The virtual reality (VR) sector has grown exponentially in recent years. Applications of the technology are impacting a range of industries – from healthcare to education, tourism to logistics – and transforming the way we live and do business
For Surrey Research Park tenant, Diverse Interactive and Linde Group, VR has proved to be a real game changer, with their pioneering driverless training project recently celebrating a big win at the Motor Transport Awards and taking home the ‘Best Use of Technology Award’.
As a multinational chemical company, much of Linde Group’s international operations are underpinned by a broad network of haulier and road freight services. Back in 2020, BOC, part of the Linde Group, approached Diverse Interactive, an independent immersive content agency, to explore how the firm’s VR capabilities could be applied to its driver training and safety programme.
Both businesses are based at Surrey Research Park in Guildford, and their interaction whilst on site essentially inspired the DIViRT (Driver Immersive Virtual Reality Training) project. The system utilises Linde’s world-leading gas cylinder delivery vehicles and integrates cutting-edge virtual reality technology to provide a highly realistic and immersive driver training experience.
DIViRT has been two years in the making – from a proof of concept prototype to a fully operational production unit, which has been successfully rolled out across the country and delivered to over 100 drivers so far.
So, how did Diverse Interactive go about developing the virtual reality driver training solution? As part of the initial discovery process, the team visited different sites to collate feedback from the drivers. “We held workshops to fully understand Linde Group’s needs, objectives, priorities and how their current training is working,” explains Diverse Interactive’s Hannah Speck. “The key aims were to increase competency and improve safety performance, with the new interactive solution needing to be cost-effective and scalable.”
Utilising the HTC Vive headset and a bespoke motion seat, Diverse Interactive created a solution that emulates an authentic driving experience for training purposes, with high levels of precision and accuracy.
Video footage of vehicle journeys was captured in great detail using state-of-the-art cameras. Meanwhile, telemetry was used to collate an outstanding amount of data from various fixed points within the cab, with motion stimulation, including accelerometer data from the seat, creating the sense of driving a real lorry. Perhaps most interestingly, eye tracking technology was used to measure eye positions and eye movement, allowing the trainee and the trainer to review the session and assess where the driver has been looking throughout the test.
Combined, all of these data elements within the software created a vastly more accurate picture of the driver’s abilities to spot hazards and when necessary, react to them – thus enhancing the overall training experience and providing a unique insight into driver behaviour and safety.
As well as providing a positive learning experience for trainees, the technology cut costs, downtime and travel for Linde Group’s drivers. The positive feedback gained from the internal teams, coupled with the recent Motor Transport Awards win, has spurred Linde Group and Diverse Interactive to build out the development roadmap for the tool.
“At the moment, there is one mobile training unit which travels to sites up and down the country, but we are looking to deliver more units in other regions globally,” explains Hannah. “We will enhance the technology by creating more driving scenarios – specifically looking at different weather conditions and locations, such as night-time, city and countryside driving. Enhancing the interaction between the trainer and driver will also be a key focus moving forward – and we will take the ideas and feedback we’ve received from trainees on board.”
The DIViRT project is offering an exciting, revisionary approach to training, proving that, when it comes to immersive VR technology, the possibilities are infinite. It looks like Linde Group’s blueprint for success could push the use of VR forward as a training tool for the future!
For further information please contact Hannah Speck at Diverse Interactive, 01483 399 699.