Virtually here

By |  August 15, 2016

simulatorSome of you baby boomers and Gen Xers might recall your teenage years, drivers ed class, behind the wheel of a vehicle simulator. I use the word “simulator” loosely, as it was more like sitting behind a toy steering wheel and watching a really bad film reel.

Vehicle simulators have changed a lot since those days, and in recent years that change is accelerating. With state-of-the-art technology from a variety of companies, simulators create a realistic training experience for heavy-equipment operators in the construction and mining industries.

A new wheel loader simulation system from Simformotion LLC is set in a quarry environment, and features a three-monitor configuration, simulating visibility in all directions. The addition of a motion system enhances the experience, because the operator feels vibration and movement as the simulated loader interacts with the quarry terrain.

And using a simulator is not just about optimizing operator training. Volvo Construction Equipment says it is also about caring for the environment, and about safety and health at work. “By helping to eliminate costly mistakes and pollution,” Volvo says, “you are contributing to a better environment. Your operators can train on dangerous and uncommon situations, without risk of injuries.”

And vehicle simulation is going 3-D.

Immersive Technologies is one of the companies leading the way in virtual reality (VR) development with a product called WorksiteVR, which allows users to virtually experience surface and underground sites, safety hazards and emergency situations. It’s a 3-D computer-generated environment where the user can explore, interact and be part of a virtual worksite.

Perhaps you’ve used a virtual reality headset. They’re available in expensive, high-tech models, such as Oculus Rift, down to something very affordable, like Google Cardboard. For those of you who haven’t tried them: Imagine looking through the View-Master Viewer you had as a kid, only with the images moving.

Automation World reports that simulation software and immersive technology have a game-like feel, which appeals to the Millennial generation. “In immersive virtual environments, the user may be wearing head-mounted virtual reality goggles and using an Xbox controller to navigate an avatar around a 3-D depiction of the plant. It provides a risk-free experience to view the layout of equipment and how to react in an emergency.”

VR is also being used in the equipment design process, and even to assist in the inspection and servicing of equipment. VR is here.

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