Building Capacity – behavioral training in virtual reality
With a virtual reality training experience, Maersk and Maersk training are testing the possibility of enhancing the quality of safety training for ship’s officers.
It is all about safety
Safety is an important aspect when it comes to training of ship’s officers at Maersk. The work aboard a container shop involves many safety critical tasks, and therefore, it is important to be able to predict, monitor, navigate in, and learn from complex and often unpredictable situations.
At Maersk Training, each year, hundreds of ship’s officers go through training to grow these competences. They go through different exercises in 360-degree simulators, learn about safety behavior and receive feedback on their own development potential.
We helped Maersk and Maersk Training examine whether they could use virtual reality (VR) to become even better at training safety behavior and attention in critical situations at sea. We developed Maersk Building Capacity – an immersive training experience in VR – which trains ship’s officers in predicting, monitoring, and acting on danger signals during mooring, which is a complex and varied task aboard a ship.
Learning by doing can be dangerous
Do it in Virtual Reality
Maersk Training’s hope is that the project will make it clear how they can benefit from working with VR in employee training:
“If it turns out that we can use VR to become even better at training safety behavior and attention it can be an ideal supplement to traditional training methods as well as a way to reach more officers,” says Per Larsen, Operations Manager at Maersk Training.
With training in VR, Maersk can ensure more uniform training in different safety-critical tasks aboard a ship. And there is both time and money to be saved. A large part of the costs for traditional training are costs for travel, logistics, accommodation, and time lost from work. Those expenses can VR potentially help minimize, without compromising on the learning quality.
“Training through VR is a cost-efficient alternative to traditional competence development of employees. The employees won’t necessarily have to be transported to a simulation center ashore. Instead, they can train right where they already are. That way, the training takes place in an authentic learning environment, giving the seafarers the right conditions to apply their new competences to spot safety-critical situations immediately,” says Christian Schrøder, Strategic Advisor at Virsabi.
Ship’s officers experiencing things for themselves
The goal is for the training to support the ship’s officers’ competence development in safety-critical situations. The purpose is to develop and grow the ability to act safely in varying conditions. For that, VR is a strong tool. Going forward, through simulations of surroundings and scenarios, ship’s officers can be trained in many different safety-critical tasks that it would not be possible to train in reality.
“Our hypothesis is that VR, among other things, can help create a “safe” space where employees can train dynamic risk handling in complex work situations. And that the realistic immersive value that VR creates can smoothen the transition from learning to reality,” says Jeanette Aliaj Juul Jakobsen, Behavioral Designer at Maersk.
Maersk Building Capacity is based on experiential learning – that humans learn on the basis of experiences they make. Therefore, we must interact with what we seek to learn.
We place the ship’s officer in a scenario on a docking ship. Here, he or she is instructed by the captain and must observe conditions and surroundings to react in time through radio communication and communication with colleagues on deck and on the quay. We have been especially careful to make the interactions as realistic as possible to make the environment and the scenarios reflect reality.
For instance, the ship’s officer must notice changing weather conditions such as increasing wind. He or she must then predict that that can result in an increased tension of ropes that could potentially burst. A bursting rope is a safety threat, and the ship’s officer must therefore adjust the ropes to keep them from bursting. And he or she must make sure their employees are out of the way to keep them from being hit if the ropes burst.
Focus on the end user’s needs and reality
Currently, the project is at the prototype stage. We recently visited Maersk and gave their employees the chance to stop by and test the VR experience.
“The training experience was very impressive and realistic. Both the surroundings and the order of what you experience are in line with the reality you experience aboard the shop. And it’s a new and interesting way to train, capturing your attention,” says Søren Thuen, Head of Nautical and Marine Compliance at Maersk.
The project is a collaboration between Maersk, Maersk Training, The University of Copenhagen and Virsabi and was funded by Energy Innovation Cluster.
Maersk Building Capacity is a project which has given us the chance to put many different competences to use. Both programmers, a 3D modeler, an animator, psychologists, designers, and a project manager have contributed to the development of the training experience.
The team has collaborated in the process which began with a 4-day workshop with Maersk Training and some of the ship’s officers who would become the end users.
“It was important to us to gain an understanding of what the end user actually needs instead of just beginning to work on what we think they need. And we’ve kept in contact with the end user by testing with the ship’s officers at Maersk Training every two months so that we always knew what needed tweaking to create the best possible training experience,” says Mathias Munk Ulrich, XR Developer at Virsabi.
And just that – creating the best possible training experience – is something which Virsabi’s team has put a lot of work into:
“We’ve made a big effort to make the experience correspond with the ship’s officers’ reality. For example in our work with simulating the ropes so they move like they do in reality and by avoiding disruptive interface elements. Everything which the ship’s officers see in the VR experience are things they know from reality. So instead of blocks of texts that require the user to press A or B, we have created a walkie talkie, which is used for making choices. Such details maintain the illusion that the scenario is real, and they contribute to enhance the ship’s officer’s learning,” says Mathias Munk Ulrik.