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2. Inside the “Virtual Cave”

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All week, while 3D Squared’s Digital Workforce Intensive was underway, LITE buzzed with activity.

While the students collaborated, we took a tour of LITE.

“The only place I’ve seen like this is inside a top secret underground military bunker,” said a self-described military contractor who joined us. “There are only about four others in the country. And they’re only accessible to the military.”

The tour wound through rooms of different sizes, each used for different types of full immersion training. In contrast to viewing a virtual world from a computer screen, in these rooms you become the avatar, physically surrounded by images on all sides.

The first room was completely dark. We were given goggles and gloves and asked to put on hospital slippers. The tour guide pulled a curtain behind us as the interior becomes illuminated with a digitized hospital room and a life-sized avatar of a projected patient. The gloves worn by people in the space allow healthcare trainees to interact with objects in the hospital room, including the patient. The room across the hall projects massive images of an oil rig. Gloves are used to zoom into the platform of the rig and the ship to train and to identify ways of improving oil drilling.

The pièce de résistance is a 25 foot-high set of three screens attached to a giant multi-directional treadmill. Suspended from the ceiling in the center of the treadmill floor is a parachute body harness and helmet. A participant straps into the harness and helmet as the machine is warmed up. Images of the interior of the Sistine Chapel are projected onto the three walls.

“Start walking,” the tour guide said.

The floor tilted as the participant’s feet tentatively stepped one after the other, like a person learning to walk again. The virtual Sistine Chapel changed and zoomed, allowing participants to walk “into” and explore the structure which appears to be moving much the way the arc of the rising and setting sun is really just the rotation of the earth. The guide switched the images to reveal the deck of an oil rig out at sea.

“Walk down the steps but be careful not to fall into the ocean,” the tour guide advised.

The floor tilted down. The participant lost his balance and found himself at the bottom of the ocean. After the small crowd finished laughing, the tour guide explained that these immersive rooms are being used to protect two of the greatest local sources of income: fishing and working on the oil rigs, but that the simulations aren’t being utilized fully by either industry, mainly because it’s hard to understand the value of immersive virtual environments until the crises they are created in part to avert are mitigated by the additional deep training.

Format

All week, while 3D Squared’s Digital Workforce Intensive was underway, LITE buzzed with activity.
While the students collaborated, we took a tour of LITE.
“The only place I’ve seen like this is inside a top secret underground military bunker,” said a self-described military contractor who joined us. “There are only about four others in the country. And they’re only accessible to the military.”
The tour wound through rooms of different sizes, each used for different types of full immersion training. In contrast to viewing a virtual world from a computer screen, in these rooms you become the avatar, physically surrounded by images on all sides.
The first room was completely dark. We were given goggles and gloves and asked to put on hospital slippers. The tour guide pulled a curtain behind us as the interior becomes illuminated with a digitized hospital room and a life-sized avatar of a projected patient. The gloves worn by people in the space allow healthcare trainees to interact with objects in the hospital room, including the patient. The room across the hall projects massive images of an oil rig. Gloves are used to zoom into the platform of the rig and the ship to train and to identify ways of improving oil drilling.
The pièce de résistance is a 25 foot-high set of three screens attached to a giant multi-directional treadmill. Suspended from the ceiling in the center of the treadmill floor is a parachute body harness and helmet. A participant straps into the harness and helmet as the machine is warmed up. Images of the interior of the Sistine Chapel are projected onto the three walls.
“Start walking,” the tour guide said.
The floor tilted as the participant’s feet tentatively stepped one after the other, like a person learning to walk again. The virtual Sistine Chapel changed and zoomed, allowing participants to walk “into” and explore the structure which appears to be moving much the way the arc of the rising and setting sun is really just the rotation of the earth. The guide switched the images to reveal the deck of an oil rig out at sea.
“Walk down the steps but be careful not to fall into the ocean,” the tour guide advised.
The floor tilted down. The participant lost his balance and found himself at the bottom of the ocean. After the small crowd finished laughing, the tour guide explained that these immersive rooms are being used to protect two of the greatest local sources of income: fishing and working on the oil rigs, but that the simulations aren’t being utilized fully by either industry, mainly because it’s hard to understand the value of immersive virtual environments until the crises they are created in part to avert are mitigated by the additional deep training.
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