We transformed the way the National Grid US creates and delivers training for direct employees and contractors.
“With VR, we’ve been able to move from a PowerPoint presentation to a hands-on model. Our course exploring the features of the Viper Recloser is typical. The VR model was built at Virtalis using the vendor’s data and it reproduces all the recloser’s features. We can even show it at 1:1 scale, to teach students how it works without having to climb to the top of a utility pole. The technology is familiar to many of our students, as they grew up with virtual world computer games."
- Patrick Hallihan, Senior Training and Engineering Instructor at National Grid.
National Grid US invested in three of Virtalis’ ActiveMove immersive display systems and is developing a library of interactive 3D VR models that will be incorporated into the company’s technical training. Virtalis is working with National Grid staff to create training storyboards and is also building a library of 3D models of hardware and backdrops. This should make the creation of future training content easier because it will be possible to draw on the library of parts and backdrops and bolt them together as required.
The training is being made as interactive as possible so that students can really engage with the content. With National Grid equipment remaining in operation for anything up to 35 years, there is an understandable diversity of products.
The Virtalis models draw on both legacy parts and equipment that is still in production. Using the visualisation system delivered by Virtalis, detailed information about the individual parts of large equipment can be accessed. As well as this, accurate models of parts not yet in production can be represented in a virtual environment to allow detailed and realistic training ahead of product delivery. The visualisation courses allow the students to make choices, such as what tools will be required for a task and what personal protection will be needed. Before a stage can be completed, certain criteria have to be met and there is an interaction between the instructor and the student throughout the process steps that have been deliberately designed to closely mimic real life.
“Our new VR training is easy to tailor for different audiences. An illustration is the 3D Inspection of an Underground Regulator Station Course; it can be delivered to specialists, or can be delivered in a different way to non technical staff as an introduction to natural gas.” - Ed Ruszkowski, Regional Manager for Gas Learning & Development at National Grid
ActiveMove is a transportable, interactive, 3D visualisation system. With ActiveMove, data can not only be visualized in stereoscopic 3D (on screens up to 10×7’6’’ in size), but also the system enables full immersion and interaction, thanks to Virtalis’ integrated head and hand tracking solution.
The user can navigate through the virtual world, pick and manipulate component parts in real-time and make decisions on the fly. National Grid’s ActiveMove system makes use of the Christie Mirage S+6K range of 3D projectors with a wired Intersense IS900 tracking system, powered by a Dell workstation.
The data for the 3D visualisation models are usually prepared and sent to Virtalis in 3D Studio Max by external animation and modelling agency, R Squared Digital Media Inc (R2DM). Virtalis is then able to use its MaxExchange software, which was launched last year, to import the data into its own software, Visionary Render, where it is checked and optimized and then the actions and interactions are programmed in.
Virtalis MaxExchange software acts as a plug-in for Autodesk 3ds Max, allowing models to be exported without any loss of data or formatting. Similarly, the 3D visualisation models can move in the opposite direction and be translated into Autodesk 3ds Max.