SEP-OCT 2017

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deployed with a control room human-machine in- terface and CAVE for the field operations can also be deployed as a classroom-style application. Ele - ments of the same model can also be accessed on mobile devices from a private cloud server or pub - lic cloud service, depending on user preferences. Realistic and tightly engineered virtual training environments allow trainees to become familiar with plants and their operation well before they even step foot in the plant. In a VR-based train - ing or design environment, users interact with the virtual worlds using a variety of hardware de - vices, such as joysticks and data gloves. Special optical and audio devices, such as head-mounted displays, 3D graphics, and surround sound, give users an enhanced impression of being in the vir - tual world. Because simulation software and im- mersive technology have a game-like feel, which appeals to the millennial generation, it will con - nect younger workers with the information they need via a familiar medium. Multiple learning pathways VR has several strengths that make it a natural fit for training. It is immersive, interactive, memo- rable, scalable, and cost effective. The significant advantage of simulation-based training is that important training and knowledge can be deliv- ered in a consistent, repeatable manner within the safety of the training facility. Plants are by na- ture dangerous environments that are in stable operation, making it difficult to train on real plant interactions, particularly when it comes to emer- gency preparedness. A range of courses that cov- ers every aspect of standard operating procedures for both normal and abnormal plant conditions allows training and assessment of operators in the safe and controlled environment of the class- room, providing the freedom to fail without risk. When workers are better trained, there are fewer accidents, injury-related costs, and production delays—and a better safety record translates into less risk and lower insurance costs. Finally, investment in immersive training sys- tems applied early in the life cycle can help maxi- mize the return on investment. For complex main- tenance tasks, machines can perpetually be taken apart and rebuilt in a virtual environment with - out fear of wearing down real parts. And because trainees can train from any location that allows a computer connection—as opposed to jetting off to a life-size simulator—time and travel expenses can also be saved. For instance, upstream facilities, such as offshore platforms or float production stor - age and offloading, can enable training and pre- commissioning to engineers and operators before they are helicoptered to the real asset. The design of these assets is often dense and com - plex, including space and weight restric - tions that challenge operators to locate and navigate to the correct equipment. Not only are workers protected by the use of VR, but sensitive and expensive equipment is protected as well, as operators learn to interact with it in virtual crisis conditions. The future is virtual In the digital age, plants will only continue to get smarter, and training practices need to be just as smart. VR technology, now both afford- able and functional in its ability to create complex FAST FORWARD l With advances in computer and graphical processing, virtual reality for training personnel has now become practical for process industries. l VR can be used to preserve and institution- alize existing workforce knowledge, which is important with many subject-matter experts retiring. l Virtual reality's simulation-based training reduces the time to competency with experiential training. SYSTEM INTEGRATION INTECH SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 23 Virtual reality training immerses the student in a control situation. Students experience realistic views of actual equipment.

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