Creating an Authentic and Immersive Training Simulator with Virtual Reality

Published November 3 2020
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Creating an Authentic and Immersive Training Simulator with Virtual Reality

It’s 2:00AM and you just got off of the phone with one of your night-shift control room operators. Your critical plant process is down, again. Your operator, Lindsay, just joined the team last month, but you know your equipment is flakey at the best of times. Your training department just spent weeks poring over procedures with her and countless hours running through scenarios on the control room simulator. Unfortunately for you and for your organization, Lindsay has barely stepped a foot on the production floor. You’re already counting the time and money that will be wasted as she navigates the plant to resolve the issue or chooses to wait for maintenance staff to arrive.

Imagine if before Lindsay even stepped a foot inside the plant, she had already spent hundreds of hours on the production floor. She would know exactly where to go and what to do to resolve any issue that may arise.

Training simulators have been an indispensable part of real-world plant training for decades. The evolution of computing capacity and increasing functionality of simulator software has increased tremendously over the past several years. However, while traditional simulators offer a view of plant processes from the control room, they lack the in-the-field element of walkdowns and troubleshooting.

Recently, Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a technology for enhancing visualization of plant equipment. VR has been utilized in many areas such as interactive 3-D drawings and virtual tours/walkdowns. However, VR models typically are static, or have limited user interaction and feedback capabilities.

Alithya has worked together with EXO Insights to produce a training experience like no other. By combining simulation and VR technologies, Alithya and EXO Insights can provide a virtual training environment that is capable of reproducing control room and plant environments, together! Linking these technologies presents an opportunity to feed simulated process and equipment data to VR plant models, which then take on the behaviours of a running plant. Additionally, the simulation models can directly respond to user interactions in the virtual plant realm – permitting the user to see the real-world response to their virtual actions.

What does this mean for owners, trainers, and trainees?

Plant owners and trainers now have a cost-effective way to provide trainees with more in-depth training in a realistic environment, as well as the ability to review authentic scenarios in the safety and security of a simulated environment. Training is enhanced as Human Performance teams can then validate mental models, improving the quality of informed group decisions. Trainees become more effective and confident as plant familiarization is significantly boosted, even before they walk through the door.

Some of the benefits of VR training simulators include:

  • Significantly enhanced and authentic in-depth training
  • Control room and plant floor training in one
  • Multi-user environment (trainer and trainee)
  • More informed decision making
  • Unlimited scenario generation
  • 3-D models of your facility for other uses
  • Minimizing the need for plant walkdowns/tours
  • Safety and security of conducting training in a virtual environment

This technology can be applied for any process, plant, or industry to save time and money in the long run while mitigating operational and safety risk. VR training simulators offer a training experience like no other and the opportunities are vast.

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