Former video game designers use VR programs to improve safety, training and recruitment ::

Former video game designers use VR programs to improve safety, training and recruitment ::

This article was written for our sponsor, United Way of the Greater Triangle.

What do video games have to do with safety and on-the-job training?

At Duke Energy, they’re one and the same. The artists and software engineers of Duke Energy’s XR Lab used to work for video game companies, but now they’re using their talents in a manner that helps train Duke Energy employees on safety and procedure.

“Our virtual reality journey started in Duke Energy’s XR Lab, which was founded in 2018 with a mission to develop an immersive and realistic training experience for employees,” said Elizabeth Escobar-Fernandes, employee experience & emerging tech IT manager with Duke Energy. “The lab is composed of a team of artists and VR software engineers who previously worked for video game studios.”

“Many of these teammates never expected to work for a utility,” she continued. “However, they were inspired by the opportunity to use their creative and technical skills in an essential industry for a great purpose: to create safer and more engaging training that has a long-lasting impact in the lives of frontline workers who, at times, are required to perform procedures that pose a significant safety risk.”

Training programs that have leveraged VR include how to purge a natural gas line, how to correctly ground solar substations and how to inspect rights-of-way for leaks and hazards. Employees wear a VR headset and are immersed in a video game version of their work environment.

The designers partner with business unit experts to make the trainings as realistic as possible – from the virtual gear users wear to the interactive controls on the equipment.

In exposing trainees to these situations in a controlled environment, Duke Energy is making an impact on the safety and effectiveness of their employees.

“We’ve built modules for natural gas training, electric substation training and even one for responding to an active attack — they add an element of ‘muscle memory’ that you can’t attain from reading, watching a video or even taking a computer-based training module,” said Amber Lineback, director of natural gas learning and readiness for Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas. “VR is an excellent tool for training and testing when you want to create a safer environment and when skill proficiency is needed, in addition to knowledge and ability.”

“Just like how flight simulators are used for immersive training for pilots, and how they can simulate potential risks safely, VR can do the same for a wide variety of industries, including construction, electronics, even space travel. The possibilities are broad – and with our expert XR developers, we can design to meet the specific needs of nearly any industry,” she finished.

According to Lineback, some of the biggest benefits of VR training include:

  • Immersive and interactive: The user can interact with the virtual environment.
  • Sensory reaction: Immersion triggers the user’s emotions in addition to multiple senses, giving the sensation of reality, not just a 3D view.
  • Real-time feedback: Users can experience the real-time consequences of their choices in a safer environment, simulating dangerous situations that wouldn’t normally be an option and driving additional learning retention.
  • Focus: Virtual reality uniquely focuses the user’s attention on the training and experience.
  • Efficiency: With the first module, employees learned the content 3.6 times faster than the standard classroom training.

The VR programs aren’t just meant for training; they’re also playing into Duke Energy’s goal to increase their sustainability and clean energy production. The company is modernizing their power grid, generating cleaner energy and accelerating their digital transformation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Well-trained employees are a crucial part of meeting those goals.

In powering the lives of customers and the vitality of the Triangle, Duke Energy is also working with United Way of the Greater Triangle to support local nonprofits and employ members of the community.

“As North Carolina continues its clean energy transformation, the Duke Energy Foundation is investing in programs to build the next-generation workforce as well as create access to job skills that fit current community needs, particularly in minority and underserved communities,” said Amy Strecker, director of foundation strategy at Duke Energy. “United Way is one of our top funding recipients statewide in this vital work to strengthen the jobs pipeline needed to fuel North Carolina’s economic engine.”

This article was written for our sponsor, United Way of the Greater Triangle.

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Kassie Hoffman
Kassie pens down all the news from the world of politics on ANH.