ROYAL OAK, Mich. — Virtual reality (VR) software company, PIXO VR, which recently made headlines with its VR Training solutions for the automotive sector, has announced the release of a new suite of VR Training modules for the natural gas industry, available on its enterprise platform. The training includes critical missions such as Inside Leak Investigation, Outside Leak Investigation, Pipeline Right-of-Way Patrolling, Facility Locating And Marking, Appliance Inspection and enhancements to its Natural Gas Leak Emergency Response module, which debuted in late 2019.
With the COVID-19 pandemic causing substantial disruptions to traditional training programs, companies in the energy sector and beyond are increasingly turning to VR as a remote work solution. Studies show fully immersive, virtual reality training improves learning retention, reduces human error, and boosts engagement. Like Natural Gas Leak Emergency Response, the new, multi-user training features randomized scenarios that expose trainees to millions of situational variables, testing real-time decision-making.
The new training was developed in conjunction with GTI, an Illinois-based energy research, development, and training organization and was funded by local distribution companies and Operations Technology Development (OTD), a consortium whose membership provides natural gas service for tens of millions of customers in North America. Further, with COVID-19 preventing many from using VR hardware normally set up or stationed at an office or other jobsite, PIXO VR says the new training can also be conducted without a headset, using a desktop computer-based version on an entirely remote basis.
Ray Deatherage, GTI senior program manager for energy delivery, said the randomized scenarios keep both new technicians and more seasoned employees alert. “It’s challenging,” Deatherage said. “Even veteran employees have to stay focused. And, of course, that’s the point — you perform how you practice. Training like this improves learning retention, enhances safety for employees, the public, and the delivery system, and leads to safer work practices and improved operational efficiencies.”
Deatherage worked as a subject matter expert (SME) on the new modules, and says the gas industry’s reaction to GTI’s previous collaborations with PIXO VR led to the creation of this new collection of interactive, 3D training.
“The response to [Natural Gas Leak] Emergency Response was overwhelming. There’s real demand,” Deatherage said. “We’re excited to get more of this technology into the hands of trainees across our industry.”
Sean Hurwitz, CEO at PIXO VR, said the new VR modules add to a growing library of training available on his company’s extended reality (XR) software distribution platform. Hurwitz explained that, with the platform, end-users get superior training while training departments working in natural gas and beyond can deploy, use and manage VR content easier than ever.
“Our platform makes VR implementation simple,” Hurwitz said. “We give enterprise the ability to smartly manage and scale training content across numerous endpoints, users and devices.”
PIXO VR’s cloud-based platform was recently granted patent-pending status by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.