The industrial plant workforce training of the future: metaverse

Looking through the history of virtual reality (VR) development, the human race has achieved a lot in a fairly short period of time. Considering this rate of progress, what can we expect to happen in the next five to ten years?

In the world of technology, we are certain that we will witness great new discoveries and prominent technologies. The technology we talk about in this blog post first appeared in 1992, in a science fiction novel, but didn’t drift very far from science fiction until around a decade ago. We are talking about the metaverse. How could it be incorporated into workforce training, and could this be the direction the oil & gas industry is moving towards?

The Linde Virtual Academy has already revolutionized the O&G industry, but what would happen if we incorporated the metaverse into workforce education?

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse went viral in recent weeks, but what is it exactly? Although some see it as something into which the Internet will evolve, the “metaverse” refers to a shared virtual environment accessible by people via the Internet, made lifelike through VR and augmented reality (AR). It is highly interactive; in some metaverses one could trade land, buildings, and personalized avatars, by using cryptocurrency. It is also possible to explore various places, build virtual assets, purchase goods or services, attend virtual events, or even make friends with other visitors to the metaverse. 

Although it sounds like a perfect world in a sci-fi film, there are some aspects of the metaverse that we at Linde believe could change the world as we know it. We are talking about a virtual world made of billions of proxies, that would (in our case) represent assets, objects, and products. Within a few years we might be looking at virtual plants created in the metaverse, where trainees, individually or in teams, learn how to perform critical operations from startup to shutdown, or safety response procedures.

Metaverse has great potential for the oil & gas industry. (Photo: Unsplash)

How does it work?

Implementing metaverse basics into any company might seem like an extremely complex operation. In reality, it can be simpler than we think. We are talking about the combination of the physical and virtual worlds, so the metaverse can be shown from a perspective of VR or AR. A VR-based metaverse would be similar to what the Linde Virtual Academy has already created, where a trainee could work on a real-life replica of a plant. In the metaverse this plant would be ever-changing, constantly online, and you would never know what to expect once you enter the virtual world. Much like in real life, trainees could be presented with unpredictable obstacles while working on a plant – bad weather, critical situations such as fire or a hydrocarbon release, or mechanical failures, for example.

The metaverse could bring a whole new meaning to virtual and augmented reality. (Photo: Unsplash)

From the aspect of AR, by connecting to the metaverse trainees would be able to see the real plant, with tips and tricks appearing around them, or perhaps have a virtual guide standing next to them, explaining the training protocols step by step. This could be enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) that would gather all the data from the environment and customize each training session according to external interferences. By adding VR and AR to the metaverse, it is easy to see the great benefits such technology could bring to the field of workforce education in the oil & gas industry. 

Possible benefits of training in the metaverse

We can already predict a few of the amazing benefits that could result from making use of this technology. Here are four.

  1. Training in teams – Unlike today, with VR applications offering an immersive experience to an individual, by creating an industrial plant in the metaverse a whole new world would unfold. A trainee entering that world would appear to be right in the plant, surrounded by other trainees in the same metaverse. Trainees (in the form of avatars) could interact inside the metaverse, training together on complex tasks, and in this way learning from shared successes and mistakes. 
  2. Training from home – No matter where in the world trainees are located, the metaverse could enable them to connect. Once standalone VR headsets become more available, anyone with an Internet connection could train from anywhere. 
  3. No scenario is the same – Thanks to the sensors and AI gathering data from real life, training in the metaverse could be completely unpredictable. Strong winds, slippery or frozen valves wouldn’t present a problem as trainees would be guided by virtual assistants seen through AR glasses. With this type of guide, the likelihood of making a mistake would be reduced almost to zero. In this way trainees would be able to train on how to react in unpredictable situations, while still knowing they are not alone, as their virtual assistant is there whenever something goes wrong. 
  4. AI tracking and analytics – The human brain reacts in fantastic ways when under pressure or perceiving danger. By using AI inside the metaverse, a company could track the reactions of each trainee with a view to changing the training to suit the individual, much like a level change in video games. The same technology could measure the productivity of an individual or collective, and determine profits precisely.

Even at the very start of its development, it is clear that the metaverse could bring great benefits to the industry. (Photo: Unsplash)

Is metaverse the future?

We cannot answer that question with certainty, but one thing is clear: the metaverse offers a wide range of opportunities for large businesses, and the only remaining question is how to ensure our privacy is preserved. VR training in the oil & gas industry today is a real game-changer. Linde, being a pioneer in its implementation, firmly believes its significance will grow even further, perhaps even by adding a metaverse into the product. Before that happens, a few years of development will have to pass. But we are curious to know: is your business ready for a challenge? 

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