Video Game Simulation Taking Hold In Energy Industry Training

February 2014, Vol. 241 No. 2

Oliver Diaz, Founder and CEO, FuelFX

Complex technology realities come to life as Houston-based FuelFX takes energy industry training tools into a new era built on the technology of augmented reality.

Augmented reality enhances the viewer’s perception of reality by integrating 3D objects, sounds and information with the surrounding environment. Software installed on mobile devices leverage the camera viewfinder to “see” nearby objects and overlay augmented objects and information on the device screen, allowing the real world and virtual world to blend seamlessly.

Imagine being able to “walk” a new technician around a refinery and demonstrate the latest readings of tank pressure and temperature and the current maintenance schedule linked to real-time information systems. How about having virtual representations of refinery equipment that pop up from a training manual and tell students how they work? With augmented reality, all this is possible.

In the diagram, blue represents the digital world (and the reality that can be digitally manipulated), while black represents the real world of tangible objects. By beginning at the lower-right corner and following the applications, the viewer sees all the digital capabilities that augmented reality brings to smart devices.

Those capabilities are nearly limitless: recognition functions (visual, speech, facial, object), spatial mapping, geo-positioning, 3D scanning – all with full collaboration and connectivity access. Equally vast are the real-world applications for these functions – not just training, but also:

• Construction of onsite virtual facilities using 3D blueprint overlays.
• Development of step-by-step procedural overlays for everything from safety to equipment identification.
• Use of real-time data for predictive visualization of facility operations.

Soon, with advances in personal display technology like Google Glass, the already thin barrier between the real and the digital world will become even less significant. The resulting realistic visualizations will make every past technical training technique, including hands on demonstration, essentially obsolete.

By integrating the real world with the virtual, augmented reality anchors information when and where people need it – through visual displays that help with way finding, business intelligence and technical visualization. The resulting combination of augmented reality visualizations and interactive multimedia creates integral tools that will improve energy industry efficiency, safety and training.

For energy companies and the businesses that service them, this creates a wide range of exciting new learning and communication applications:

• A refinery can be made “intelligent,” allowing trainers to give students a realistic look inside a tank and to access real-time information, such as temperature, pressure, fluid capacity and location in order to demonstrate safety precautions.

• A new offshore rig design can be shown as a portable table top model, complete with support vessels and deployment animation.

• In any exploration or production operation, a virtual guide can walk viewers through safety procedures, pointing out dangerous areas and showing what protective equipment to wear.

• Manufacturers of drilling and downhole tools can see inside a tool and show trainees how internal components work.

Such augmented reality applications can be accessed anywhere – online, via computer or as a smartphone app – and enable oil and gas executives, engineers, employees and customers to hold an entire industry in the palms of their hands and make it come alive.

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