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Immersive technologies are the future, so how do they benefit industry?

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15 minute read

These are exciting times. For those who may be unaware of the advancement of this incredible immersive technology over recent years, you may be surprised by the abundance of benefits virtual reality(VR) and augmented reality(AR) can offer to a wide range of industries. In addition to entertainment and gaming, immersive technologies offer the opportunity to benefit industries such as oil and gas, cleantech, education, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, real estate and many more. 

Consider this, when learning new processes or training for a specific position, creating an immersive learning program could advance cognition, engagement and retention of vital information over what could be learned through traditional programs. While we may be still some time away from this being the norm, it is hard to ignore the forward-thinking work going on in this industry. 

VizworX is a Calgary based tech company specializing in multiple advanced technologies. While they are one of the great teams at the forefront of this imaginative world of immersive technology, their core mission for all of their clients is simple – they solve problems. 

Focusing on key areas, the Vizworx team is well versed in VR, AR, mixed reality(MR), artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), geospatial data mapping, biometric evaluation, and custom visualization solutions to name a few. Thankful for the opportunity to discuss this topic with Jeff LaFrenz, CEO of VizworX

Proud winner of multiple awards over recent years such as the Cross Sectoral Company Success Award from ConvergX in 2020, Outstanding Achievement in Applied Technology by ASTech and The Innovation Award by PTAC in 2019, to name a few. Recently, Jeff was a recipient of the University of Calgary 2020 Alumni Service Award.

– “What is physical and virtual becomes a blurry line at some point in the future”

Challenging as it is to condense, the incredible applications this immersive technology can have for industrial processes. While this topic could be extrapolated into each individual sector, the overall benefits are still being uncovered as this technology continues to evolve. However, it is important to explore the narrative of what it can offer today.

Infrastructure planning

This can be construed in two ways.

The first. Real estate may integrate immersive technologies at a higher capacity than other industries in the near future. We are aware of 360-degree walking tours, however, imagine having the ability to use a VR headset to be fully immersed in what could be your new home, where you interact with space on a true scale. Moving forward, the experience may prove to be the key to innovating the buying or renting process. 

As noted in Engineering.com back in 2016, we now have the ability to walk through a home virtually before any construction begins. If we consider the long term financial risk we all face with building a new home, mitigating any misconstrued requests and ensuring the model is true to the physical, benefits both the future homeowner and project managers. The same can be said for all parties involved in the construction of condo units, including pre-sale to consumers.

The second, industrial facility production.

While it can be difficult to summarize the process included in planning, pre-production, regulations and geo-mapping that goes into the production of infrastructure. With the use of this technology, a large scale project could be first explored through a VR model to engage with what could be the post-production facility, mitigating the risks of inefficient mapping, overhead and problematic regulations. 

In theory, creating a virtual tour and geospatial map of an upcoming project could allow for tours, audits and restructuring before production. Mitigating the risk of inefficient planning, saving time and ensuring that the final production model will be cost-effective. With the level of cognition that is possible, we could see a re-evaluation of the process of industrial construction pursued as this technology continues to enhance the user experience.

This type of solution is catered to by the subsidiary of VizworX called EnsureworX. Lead by their CEO, Dustin Wilkes and CFO, Charles Edmonds, this arm of the company specialize in creating immersive engineering review models with their Panoptica solution. If we consider the complexity of certain infrastructure requirements for facilities such as power generation or waste management, the ability to review models, assess ventilation and inform engineers who may have concerns regarding certain functionalities, can allow for a far more streamlined process. 

With the amount of capital required for certain industrial facilities, Jeff offers his insight into how Panoptica, or similar review model technology could offer a major advantage when visiting the pre-production stage of an infrastructure review or build.

“One of the challenges every industrial space is running into is data overload. Typically from a human perspective, a lot of what we do is to come from a human perspective of how you present the data to dramatically impact how people understand what it is as well as how they are going to make decisions.” – Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

Foreign Investment / Remote Tours

Evidently, this pandemic continues to confuse and re-calibrate plans to interact with others around the world. As flight schedules continue to be disrupted and to be monitored during a fortnight quarantine post-arrival in a foreign country. Now more than ever, the opportunity to create a virtual demonstration of an early-stage start-up mitigates confusion in regards to travel plans but also lowers overhead for foreign investors to travel to that location for an in-person demonstration. 

“Humans by nature have a biological spatial understanding, these technologies leverage that ability to present information that is spatially oriented. I could present you with a rendering of a building, and that would be hard for you to understand, or I could drop you into that building in virtual or augmented reality where you can walk around it and you would get it right away” – Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

One bright light in the ecosystem of innovative technology in the energy space is Eavor Technologies, a closed loop geothermal technology company that has been continuously disrupting the space. With a major push around the world for clean baseload energy that is both dispatchable and scalable, Eavor is a global front runner. Recently featured in Rolling Stone for their new “Harmony” video and insight from their team. 

Due to the major disruption in flight schedules, Eavor Technologies created a virtual walking tour of their “Eavor Lite” facility, which is their proof of concept stage site located in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. To think of the pandemic no longer allowing any convenience for international travel let alone group tours. This solution created an intuitive immersive experience where you as the visitor can walk around and access panels throughout, where their team offers deeper insight into their technology. It can be toured through the Oculus Quest and also through a desktop or smartphone, found here.

(Source: Eavor Technologies Eavor Lite facility, Virtual Reality Tour Announced By Cutting Edge Canadian Energy Tech Company, September 15th 2020)

Operational Training

Cognition and retention of information vary both on the human and technical level. Traditional methods of training employees consist of the use of company assets, written or video material and in some cases exams. While these methods are still widely used today, there is the argument for a declining level of engagement with this type of information and the increase of online activity, thus leading to a lower level of retention. 

The solution could very well lie in this immersive technology. There is little data available on the segmented levels of cognition and retention in traditional vs immersive training, however, it is important to note that a high majority of us learn by doing, exactly what an immersive experience offers without the use of expensive equipment that could be better served. 

Panoptica contains a suite of tools that leverage mixed reality technologies. Teams can collaborate digitally from anywhere individually as they view models in a true 1:1 scale. By creating a 3D model that can be evaluated, allows for any inefficiencies to become apparent in the design process, thus mitigating time and overhead.

(Source: Medium, “Model Reviews in a Post-COVID Era”, VizworX review model, Carter Yont, published July 28th)

Safety and Emergency Training 

One example is training for airline pilots, where they are subject to an immersive training course that will uncover all circumstances where an emergency may arise. Being a passenger on countless flights, I am even glad this technology exists. 

Immersive training is not new. Cited from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Pittsburgh back in 2006, countries such as Germany, Australia and the US came together to explore the benefits to the mining industry. 14 different countries came together to discuss how VR can be employed in the future for research, development and safety training. 

(Source: CDC, “Virtual Reality in Mine Training”, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2006)

While this was years ago, it is a reminder that this technology has been around for some time. As time and education move forward, the quality of the image rendering, functionality and reduction of cost continues to benefit the end-user. 

As mentioned, Panoptica can create a 1:1 ratio 3D review model. In addition to playing a major role in planning, safety training programs are an essential part of any industrial process. When you consider the assets and time allocated from senior employees, the cost increases in such a way where those assets and staff could be put to more cost-effective work. The cost of producing an immersive training program that can be utilized from anywhere is minuscule in comparison. 

“If you look at the future of where these immersive technologies are going, price points are coming down significantly, and the capabilities are going up significantly. We are going to have this blended environment where employees could walk around an industrial facility and look at a boiler, overlaid on that physical world is all the data and digital information required. What is physical and virtual becomes kind of a blurry line at some point in the future. That is where we want to be, seamless engagement with our environment between physical and virtual worlds.” Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

We are only scratching the surface here, there is still much to uncover in the world of immersive technology in this tech revolution. We can look forward to things such as retail shopping from the comfort of your living room where you can try items on virtually, or even where engineering students will avail of an immersive learning program that could advance cognition and retention to a point where innovation reaches far beyond our wildest aspirations.

I recommend visiting the VizworX and EnsureworX websites. Check out their blog on Medium and be sure to give them a follow on Twitter to stay up to date on any developments in the future.

 

For more stories, please visit Todayville Calgary

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Alberta

A complete list of Alberta’s New Enhanced Emergency Measures

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From the Province of Alberta

New measures at a glance

Unless otherwise stated, the following mandatory restrictions come into effect Nov. 24 and will be in place for at least three weeks.

1. See list of communities under enhanced status (purple areas)
2. See list of affected communities in the Calgary area and the Edmonton area.
Measures All Alberta Enhanced (purple) Areas1 Calgary Area2 Edmonton Area2
No indoor social gatherings in any setting Yes Yes Yes Yes
Outdoor gatherings max of 10 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wedding and funeral services max of 10, no receptions permitted Yes Yes Yes Yes
No festivals or events Yes Yes Yes Yes
Grades 7-12 at-home learning Nov 30-Jan 11 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Grades K-6 at-home learning Dec 18-Jan 11 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Working from home should be considered, where possible Yes Yes Yes Yes
Places of worship at 1/3 normal attendance No Yes Yes Yes
Restricted access to some businesses and services starting Nov. 27 No Yes Yes Yes
Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces No No Yes Yes

Gathering restrictions

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – effective Nov. 24

    • No indoor social gatherings are permitted in any setting (private homes, public spaces or workplaces)
      • Indoor close contacts must be limited to people in the same household
      • People who live alone can have up to the same 2 non-household contacts for the duration of the restriction
      • Work and support group meetings are not social gatherings, but attendance should be limited and public health measures followed
      • This does not apply to service visits from caregivers, health or child care providers
    • Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people and must not have an indoor component
      • Backyard gatherings that require movement in/out of homes are not permitted
      • Attendees should remain distanced at all times and follow public health measures
    • Festivals and events are prohibited (indoors and outdoors)

    Learn more about gatherings.

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – effective Nov. 24

    • Maximum of 10 people for wedding ceremonies or funeral services
      • This includes the officiant, bride/groom and witnesses
      • This does not include staff or organizers who are not considered an invited guest
      • This applies to any facility, including places of worship and funeral homes.
      • This includes services held indoors or outdoors, seated or non-seated.
    • Receptions are not permitted

    This measure will help limit exposure, reduce outbreaks and protect vulnerable attendees.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – effective Nov. 24

    • Maximum of 1/3 normal attendance for places of worship
    • Physical distancing between households must be maintained
    • Mask use is required
    • Online services are encouraged
    • In-person faith group meetings can continue but must maintain physical distancing and public health measures must be followed

    Faith communities are often significant aspects of people’s lives, and include intimate and close contact between members. This measure will help limit exposure at these activities, reducing outbreaks and protecting vulnerable members who attend.

  • Mandatory restriction – Calgary and Edmonton areas – Effective Nov. 24

    • Masks are mandatory in all indoor workplaces, except when working alone in an office or a safely distanced cubicle or an appropriate barrier is in place
      • This applies to all employees, visitors, delivery personnel and contractors
      • This includes all locations where employees are present and masks won’t pose a safety risk
      • This does not change current student mask requirements in schools
  • Working from home should be considered, where possible.

  • Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – Starting Nov. 30

    Grades 7-12 students

    • Move to at-home learning Nov. 30 to Jan. 8, except during winter break*
    • Resume in-person classes Jan. 11
    • Diploma exams are optional for rest of the school year. Students and families can choose to write an exam or receive an exemption for the April, June and August 2021 exams.

    Grades K-6 students (including Early Childhood Services)

    • Continue in-person learning to Dec. 18
    • Move to at-home learning Dec. 18 to Jan. 8, except during winter break*
    • Resume in-person classes Jan. 11

    *Schools have different winter break schedules, check with your school for details.

    Learn more at K-12 learning during COVID-19

Business and service restrictions

Effective Nov. 27, new restrictions will limit the amount of contact between people in the community, while still allowing businesses to offer services. These measures apply to all communities on the enhanced list (purple areas).

Albertans are encouraged to limit in-person visits to retail locations and use curbside pick up, delivery and online services.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Businesses that are closed for in-person service include:

    • Banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoria and concert venues, non-approved/licensed markets, community centres
    • Children’s play places or indoor playgrounds
    • All levels of sport (professional, semi-professional, junior, collegiate/universities and amateur). Exemptions may be considered.

     

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Restaurants, bars, pubs and lounges will be open with restrictions if they follow all public health guidance in place including:

    • Maximum of 6 people from the same immediate household at a table and no movement between tables.
      • People who live alone can meet with up to 2 non-household contacts as long as they’re the same two throughout the duration of these restrictions
    • Only seated eating and drinking is permitted. No other services or entertainment will be allowed, including billiards, games or darts.
    • Liquor can be sold until 10 pm and food-serving establishments must close to in person-dining at 11 pm. Liquor sales apply to casinos, but casinos are not required to close at 11 pm.

    Albertans are encouraged to use take out, delivery, drive-thru and curbside pick-up options.

    Additional inspections will occur to verify that public health measures are being followed. Establishments that are non compliant may face orders and fines.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Most retail businesses may remain open with capacity limited to 25% of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code.

    • Retail, including liquor and cannabis
    • Grocery stores
    • Pharmacies
    • Clothing stores
    • Computer and technology stores
    • Hardware
    • Automotive
    • Farmers markets approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
    • Unlicensed outdoor seasonal markets

    Some entertainment and event services may remain open with capacity limited to 25% of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code.

    • Movie theatres
    • Museums and galleries
    • Libraries
    • Casinos, offering slots only. Table games must be closed at this time.
    • Indoor entertainment centres including amusement parks, water parks, bingo halls and racing centres.
    • Indoor fitness, recreation, sports and physical activity centres, including dance and yoga studios, martial arts, gymnastics and private or public swimming pools.
      • Facilities can be open for individual studio time, training or exercise only.
      • There can be no group fitness, group classes, group training, team practices or games.
      • Instructors can use facility to broadcast virtual fitness classes from, but there can be no group class.

    All public health guidance and physical distancing requirements must be followed.

    Albertans and businesses are encouraged to limit in-person visits and use curbside pick up, delivery and online services instead.

  • Mandatory restriction – Enhanced status (purple) areas – Effective Nov. 27

    Businesses open by appointment only are not permitted to offer walk-in services. Appointments should be limited to one-on-one services.

    • Personal services such as hair salons and barbershops, esthetics, manicure, pedicure, body waxing and make-up, piercing and tattoo services,
    • Wellness services including acupuncture, massage and reflexology
    • Professional services such as lawyers, mediators, accountants and photographers
    • Private one-on-one lessons (no private group lessons permitted)
    • Hotels, motels, hunting and fishing lodges

    These businesses must follow all current public health guidance for their sector and should consider virtual options where possible.

    Home-based businesses should follow the restrictions for the type of service they provide.

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Calgary

“These are tough times for everyone” – City of Calgary Launches #SupportLocalYYC Campaign

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The City of Calgary recently launched it’s #SupportLocalYYC campaign for the second year in a row. 

Just in time for the holidays, the campaign encourages Calgarians to keep their money in the city when doing their shopping this season, while extending a number of services and resources to local business owners. These include printable Come in, We’re Local posters and an online marketing tool kit to aid local businesses with promotion and visibility during the holiday season. 

Published on November 18, a press release from the City of Calgary states, “Last year, the campaign helped to unite our community to support local – this year, it’s even more important for us to band together.”

According to Sonya Sharp, Business and Local Economy Leader for the City of Calgary, the 2019 campaign was an overwhelmingly positive experience, with more than 10,000 uses of the #SupportLocalYYC tag throughout the holiday season. “When you support local, you are supporting your friends and neighbors,” she says, “this year we want to focus on showing our support for the local business community while ensuring we work together to keep one another safe.”  

Despite a number of government funded support programs and subsidies being made available, the impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic for small business owners in Calgary. The devastating decline in patronage in combination with growing restrictions and additional costs has made the continued operation of a successful business impossible for many.

Photo Credit – Calgary Herald

The city has been gripped by permanent closures as owners struggle to remain viable amidst the changing regulations by launching online alternatives, offering contactless pick-up, and asking for local support. For many, however, the pressures of the pandemic and the economic squeeze have proved to be too much. Calgary’s once hustling 17th Avenue now features a number of staple businesses with locked doors and final goodbyes written where the daily specials or popular sporting events once were. 

“Calgary businesses need our support now more than ever,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi in the #SupportLocalYYC press release, “the pandemic has hit businesses hard in a time when many were already challenged from a tough economy.” 

Mega-corp online shopping alternatives such as Amazon have already skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic, and are projected to see unprecedented numbers this holiday season. Despite the convenience Amazon provides, the #SupportLocalYYC campaign encourages Calgarians to take the extra time to explore similar contactless, online alternatives many local businesses have struggled to launch in recent months. Keeping cash in Calgary this holiday season is an important step towards slowing business closures and rebooting the local economy.

In addition to purchasing local goods, there are a number of ways to support businesses in the community that cost nothing at all. “Things are a bit different this year, of course,” says Sharp, “these are tough times for everyone. We want people to know that even though you may not be able to spend money, there are other ways to support local.” Leaving a positive review, following their social media accounts, engaging with and sharing their content are all simple, but helpful ways to support and promote local businesses this holiday season.  

Christmas is just 5 weeks away! Make your contributions count this year by supporting your friends, family and neighbors, and keeping it local. #SupportLocalYYC

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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