Simulator provides a rural view

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Jennifer Burgess, of Canada, tries out the WorkSafe NZ side-by-side virtual reality experience at Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week.

RURAL and non-rural people had to chance to experience what it might be like to drive across paddocks and dodge sheep and various other obstacles, at Southern Field Days at Waimumu last week.

The only difference was no-one and no sheep were at risk, as the experience was via a side-by-side virtual reality simulator.

Hosted by WorkSafe New Zealand, engagement lead Al McCone said the advanced simulator had been designed for the agricultural sector by CoDriVR chief executive Rhys Gardner, a rally car driver from Southland.

“It’s all about making young farmers… older farmers,” Mr McCone said.

Based in Dunedin, CoDriVR staff had developed a variety of simulators, for car rental companies, teen driving and youth driving, so asking them to develop a simulator for the rural sector was another step, Mr McCone said.

“We got them to develop a side-by-side, so it would give us different options.”

Used as part of health and safety training, with a huge screen, and dual seats with a movable frame which gave a more realistic feel to the experience, once the “driver” donned the virtual reality headset, they were ready to “drive”.

The simulator had been designed to give drivers a realistic rural experience, including dodging sheep and various farming features such as water troughs, fences and gates, while also asking the driver to count how many sheep they had encountered along the ride, to allow them to judge their skills or to help them improve their driving.

Mr McCone said with further development, the simulator could be used as a tool for farmers to test their staff’s ability or used to develop skills in a safe environment.

“The simulator could give hands-on experience in rural settings, teach them techniques to keep control of the vehicle and help them avoid serious injury and could give people the ability to recognise risk in a safe environment.”

The simulator had proved so popular, it had also been used in the Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final last year as part of its competition, and at national field days, Mr McCone said. It would most likely also be used at this year’s Young Farmer’s Grand Final competition also.

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