A simulation of two workers examining a fire in VR

Virtual Reality Software Leaders and Energy R&D Experts Partner to Break New Ground with First Responder Training

ROYAL OAK, MI. — PIXO VR, the Virtual Reality (VR) Training provider ​recently spotlighted by CNBC​ as a leader in its field, and GTI, a leading energy research, development, and training organization, have announced plans to jointly develop VR Training for first responders to natural gas emergencies. To improve emergency response effectiveness and coordination, the training will highlight leak investigation, ignition sources, securing the location, evacuation, ventilation, communicating with emergency personnel, and identifying changing conditions that utility operations and fire department personnel might face. The gas leak response simulation promises to be a cutting-edge virtual reality experience, combining multi-user functionality, randomized potential hazards, and simulated consequences.

“GTI supports the energy industry in many ways and training is a critical part of what we offer,” said Ray Deatherage, GTI senior program manager for Energy Delivery, who will work with PIXO VR as a subject matter expert on the new interactive training experiences. “When responding to gas leak emergencies, enhanced VR Training like this will better prepare first responders to be more effective and efficient with identifying and responding to hazardous conditions. It could save lives.”

That training will be funded by Operations Technology Development (OTD)​, a consortium of 25 natural gas distributors in the U.S. and Canada that account for 60 percent of all gas meters in North America. Supporting OTD’s commitment to safe and reliable infrastructure operations, the training will include a fully immersive 3D simulation of a residential neighborhood which trainees must search through to find and respond to a natural gas leak. Once completed, the training will be made available for licensing to OTD members and the broader industry.

To keep trainees engaged, a wide variety of situational and environmental details can be randomized with each experience — everything from neighborhood appearance, to the location and concentration of gas leaks and whether they are above or below ground, to the presence of vehicles and pedestrians and even wind direction.

“Each experience will pose unique challenges requiring different behaviors and actions. Shifting gas clouds, ignited or unignited leaks — no two trainings will be the same unless the customer wants to repeat a skill or scenario to perfection,” said PIXO VR CEO Sean Hurwitz.

Hurwitz sees great opportunity in working with GTI on the project, as well as hardware partner HP Inc. and its VR backpack that will allow trainees to navigate the simulated residential environment without cumbersome tethers, allowing for a more immersive experience and greater range of physical motion.

“HP is proud to play a part in something that’s helping to transform the safety and skills training market,” said Jay Fraser, Global Head – Virtual Reality Training Segment, HP Inc. “Giving users the power and freedom to explore new worlds and possibilities is an ideal application for our hardware.”

“I’m excited for what this learning tool can bring to the industry,” Deatherage said. “At GTI, we believe in a safe, secure, abundant, and affordable energy future. This training will help prepare the next generation of workers who will deliver that future.”

GTI and PIXO VR say the natural gas emergency training will be available for licensing by the third quarter. For more information, visit www.pixovr.com or www.gti.energy.

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