In an emergency it is vital to know the position of key elements in the engineroom. A new virtual reality start-up could be a life saver
“Not all sailors are good sailors” was a comment made to me once at a conference. The speaker was an engineer on a chemical tanker, and he related how when he joins a new ship, it could take him up to three days to get used to the motion of his new working environment.
This anecdote came back to me when I attended a conference on maritime start-ups held at the UK Chamber of Shipping. The room was full of bright young things, who were given three minutes to pitch their concepts.
One that caught my eye in the literal sense was SeaBot XR, which uses a smartphone and a cardboard box virtual reality (VR) headset to familiarise crews with the layout of the ship before stepping on board. The smartphone is sent the layout of the engineroom, and the engineer places the smartphone in the VR headset. The engineer can freely explore the engineroom but is also set a series of tasks to complete. The tasks are repeated in different ways. Apparently, this process is known as gamification of the learning process.
The start-up that developed SeaBot XR is extending the VR to include tests on reactions to abnormal situations. In effect, the engineer can try and deal with an emergency in the engineroom without the potential danger of physically taking part in a hands-on drill. Of course, VR would only be an addition to the real-life training required.
Will VR start-ups like SeaBot XR reduce the time for engineers to become familiar with unknown enginerooms? Almost certainly yes. Will it help with sea-sickness? Probably not, but I am sure there is a start-up somewhere working on that, too.