How VR Tech May Help Mines Save Millions

By Ben Hamill - September 04 2020
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How VR Tech May Help Mines Save Millions

Mining can be a particularly dangerous industry to work in – and especially so to inexperienced workers undergoing training. Real-life blasting training requires a great deal of effort and can be costly to mines and potentially life-threatening to new trainees as well as supervising employees and trainers.

But one company is hoping to change all of that. Mining giant Anglo American recently began experimenting with the implementation of motion capture technology at some of its South Africa-based platinum mines. Similar to the technology used in a virtual reality flight simulator, the mining giant has tasked a Pretoria-based company called STS3D to create a virtual reality-based mining simulator capable of simulating real-life mine blasting experiences. 

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Realistic And Risk-Free Training

Being a company specialising in safety training solutions, STS3D has in turn mandated motion capture developer Vicon to create the necessary virtual reality experience as requested by Anglo American.

Vicon product manager Tim Massey is excited about the use of VR (virtual technology) in mining, saying that he believes the technology to potentially be highly beneficial to the industry. The big difference between real-life training and real life-based VR training, said Massey, is the massive safety factor. Instead of learning in potentially hazardous situations, new trainees are able to learn from mistakes made during the playing of a video game.

And since gaming sessions are created in such a way that they are 100% life-like, new trainees are according to Massey being exposed to all of the necessary emotional “training” too. This type of training, said Massey, is exceptionally relevant to those processes designed to create an effective training and learning experience.

Gaming Gets It Right

STS3D head of new product development Johan Bouwer said the core aim of the development project is to start applying the idea of virtual reality video gameplay to actual real-life mine safety training. And since VR technology and hardware have in recent times become a whole lot more cost-effective, Bouwer said the concept of animation play in teaching and learning has become viable in terms of costs from an enterprise point of view.

One of the biggest challenges around the training of new blasting miners is that of educating miners in the skill of proper and cost-effective wall blasting. Cost efficiency is achieved by correctly drilling on so-called markers or red dots after a specific wall has been blocked off for blasting.

Getting the blast right, said Bouwer, saves money. Which is exactly what the mining giant hopes to achieve by simulating the painting of markers being drawn on a wall by means of virtual reality technology in a video game setting.

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