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What Augmented and Virtual Reality Mean For Safety And Training?


The virtues of Virtual Reality have been a hot topic for over 20 years that many claims VR is “the future technology”. But not until recently the future is finally here when VR equipment now is more affordable and an increasing number of companies started to adopt it.

Among other applications, VR could help better off safety and training experiences. VR is a great medium in safety-critical scenario where trainees can get first and hands-on experience while in the training room. For example, “a worker might virtually practice unloading a beam from a crane 20 stories in the air on a foggy morning, instead of doing it for the first time in real life”, according to a news release. It is not until we get into real work that issues may occur, and VR does this very well in a sense that it places trainees in a real-life environment with actions.

Although VR has opened up another path for safety and training, it still has its own limitations. As you are totally immersed in it, you are separated from the reality which still surrounds. You definitely do not expect to be wandering in a job site with a VR headset.

Augmented Reality can be a helper too

New technology like Augmented Reality (AR) is also believed to have a bigger and more immediate influence. In building information modelling (BIM), the entire project can be seen virtually through AR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens. This gives designers a more virtual and thorough view from every single angle, and also consumers a virtual demo of their future home or building design.

ThyssenKrupp, the big elevator company, is trying out the HoloLens with its elevator maintenance teams. There are thousands of different configuration and millions of parts among the elevators they maintain, but technician can use AR to figure out the problems on site more quickly and safely as they already get familiar with the site layout, machine structures, zooming in and out to learn how it all fits together. AR technology like HoloLens allows technicians to look at parts and components right in their field of view.

Elizabeth Woyke, in her article in MIT Technology Review, expressed a concern that AR might be as much a safety hazard as a helper. Despite its positive influence regarding efficiency and money-saving, “holographic images could divert your attention and cause you to take a wrong step which potentially a fatal move on multi-story construction site”.

Construction, without any further explanation, has always been complicated, hard and with high risks of hazards. VR and AR may well help this, not only by enabling workers see how things fit together but also giving them hands-on practice first before they reach out to real job site like a 20-story building on a foggy morning. That could add up to saving time, money and lives.


*Part of the content from this article was from United Rentals’ website

Erick Tran
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