Learning with VR

After a workshop held in Mexico, those responsible for Safety in the Northern Region have started using virtual reality visors to complement their safety training. A joint initiative with the innovation area that we’re now taking across Tecpetrol.

The scene is so lifelike that it’s astonishing. An operator begins procedures to work at height and puts on the harness without paying attention. He carries on with his task and suddenly feels how empty space is opening up beneath his feet. The scene is in fact the simulation of an event projected onto a virtual reality headset connected to a computer integrated with the Ludus training software for Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE).

Beginning with a workshop held in Mexico, Tecpetrol has launched a pilot test to try out this complementary training tool in the Northern Region. At the Pesquería Power Plant (CEP) in Monterrey, safety officials from Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico met for a “train the trainers” workshop run by representatives from Ludus, the Spanish company that created this service, with a solid background in both IT and safety.

A virtual fireLearning without risks in Ecuador.

“In Innovation we’re always looking for disruptive technology projects such as XR (Extended Reality), based on our conviction that this style of training is going to become increasingly common in the workplace,” explained Pablo Fichera, IT Digital Innovation Sr. Manager, who participated in the workshop. The immersive experiences proposed by Ludus, “are really well done, you’re completely abstracted from reality and it’s much more impactful,” he added.

The idea for this corporate project is to extend it to the entire company. “Although our safety focus is about reinforcing a specific cultural mindset among our people, both own personnel and contractors, we understand that recent technological developments can contribute to safer and more efficient operations. We have to take advantage of these, and this initiative is a perfect example," said Federico Sameghini, Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) Corporate Senior Director, an area working in coordination with Digital Innovation, in a conversation with Tecpetrol Hoy.

A world within worlds, in Argentina.-

Involving emotions

Ludus provides Software-as-a-Service (Saas), as a platform that uses virtual reality to enhance the work of HSE trainers through dynamic content created by safety experts. Accessed through an annual subscription, users can employ the content on the platform as well as all the accessories necessary to ensure a truly realistic experience, including the virtual reality visor, a fire extinguisher and even a training bust for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

“The first day is about getting to grips with the contents, but the best bit is getting into a situation, because you really feel like you’re falling, it totally deceives your senses. I actually almost fell over!” remembered Juan Pablo Presser, HSE Manager Colombia, whose job is now to find the most appropriate way to use the tool to train others.

“I see it as incredibly useful for new employees with little experience in the field, because it enables them to enjoy a learning experience in a way that’s far richer than reading a procedure or watching a video, like an airplane pilot simulator,” said Ronald Manosalvas, HSE Sr. Manager in Ecuador. Since he took the course, he’s held several training sessions with his team. The software includes scenarios “like a Netflix series about safety”, including episodes on working at height, in confined spaces, and carrying out risk analysis.

Theory and practice in parallel in Colombia.-

“The first contact with the Virtual Reality helmets was sensational, I felt very comfortable when entering the scenarios and it seemed like a fun way to reinforce various basic aspects for daily safety applications,” pointed out José Antonio Torres, HSE Manager at Techgen, who highlighted how sensitive these pieces of equipment were.

“I’d never had an experience with VR and gadgets like these before, so I was a little skeptical. Then I understood how it can trick your brain into thinking what isn’t there; I experienced the feeling of vertigo and the floor tipping up under my feet,” admitted Mario Ovalle, HSE Manager, about these immersive practices. “And you reach the conclusion that this scheme allows you to recreate difficult scenarios to raise awareness, at virtually no cost,” he added.

“So far the results are satisfactory and we’ll be incorporating it into the Tecpetrol Safety workshops,” resumed Fichera, adding that there are plans to implement it in other sectors as well. Among other virtual reality projects, work has just begun in Neuquén to develop a vehicle-driving simulator, with the aim of replicating different driving events.

Alternative reality in Pesquería.-

In another scenario, the user is having lunch in the dining room with a colleague, who chokes on a piece of meat. What’s to be done? The scene includes many people running around and shouting directions, and comes complete with a life-like mannequin, another of the accessories making up the kit.

“It’s a scientifically established fact that if you really live an experience, the percentage of what you learn is much higher,” explained Ronald, highlighting that recreational content is especially attractive to younger generations as a learning method, particularly when emotion is involved.

Experience at Fortín de Piedra

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