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Melbourne Water and Deakin University develop VR tech for scenario training

Melbourne Water, together with Deakin University, recently showcased virtual reality (VR) technology aimed at allowing technicians to safely conduct training for high-risk scenarios.

The technology allows users to interact with one another in the same virtual space from anywhere in the world, bringing a new level of interactivity, flexibility and safety to workplace training for the management of highly toxic chemicals.

Melbourne Water Safety Manager for Technology and Innovation Scott McMillan said the VR technology has plenty of applications to help eliminate safety risks.

“We are using VR to change the way we train technicians and eliminate safety risks,” he said.

“The platform is initially being used to train staff on management of ozone, a dangerous chemical used in the wastewater treatment process. Ozone is 10 times more deadly than chlorine, so this platform allows our technicians to learn without being exposed to those risks.”

McMillan said this enables water technicians to learn everything necessary for dangerous tasks in VR.

“In the same way that trainee pilots use flight simulators to eliminate risks associated with aircraft, we are training for hazardous chemical management without the chemicals, thanks to VR,” he said.

“At the same time, the dual-user system means the training can be conducted anywhere, at anytime. The trainer and the trainee never have to be in the same physical location.”

Deakin University VR Laboratory Associate Professor Ben Horan said the new VR system creates a 3D experience for multiple users.

“We have built a solution to connect people who need to learn a critical task, with those able to teach it, no matter where they are,” he said.

“Multiple users can walk around in the same virtual environment and communicate with each other verbally and physically, just as you would in the real world.”

Horan also said it opens up the ability to train people living in hard-to-reach places, as well as training access to regional areas.

“The potential application for this ‘on location’ technology for people living and working in regional and remote locations is massive,” he said.

“For example, we currently have representatives from Australia’s Antarctic mission looking at the platform in order to train technicians based at the Antarctic station without the trainers ever leaving their Australian office.”

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