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iCASTS - Mining VR
- ARC Projects: DP0345547; DP0556659; LP0453638
Key characteristic differentiators for the latest iCinema technology include:
- A 360 degree stereo projection theatre delivers a high-resolution totally immersive 3D experience
- Capability to be interactively used by groups rather than just one person at a time (a limitation of overseas VR developments)
- Unprecedented level of realism and immersion
- Trainees can actually recognise their own mine environments
- Continual build-up of database of actual mines
- Image, not text-based training delivers potential to be easily used in overseas operations such as in China or Latin America
The interaction device was developed with the assistance of Tiller Design, a professional product development team. It consists of a central control console and a 3D inertia hand held wand that allows the user to navigate and travel through virtual environments as well as control physical environmental attributes such as lighting, sound and playback of a simulation. Both console and wand are intuitive, immediately accessible but importantly do not distract from the virtual environment experience. The wand allows the user to interact directly with the environment by selecting items, moving objects, and simulating basic tasks that would be done in the real world environment. The console gently removes itself from the environment by lowering the lighting and brightness of controls depending on the status of the training program. Together, the console-wand combination provides an ergonomic interactive experience.
Initial introduction to the immersion environment through the virtual reality training scenarios is an uncanny realistic experience. In an underground mine vehicle moving along a drive, for instance, you can see in all directions as in real vision simply depending on where you look. You feel you can reach out and touch the roof bolts. You can manoeuvre past static vehicles. Or walk up to operating continuous miners. And in the process you can interactively learn where you should or should not go – and to recognise danger signs and situations.
Similarly in an open cut simulated environment at the wheel of a giant haul truck you can learn to manoeuvre beside an electric shovel for loading and be alert to how easy it is not to see people or personnel vehicles from a driving position several metres high.
These virtual experiences enable users to begin to visualise and recognise complex mining situations, build up a knowledge of procedures and skills and undergo training in a safe and forgiving environment.
iCASTS is currently utilised in 4 locations nationally and 1 location in China.
Dr Phil Stothard, Chairman of the International Mining VR Group and Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW School of Mining Engineering, is responsible for creating the interactive group based virtual reality training scenarios for Coal Services that will run on the systems. “UNSW and CSPL are leading the world in this field,” he said. “There is no question that these technologies have the potential to save lives and their full potential will be fully realised through further domestic and international collaboration.”
Use of these systems provides mines with key cost savings in addition to their ability to provide enhanced safety training:
- It allows training to take place at any time of day
- It reduces down time on taking equipment out of production for training purposes
- This reduces training impact on production levels
- Being highly familiar equipment and its operation through the training simulation means that operators are far less likely to damage multi-million dollar equipment once they start in the actual operating environment – a huge saving on maintenance and repair
- Improved knowledge and skills reduce injuries and increase productivity
- Improved competency increases staff morale
- Improved risk assessment tools
- Workforce has high level of competence before entering real environment
- Maintains a record of personal assessment and achievements
- Identifies deficiencies in personnel training without risk
- Trains away unsafe practices
- Enables faster start-up with better prepared staff
- The progressive improvement of the technology and delivery of novel interactive content continues through interfaculty collaborative research.