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Harnessing VR to attract minerals industry talent

The Australian minerals industry will get a boost in attracting the best and brightest to the sector with the help of a new immersive virtual reality (VR) education and outreach program, according to a recent report.

Project LIVE-MM, which means Learning through Immersive Virtual Environments for Minerals and Mining, will be developed by the University of South Australia over the next two years.

It will create interactive virtual reality experiences that will allow students to become a geologist for a day.

The power of VR will be harnessed in order to provide an insider’s view of geoscience in action and serve as a launching pad for future careers.

Notably, a recently announced A$ 215 million minerals industry joint research project, called the MinEx CRC, will be led by and co-located at the University.

The MinEX CRC will effectively act as a research arm for the mineral exploration industry and will therefore synergise with Project LIVE-MM.

Not only is the University leading the research that will drive the future of this industry, but it is also developing the VR modules that the industry is depending on to attract the best talent.

The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Tomorrow’s Professionals Program is providing funding support worth A$ 100,000 for the VR project.

Project LIVE-MM will focus on capturing key field sites and activities that convey core minerals industry skills and capabilities.

Skills and capabilities include developing fundamental geological knowledge and its application; innovative research studies and their use in revealing the subsurface; and demonstrations of new technologies and how they are employed in authentic scenarios.

Project LIVE-MM will be extending the University’s successful virtual reality initiative called Project LIVE.

It is a cross-disciplinary program that uses immersive visualisation technologies to create engaging experiential learning exercises.

The experiences developed for the new project will be at the cutting edge of the field.

People will be able to interact with 3D models to achieve a particular goal, progressively unpacking the information provided to make sense of it.

It will function like a series of mini games or tasks within the virtual environment, instead of a passive learning experience that is a bit like a documentary.

Moreover, highly instructive field sites are often situated in inaccessible or remote locations where training visits are impractical or cost-prohibitive.

Recent advances in virtual and augmented reality have meant these sites can be captured and shared in a way that immerses students, researchers and others in the field environment.

Digital visualisation is achieved through a suite of technologies including Remotely Piloted Aircraft (drone) surveying, 3D photogrammetry, gigapixel photography, terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), 360-degree panoramic photos and videos, augmented reality apps and VR headsets.

These modules will give students a critical first impression of the industry that is both fun and stimulating and interactive.

The program will provide early exposure to digitally-enriched learning and technologies that are already being used in professional practice.

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