Attendees of the SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop (September 21-25 in National Harbor, MD) can

Attendees of the SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop (September 21-25 in National Harbor, MD) can

Industrial Training International, (ITI), a global leader in training and technical services regarding cranes, rigging, lift planning and rigging engineering, is developing a virtual reality (VR) mobile crane simulator product that will be formally unveiled at ConExpo in March 2017.

ITI is currently deep into the development phase of the VR mobile crane simulator project with operating prototypes already developed. ITI will provide a first look at its VR simulator at the upcoming SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop Products Fair on September 22 in National Harbor, MD.

The VR Mobile Crane Simulator product development began in August 2016 following an ITI Customer Advisory Meeting held at Mammoet USA headquarters in Rosharon, TX. At that meeting, 30 participants focused on discussing key initiatives that the company proposed for consideration including VR. Prior to ITI's customer meeting, the ITI team had developed strong ties with two organizations as it began investigating the concept of a virtual reality simulator.

"We have been interested in simulation-based training solutions for several years and had nearly purchased our own simulators to distribute to customers and use in training,” said Zack Parnell, president of ITI. “We principally decided against these investments as we didn't believe existing simulators would deliver enough value to our customers at the costs required mainly due to high price points and the inability to process enough trainees in a given year because of general immobility. A survey we conducted earlier this year asked simulator owners their opinions about their experience and they reflected negatively on a few aspects we hope to remedy with our VR simulator development.”

The main customer input issues that ITI plans to address include price point, usage and overall quality and customer satisfaction.

The high-price of simulators were a driving factor in why most have not purchased a simulator in the past, according to ITI's research. High price points, though typically overcome by quality or high-utilization, have remained in the crane simulator business due to a limited supply of crane simulator manufacturers and the high-cost hardware sales approach that requires the customer to pay a front-loaded price like buying a car with cash.

“ITI has mimicked its e-learning distribution approach in which customers pay for actual course or simulation use, a subscription approach, identical to most successful software companies,” ITI said. “The hardware is distributed very near actual costs of the VR headset and controls. This approach benefits the customer and ITI in a growing ecosystem by allowing ITI to continue to develop additional courses and course updates at no additional cost to the customer.”

ITI also found that simulator owners were unable to achieve sufficient utilization of their simulators. The high cost of existing simulator products make it difficult for employers to purchase multiple units and provide adequate access to their workforce, as well as very poor user experience of smaller, mobile units that utilize a small screen-display, ITI said.

Serious Labs, Inc. was selected as ITI's development partner for a planned library of crane and rigging-related simulations. The company has deep expertise in the serious game genre and virtual reality simulation, ITI said. Serious Labs, Inc. develops advanced simulator and game-based training systems for high-stake jobs in the global construction, mining, and oil and gas industries.

"As VR was becoming commercially viable earlier this year with Oculus Rift and others headset manufacturers, we began looking for experts on the cutting-edge of that space as we believe the user experience and low distribution cost of VR makes it a winner for our customers,” said Parnell. “We could not have found a better partner than Serious Labs.”

Parnell said ITI and SLI aim to overhaul the mobile crane simulator business with three main objectives: to provide an incomparable, totally immersive user experience; remove barriers to entry with a subscription model and low capital costs; and to open up simulator training to all applicable team members by making access and utilization simpler.

The ITI simulator will feature a growing course library beyond the initial simulations; additional planned simulations include overhead cranes, tower cranes, rigging and assembly/disassembly of cranes.

“The ITI Mobile Crane Simulator leverages the technology of VR to allow a fully immersive experience that lays two inches away from the user's eyes,” the company said. As well there will be desktop and motion base versions. Two hardware models are available – a fully mobile desktop version and an immersive, though still mobile, Motion-Base Simulator.

Users will be able to integrate ITI VR training with their current learning management system enabling employee training paths and to include candidate screening, operator qualification and record keeping.

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