NORCAT playing with Oculus Rift virtual reality headset as a job training tool

Say goodbye to plain old two-dimensional learning: the future of job training is 3D.
Hailey Short demonstrates the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at NORCAT in Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Say goodbye to plain old two-dimensional learning: the future of job training is 3D.

That's what Ed Wisniewski is betting. He's the director of software development at the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology in Sudbury. 

NORCAT is helping to develop a virtual reality experience right now for the mining industry that relies on a device called the Oculus Rift. It's a headset popular with video game fans that immerses people into a virtual world

"When you put the Oculus Rift on, you have the ability of being completely immersed into a three-dimensional world, where your body movements, your head movements, all interact with what you're seeing visually," explained Wisniewski.

Ed Wisniewski is director of software development at NORCAT. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

He's not alone in thinking that such technology could be an incredible tool for job trainers.

Rather than relying on rote classroom learning and PowerPoint presentations, Wisniewski said virtual reality could be used to orient people to complex new job sites — or to run them through emergency scenarios. 

"What we're doing it taking the technology, and wrapping health and safety training around the technology," he said. 

"In the States, they use this for the oil industry. Anybody who works on the oil rigs on the ocean, they've been using this technology now for five years."

Wisniewski calls it "engaged learning," and thinks that the game-like quality of virtual reality is its strong suit as a training aid. 

"A game is there to make you fail ... And it's through your achievements as an end-user that you overcome what the game is trying to throw at you. And by that achievement you actually learn."

Wisniewski said at the moment, NORCAT is working with Mine Rescue and Dynamic Earth to create a virtual reality mine rescue training program. 

Listen to the complete interview with Ed Wisniewski here

Virtual reality is something you see in gaming, but there are technical applications. The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology in Sudbury plans to use virtual reality as a training tool. Markus Schwabe visited the centre to find out more.


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