere to raise funds and create a VR headset providing a fully immersive experience. The Kickstarter campaign raised the requested $250,000 within just four hours after its launch. Three years later, the first batch of Oculus Rift CV1 headsets was released to be sold out in just 14 minutes. That's when the big game started: massive investments were poured into the industry spurring the VR gaming development.
It is not only about fun and games
Today, this technology has made a comeback into serious applications. Employees use virtual reality as a training tool to minimize the risk of accidents and incidents at plants, since VR can simulate any equipment operation or emergency. VR helped Ford company cut the number of sick days due to occupational injuries by 75%.

We specialize in applying VR and AR technologies for manufacturing purposes: enterprise digital models, VR simulators, and AR apps, while also providing technology consulting services.

We have a lot to learn from the gaming industry as well: it is no secret that people learn something new much better through play. Arcade and strategy game developers know for sure know how to hook users and make them learn the game rules from A to Z. Such methods proved efficient for both ordinary players and plant workers. Today, I'll share some game tricks we use to create VR trainings for manufacturers.
    What do VR training and games have in common?
    Modeling
    First, we choose the best way to visualize an object of reality, which may be a factory or complex manufacturing equipment. There are several options: modeling based on photogrammetry – photographing every inch of an object, or scanning, and using drawings.

    The same methods apply to games, though it is the place where fictional objects are designed more often. We can do that too, for example, if we need to create a building yet to be constructed. After that, we use the Unity engine to add functionality so that a student could move around and interact with objects like in a video game.

    Visual effects
    To maximize employee's learning, we adopt various visual effects from games, for example, highlighting the right option with a beautiful bright color or add pop-up tips. Many popular games employ these tricks. Look at the famous Assassin's Creed, for instance, where a player sees all enemies highlighted by a certain color.

    In addition to the standard settings, our VR trainings have special tools. The same engines that are used for selecting weapon in a game enable employee to select a tool in a virtual training, for example, a wrench or hammer to repair equipment.

    Have you ever noticed that the most immersive games incorporate instructions into the game environment? This helps people remember the information better. And this is exactly what we need: to teach a rule so well, that our students can retain the process and use it surely when working at a real object. For this purpose, we often use instructions embedded into objects and interactive charts, resembling clipboards, holograms, and prompts.
      Comfortable usage
      A person in a VR headset travels across another strange world, and, to facilitate the introduction to this brave new environment, we employ the best practices of UX and usability from the gaming industry. There is a wide selection of techniques tested on a great number of different people to ensure convenience for the majority of people around the globe. Techniques are designed to bring some fun into gaming, otherwise people will quit.

      For example, you cannot put objects high in our simulator, because hands will hurt, inducing a user to stop training. Personally, I like the way everything works in Boneworks. You can take any object there, throw it up in the air or interact with it. The game simulates the reality, making it comfortable for a user to play.

      Optimization

      Similarly to game developers, we optimize everything we can to increase VR training performance, for example, we use Level of Detail (LOD) techniques. As you move away from the object, the less detailed model of this object is replaced by the original one. High quality textures are loaded as you approach them.

      Distribution
      Today, many games are distributed through Steam. We have Build Store, a similar digital distribution online service, where customers can download the latest versions of trainings.

      As you can see, games help improve training in virtual reality. While games are for fun, training shall master valuable skills to help a company prevent accidents and downtime, and avoid employee injury. For what it's worth, even save someone's life.

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