The Challenge

In 2014, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) needed to revitalize its forest training centers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Given the incredible risks and logistical challenges when teaching workers to efficiently and safely use tools such as chainsaws, a customized and significant training process was required — but preferably in a manner less dangerous than simply handing the tools over to an unskilled worker. Unfortunately, the actions and behaviors of manually operating a chainsaw are so unique that not providing a hands-on approach was all but useless in many situations. EON saw a solution based in interactive virtual training to improve overall safety and training operations.

Unable to Simulate a Physical Chainsaw

Without a chainsaw in hand, it is difficult to convey the proper motions, responses, and physical feelings of a chainsaw. Although reading about the tool and obtaining other prior knowledge could be helpful for background information, such a physical and dangerous task required many hours of hands-on training before a user could become adept with an industrial chainsaw.

Lack of Source Material

Along with the dangers presented by using a chainsaw, an industrial-grade version of the tool is not something that is often utilized, recorded, or even seen outside of the workplace environment. Outside of entry-level videos on the internet, there was not a wealth of film captures for training developers to use or show the key actions of handling a chainsaw.

The Solution: Interactive Virtual Training

EON Reality built a series of interactive virtual training apps for UNIDO about how to properly use a chainsaw. With these apps, chainsaw operators would be able to learn about everything from starting and maintaining their tools to what to do in the event of a chainsaw-related disaster. The mobile-friendly software also allows users to easily share the lessons about topics like their Personal Protective Equipment and different scenarios in the field on smartphones and tablets.

Reduce Danger While Mimicking Movements

After spending a significant amount of time ensuring that the movements and reactions of the virtual hands and arms match up with those of a chainsaw user in real life, the apps provide users with realistic-looking movements that will transfer over to their real world experience. Whereas introducing chainsaw training to unskilled workers used to present a critical challenge in the forestry industry, novice chainsaw operators can now see themselves working with their tool and its responses without risking life or limb.

Showing Rather Than Telling

Because of the language diversity in South Africa, literacy can be a severe issue. Being able to demonstrate the techniques in a manner understood in any language was crucial to the success of the lessons. By explaining and teaching without a text-heavy approach, the instructional segments could the ins and outs of using a chainsaw regardless of language barriers and illiteracy.

The Results

Chainsaw — and other forestry-based tool — training is a vital part of development organizations, and it’s now significantly less dangerous thanks to the series of mobile apps available both in training workshops and on Google Play Store. With forestry serving as a vital piece of South Africa’s economy, the applications will see plenty of extra use providing full courses on chainsaw operation with none of the related risks for beginners and veterans alike in the coming years. Not only is the training safer for everyone, but UNIDO was so pleased with the results that it also created Virtual Reality apps for Saw-Log Optimization a few years later.