A report of the United States Department of Labour revealed that 4.821 workers died on the job in 2014. From those, 1 in 5 was a construction worker. Thus, there is a need to solve this problem, and Virtual Reality (VR) appears to be one of the promising solutions.

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Virtual Reality combines computer hardware and software technologies to simulate a real physical environment so that the player can interact within this environment. Although VR is mostly covered by the media in video gaming industry, it is now developing beyond entertainment. Now we can see an increasing number of construction companies adopting VR technology in safety training.

VR-based training is increasingly adopted

Gammon Construction Limited – a Hong Kong-based firm has already adopted VR to train their employees. Safety Manager Kwok Wai-yin said: “This training has successfully drawn trainees’ attention, stimulated their responses and attained mutual communication, which is more effective and convincing than lectures. Besides, it has changed their mode of thinking, boosted site safety and getting us closer to the zero harm goal.” Other big-name companies like Walmart and Volkswagen have already started adopting VR technology in training.

KPMG Global Construction Survey 2016 has released that “visualization is the future of decision-making in capital projects” and “rapid adoption of visualization means that virtual ‘tours’ of construction sites will soon become the norm.” Furthermore, “mid-size companies seem to acknowledge technology’s potential to bring a competitive advantage and have backed up their beliefs with sizeable investments.”

Another great example is Manitoba Construction Sector Council (MCSC) who is one of the first industry bodies in the province to adopt VR technology in training. In partnership with other industry bodies like SAFE Work Manitoba, Construction Safety Association of Manitoba, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2085, Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology, Manitoba Home Builders’ Association and others to develop educational and training programs for safety improvement and hazard identification. Bit Space Development Ltd. is the Winnipeg-based VR technology company who provided technology services for these programs.

Under these 360o training programs, Bit Space came to the real job sites to take 360o photos where needed for the training content. Then a virtual tour of the real job site was created with embedded learning contents provided by the industry experts and educators. This makes it much easier for instructors to show real examples, and walk their students through the real job sites while still in the classrooms. Those digital job walks can also be enriched with further information: warning signs and audios may lead the learner’s attention to specific problematic or dangerous areas, or floating texts as well as integrated videos, can provide further information to the construction site.

The application is compatible with VR hardware devices, such as Google Cardboard, or Gear VR, and also on both Android and iOS, allowing users to have an even more immersive experience.

VR Training allows for an immersive experience

VR safety training brings flexibility that allows learners to freely navigate between scenes, as opposed to traditional videos, where the point of view is fixed. Learners can under training in a secure and forgiving environment. Hence, they can recognize complex and volatile workplace situations as well as acquire knowledge of procedures and skills. Classical job site lecturing or a flat video cannot provide the same convenience and possibilities for learners. Furthermore, regular on-site visits for safety training can be costly to the construction company. Sending all the workers to a distant construction site demand not only travel expenses but also additional organization expenditures.

VR technology in safety training can greatly reduce the cost enormously. This is a one-time cost for personnel to come to film the job sites with 3600 image and videos by a 3600 camera. The virtual tutorial can be accessed over and over again to reinforce the safety training whereas sending trainees repeatedly to the sites will greatly increase the costs for the company.

In conclusion, adopting VR technology in construction revitalizes the tough image of the industry. VR in safety training can also appeal to the young generation of construction workers, as VR is likely to become familiar and part of their entertainment routine. All in all, VR construction technology brings various advantages: shorter construction time, higher detail precision, and most of all, safer working environments.

*The content above is partially taken from Harry’s article on HoloBuilder.