As one of the most technologically advanced schools in the world, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University is no stranger to using Augmented and Virtual Reality solutions to solve their problems both inside and outside of the classroom. In 2017, NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences recognized that while dissecting models and teaching lessons in AR and VR was a great start, it had barely scratched the surface of the potential to increase the efficiency of some of their lab training and procedures. With that, the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences set off to find an effective way to digitize the safety training for one of the most dangerous and high-risk areas students work in: the chemistry lab.
WIDE VARIETY OF POTENTIAL DANGER
When working in a chemistry lab, there isn’t just one thing to be cautious of. Whether it’s a sharp object, a toxic biohazard, or an extremely flammable material, there are plenty of potentially dangerous items in a chemistry lab.
UNPREDICTABLE REACTIONS AND SITUATIONS
When an emergency situation arises within a chemistry lab, it’s rarely identical to one that occurred before. Each scenario requires its own unique response, and those can be difficult — or even impossible — for new and experienced chemists to foresee ahead of time.
IMPOSSIBLE TO REPLICATE WITHOUT DAMAGE
As is the case in many safety scenarios, a hazardous situation in a chemistry lab can often cause serious harm to both the people and items involved. Therefore, it’s obviously not practical — financially or medically — for a university such as NTU to even attempt to replicate the emergencies in real life when training students.
In just a handful of months, EON Reality was able to develop eight chemistry lab safety training AVR modules for NTU’s students and staff. Wearing a virtual reality head-mounted display, students and staff are able to increase their knowledge and virtually handle various emergency scenarios without any of the potential danger or cost. From preventing and controlling chemical hazards to protecting the health and safety of colleagues within the laboratory, EON Reality’s Virtual Trainer solution provided risk-free safety and prevention training for some of the most common chemistry lab emergency situations. The AVR modules also provide the students with the ability to engage in remote learning by using the VR laboratory training lessons.
DIGITAL FIRES, CHEMICALS, AND MORE
With modules on how
to use tools like fire blankets and extinguishers in the heat of the moment as well as how to identify and appropriately handle various chemical spills, the chemistry lab VR training lessons provided immersive and interactive learning tools for situations that many students — and some teachers — had never encountered before. Through repetition within virtual reality, the users are then able to build confidence in tackling those scenarios should they arise in real life.
LOW-RISK TRAINING FOR HIGH-RISK SCENARIOS
By utilizing the “hands-on” training of virtual reality without actually involving any of the expensive and dangerous equipment found in a chemistry lab, students and teachers are able to run through hazardous situations as frequently as they’d like without incurring physical or financial damage. Rather than having to read and understand safety instructions in the midst of an emergency, the chemists will already know exactly what to do.
With NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences having previously used written material and video clips for chemical lab safety, the Virtual Trainer modules are a huge improvement for students and teachers. Although currently only available in the school’s VR laboratory, full implementation will be commencing in June 2019.