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New Virtual Reality Training Offer from CSIRO

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is improving safety for everyone working in potentially hazardous environments with a new training package that uses virtual reality (VR) to simulate risk scenarios. Participants in the training will gain a practical understanding of relevant control measures in a safe environment, including the consequences of emergency events that can result from specific hazards when the control measures are not implemented.

The Director of the Data61 Immersive Environments Lab and lead product developer stated that the new training package draws on over 25 years of CSIRO research into how Interactive Computer Graphics and Computer Vision can help improve productivity and safety.

The team has been able to translate innovations from the research domain into a training platform that gets more out of the immersive display hardware that is becoming widely accessible today. The software architecture is incredibly versatile, and this means new training modules can now be created for additional scenarios or training content more rapidly.

The team, which includes domain experts from across CSIRO, continues to push the envelope to ensure their work maximises its impact. In addition, they are working on an Augmented Reality version of the training platform that can integrate digital holograms into a relevant physical environment through smart glasses.

The work on this project has already led to new research explorations and university collaborations – particularly around how Artificial Intelligence can assist immersive technologies to adapt to individual users, their needs and their environments.

The virtual environment is modelled after a generic CSIRO laboratory. Focusing on safety and risk management, participants will first complete a theoretical component before donning the VR headset and completing scenarios based on potential real-life incidents, such as a chemical spill, and a failed pressure vessel releasing hazardous gas.

Participants will be placed in scenarios that will enable them to develop confidence while providing opportunities for some amount of exploration balanced with course correction before potential mistakes occur.

CSIRO’s Deputy Director and Science Director of Mineral Resources, Dr Louise Fisher said the new VR training modules will enable researchers to explore hazards and risk scenarios as well as receive feedback on their safety behaviours in a risk-free environment.

“When we become used to our workplace environment it can make it easier to not see the hazards around us,” Dr Fisher said.

Through this training, participants, including over 2,000 of CSIRO’s people, can practice their responses to simulated incidents in an immersive environment that is both familiar but also not their everyday lab. Similarly, people can train to work in higher-risk environments before entering them in reality, she added.

The new VR training package is available to research institutes and organisations located in Australia that undertake work in a laboratory setting, or similar. CSIRO is not charging participants to access this training.

This training package was developed following an incident at a CSIRO facility in Melbourne in 2017, after which CSIRO entered an enforceable undertaking to improve work health and safety risk management in CSIRO laboratories and to share the new VR training package to the benefit of others.

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