Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surgical Simulators Improve Training

Surgical training simulators provide residents with a highly realistic and safe approach for learning complicated surgical procedures. As surgeries become more technically advanced, and rely on video-assisted surgical procedures, the training for these types of surgeries needs to become more advanced as well. Surgical training simulations allow students to preform virtual operations as many times as necessary until mastery is achieved, without ever putting an actual patient at risk.

This summer NYU Langone Medical Center, in partnership with BioDigital, created a touch-enabled medical training simulation to teach the skills that are necessary to preform a video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy. The Right Upper Lobe Resection Cognitive Task Trainer allows surgical trainees to interact with the software through the use of a haptic device. Delivering vibration and resistance forces to the user, haptic technology allows surgeons to feel the anatomy of a simulated patient just as they would a live patient.

Surgery Training Simulator
Right Upper Lobe Resection Cognitive Task Trainer

Over the past 10 years video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery lobectomy operations have replaced more traditional open lung surgeries. With the limited visibility available to surgeons during video-assisted surgery, training for this type of procedure has become increasingly difficult and complicated. Traditional cadaver training is possible for this type of procedure, but is an expensive option since cadaver organs can only be used once. Simulators remove this expense and allow trainees to practice a procedure repeatedly until they have mastered it.

Surgical Training Simulation
Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery Lobectomy Training Simulator

The Right Upper Lobe Resection Cognitive Task Trainer teaches residents to identify important physical structures like the right pulmonary artery, superior and inferior pulmonary veins, and the right pulmonary ligament. Students are able to learn and practices proper placement of the camera port, dissector port, and stapler port in safe and cost-effective environment.

Simbionix is another company that develops medical training simulators and clinical devices for minimally invasive surgical operations. Medical training simulators offer clinicians a virtual hands-on experience without putting patients at risk. Medical professionals are able to practice their existing skills and learn new procedures quickly and effectively, essential elements of ensuring quality outcomes in real-world medical procedures.

Simbionix Suturing Training Simulator

Since surgical training simulators are computer-based, they can act as both a training tool and an assessment device. Trainees are able to learn all of the skills necessary to master their craft and become proficient at a variety of procedures, while trainers are able to evaluate their performance based on a quantifiable metric of competence. The bottom line is that surgical simulators increase clinical proficiency and decrease medical errors and costs.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Training Simulations Maximize Insurance Company's Operational Eficiency

It's common knowledge that training simulators and serious games help to improve an organization's performance and profitability. Usually when people think of simulation-based training they picture heavy equipment operator training, flight simulators, or medical procedure instruction, but not insurance training. However any industry that requires teamwork, problem solving, and the development of evolving sales and marketing strategies can benefit from simulation-based training.

BTS Group (NASDAQ OMX Exchange Stockholm: BTS q), a global leader in accelerating strategic alignment and execution, provides business training simulation tools that allow companies to develop the skills and capabilities within all levels of their organization to improve business results. Their Insurance Business Simulation allows companies to learn, practice and apply the principles, behaviors and skills necessary to manage their business successfully.

Insurance Training Simulation

BTS recently announced a strategic partnership with Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), one of the largest publicly-traded health benefits companies, to provide a simulation-based training initiative for their executives. This simulation-based training tool will enable Humana's leaders to carry out the company's strategy of solving employer's cost problems through a consumer-centric value proposition. This insurance business training simulation will transform Humana's product and service offerings to meet changing market trends, grow revenue by balancing distribution channels, and reduce costs by implementing operational excellence initiatives.

Read more about BTS Business Simulations

Swiss Re (VTX:RUKN), the world's largest reinsurance company, offers an insurance management simulation product to their clients. Users of the simulation get training on the complete decision-making process involved in operating an insurance company. They learn by doing, a technique acknowledged as one of the most effective learning methods when it comes to education, training, and instruction. Swiss Re’s insurance training simulation provides the opportunity for users to play the role of an insurance company’s senior management team.

Swiss Re's insurance management simulator tasks users with trying to optimize the market position and build shareholder value for a fictitious insurance company. Multiple competing insurance companies interact within the software that simulates the current economic market and competitive environment. The team for each company must develops and execute a business strategy and plan to manages their company over the course of several simulated years.

Read more about Swiss Re's Insurance Management Simulation

Farmers Insurance, the third largest insurance group in the US, hired ForgeFX to develop a 3D training simulation to train their insurance claims agents, and are also using IMB's INNOV8 to train their 11,500 call center employees. INNOV8 is a 3D business process management simulation game that allows players to quickly see how simple practical process improvements can help improve profitability, customer satisfaction and environmental goals. Through the use of simulation-based training software, Farmers is able to reduce claim costs, claim frequency and the average cost of claims per policy.

Read more about IBM's INNOV8

"Tell me and I'll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I'll understand." (Chinese proverb)

Regardless of your industry or business, training simulations can offer your organization many benefits that you might not otherwise achieve. Simulation-based training allows you to view and understand all the major aspects of your business, understand the fundamentals of creating and executing your business strategy, improve the skills necessary in analyzing and interpreting financial statements, and strengthen teamwork skills.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Heavy Equipment Training Simulators Provide Immediate Cost Savings

Heavy equipment operator training simulators allow organizations to improve their bottom lines by reducing fuel consumption, limiting wear-and-tear on real-world equipment, and reducing accidents caused by inexperienced operators. Operators that receive simulation-based training demonstrate increased levels of productivity, pride in their profession, and higher levels of quality work. Organizations that train their heavy equipment operators on simulators report decreased levels of customer complaints, equipment downtime, accidents, and worker turnover. Manufacturers that offer training simulators with their products can expect higher levels of sales, customer satisfaction, and repeat business. In industries like mining and construction, that rely on heavy equipment and the people that operate them, these are all important components of running a successful and profitable business.

In this age of hyper-competition, companies that are able to differentiate themselves from their competitors will succeed, while those who don't will risk becoming obsolete. Many heavy equipment manufacturers have already deployed operator training simulators, while many others are rapidly developing them, in order to set themselves apart and stay ahead of their competition.

Volvo Wheel Loader Simulation

When it comes to training for heavy equipment operation, without risking injury to operator or machine, The Volvo wheel loader simulator is a great example of this concept. It provides an economical and efficient way of increasing safety and productivity. The simulator tracks operator's performance and compiles their statistics, making the simulation a valuable tool for tracking employee's development over time. Inexperienced operators can train in a safe environment and achieve higher levels of productivity in a shorter amount of time, while experienced operators can sharpen their skills and practice for more difficult maneuvers.

Volvo Wheel Loader Simulator Demo Video

Hitachi Mining and Excavator Simulator

The Hitachi EX5500-5 hydraulic shovel training simulator, developed with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) controls and instrumentation, provides authentic training that leads to increased productivity and safety while reducing unscheduled maintenance on real-world equipment. Since vehicle efficiency can vary up to 40% based on the experience of an operator, simulation-based training can quickly lead to cost savings for any organization.

Hitachi Mining and Excavator Simulator Demo Video

Simulation-based training is the best way to keep personnel safe, machinery free from mishaps, and avoid unplanned maintenance costs caused by under-trained operators. Operator training simulators help organizations dramatically lower costs and address safety and production concerns while ensuring training can be conducted at anytime, regardless of weather conditions, increasing fuel costs, or other prohibitive real-world barriers.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Serious Games Improve Business Training

These days serious games and training simulations are being used in just about every industry and type of business. While it's true that the military, medical, and disaster-response fields lead the way in using simulations to train their people, more and more we are seeing games and simulators used for just about every type of business training. When it comes to training, serious games that immerse users in subject material have been proven to be cost-effective and lead to increased levels of knowledge retention - critical components of business training.

IBM INNOV8: Business Process Management Game

IBM, the world's 4th largest technology company, is leading the way in using serious games for business training. One of their latest products, named INNOV8, is an online 3D serious game that teaches the basics of business process management. Players of the game must work to solve typical problems that many business face. Scenarios include everything from evaluating a traditional supply chain model to reduce a company's carbon footprint, to reorganizing a call center in order to develop more efficient ways to respond to customers, to working with a municipality to lower traffic congestion and pollution levels.

Business Process Management Game
INNOV8: IBM's Business Process Management Game

The game allows users to learn the anatomy of a business process model and collaborate with coworkers to change that model and improve business operations. Concepts taught by the game include process modeling, activity monitoring, team collaboration, analysis, and optimization. Players are able to manage and interact with processes by taking advantage of powerful analysis technology and real-time monitoring capabilities.

Simulated Business Architecture Heat Map
INNOV8: Business Architecture Heat Map

Combining the basic economics of software distribution and the learn-by-doing principle, serious games allow organizations to train their employees in a fun, engaging, and cost-effective way. Companies all around the world are using serious games to introduce new skills, evaluate business performance, and develop leadership capabilities in their employees. Games are highly experiential software applications that foster deep levels of cognitive activity and higher-level thinking skills. IBM states that people retain information anywhere from 80 and 108 percent better when learning through serious games as opposed to more traditional training methods.

Business Modeling Simulation Tool
INNOV8: Business Modeling Tool

If you're charged with improving process management in a business environment that is constantly changing, you're aware of the challenges associated with keeping employees engaged with training material. Using serious games as a training tool allows you to help your organization better understand how effective business process management impacts an entire business ecosystem. Serious games and simulations allow you to identify bottlenecks, evaluate profitability, reduce implementation time, and view the processes in operation before you deploy them into real-world production so that you can optimize process cost, efficiency, and effectiveness.

In today's challenging economy, businesses need to take advantage of every tool available to them. Serious games and training simulations allow your organization to make informed business decisions, test proposed processes, and study the results before committing valuable resources.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simulation Software is Cost-Effective for Emergency Response Training

When it comes to training for mission critical tasks, emergency response and first responder rank as some of the most important and difficult activities to train for. In today's economy, where emergency management agencies worldwide are finding their budgets slashed, it's becoming even harder to train for disasters. This is where simulation-based training software comes in, a safe and cost-effective method to train for something you hope may never happen, but something agencies must be prepared for. Simulation-based training is used to prepare for every kind of emergency, from public health, to hazardous materials, to natural disasters, to homeland security threats.

Last month an article in Emergency Management magazine included the following quote from Dale Hall, former director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory:
"Simulation is a valuable tool for emergency response and can be used for vulnerability assessment, planning, training and decision support. It was identified as the only feasible approach when it is difficult to do real-life experiments, as is the case for homeland security applications."
The article references a number of different emergency response training simulator systems that are currently in use to provide training and education to first responders.

Advanced Disaster Management Simulator

The New York City Office of Emergency Management has partnered with Environmental Tectonics Corp. to use their Advanced Disaster Management Simulator. The software allows them to test their ability to implement the citywide incident management system. High-fidelity 3D graphics, complex interactivity, and audio create a highly immersive, chaotic and stressful environment for first responders to train in.

HYDRA Simulator

The Los Angeles Police Department is the first governmental agency in the US to deploy a HYDRA simulator, an immersive simulator for critical incident training. The simulator system, located in the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center, allows the police to train for everything from earthquakes to acts of terrorism, which may give law enforcement a significant advantage during the next disaster.


Dartmouth College's Interactive Media Laboratory and Institute for Security Technology Studies created the Ops-Plus for WMD Hazmat program to help first responders train for terrorism response. Ops-Plus, part of the Virtual Terrorism Response Academy, allows officials to train in an immersive 3D environment for threats ranging from chemical, to biological, to radiological, to nuclear.

It requires highly specialized training to be a first responder when it comes to disasters. Using immersive 3D simulators to train for disaster management allows first responders to gain this training without having to put themselves in harm's way. There may be no better way to develop first responder skills than to experience an actual disaster, but real-world disasters are rare and no place for inexperienced responders to gain on-the-job training. Disaster training simulators enable life-like training that can help agencies develop disaster management strategies that can ultimately save lives in a real-world disaster.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Health Care Industry Sets Training Simulation Standards

The health care industry continues to set the standard when it comes to the advancement of training simulations. Educating health care professionals thorough the use of medical simulators allow clinicians to repeatedly practice complicated procedures while removing any risk to an actual patient.

Boston Scientific SimSuite

Hon Mai and Joseph Goodman Center for Simulation and Immersive Learning

Last week the Stanford School of Medicine opened the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge, a $90 million project. The center includes the Hon Mai and Joseph Goodman Center for Simulation and Immersive Learning. This 28,000-square-foot facility features a fully simulated hospital, with simulators for almost every clinical condition, including mannequins that bleed, breathe and talk.

Press Release: Center for Simulation and Immersive Learning

Medicine Meets Virtual Reality

In its 18th year, the Medicine Meets Virtual Reality Conference will take place next year from February 9th to the 12th in Newport Beach, California. The presentations featured at this conference push the limits every year when it comes to the advancements in medical procedural training simulator technology. Some of the upcoming presentations that will be of interest to simulation developers include:

  • Needle Insertion Simulator with Haptic Feedback
  • Simulation-Based Program for Training Cardiac Surgery-Related Skills
  • Real-Time Electrocautery Simulation for Laparoscopic Surgical Environments
  • Prototype of a Neurosurgical Training Simulator
  • Ultrasound-Guided Regional Anesthesia using a High-Fidelity Simulator

Medicine Meets Virtual Reality: Conference Program

Medical Simulation Corporation

Medical Simulation Corporation builds some of the world's best high-fidelity medical simulators for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to stay current on new procedures. Manufactures of medical equipment that integrate a training simulator with their devices are able to differentiate their products from their competitors, and allow their clients to achieve higher clinical outcomes.

Medical Simulation Corporation Marketing Video

In a rapidly advancing field like health care, where there are new devices and techniques being introduced every day, a training simulator allows medical professionals to obtain new skills that they might not otherwise learn. In addition to medical simulators being great training tools, they are also great marketing tools for the manufacturers of medical procedure equipment. The faster a physician is able to master a device, the more they will use that product, which will lead to more sales for the manufacturer of that product.

Integrating a training simulator with a medical procedure equipment product leads to faster levels of product adoption, increased rate of sales, enhanced market visibility, and higher levels of patient safety.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

U.S. Department of Defense Announces Latest Contract Awards

Even in a tight economic climate like the one we're in now, the military continues to invest millions of dollars in training simulation technology. The reason? Training simulators work. The ROI that training simulators deliver is tangible: fewer resources are used, fewer engine-use hours are logged on real-world equipment, trainees are kept out of harms way, and operators can practice difficult maneuvers repeatedly until they are fully mastered.

The U.S. Department of Defense released a list today of their latest contract awards. Two projects of interest on the list are the following 2 training simulator projects, with budgets totaling more than $21 million to be spent by the end of the fiscal year.

  1. VSD, LLC, a Virginia Beach, VA based company was awarded a $15 million undefinitized contract to develop four offshore support vessel training simulators to be used by Iraqi Naval Forces. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division in Orlando, Fla., is the contracting agency. The simulators are scheduled to be completed in October 2011.

  2. Cubic Applications, Inc., a Lacey, Washington based company was awarded a $6.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to develop a virtual constructive & gaming-integrated training environment in support of Army training strategies for the U.S. Army National Simulation Center. The Mission & Installation Contracting Command in Fort Eustis, Virginia is the contracting agency. The simulators are scheduled to be completed in August 2011.
U.S. Department of Defense Contract List, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag

Last week Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag took place in Melbourne Australia. Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag is the largest virtual military simulation event ever to take place, and was hosted this year by The Australian Defense Science and Technology Organization. Australian, American, British and Canadian defense forces participated in a four-day simulated session to train and plan for joint-combat missions around the world. The exercise is a virtual air war that allows soldiers to train alongside coalition forces in realistic theater-level combat scenarios.

Royal Australian Air Force pilots, at the Air Operations Simulation Center in Melbourne, joined the virtual exercise in their virtual F/A-18 Hornets located in the center's sophisticated simulation cube and dome facilities. At the same time, United States Air Force pilots participated in the simulation from the Distributed Mission Operations Center located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, which is where the exercise was hosted last year. Over 600 hundred soldiers were connected simultaneously, from more than 25 separate facilities, across 3 different continents.

The Australian Minister for Defense Science and Personnel, Hon Warren Snowdon MP, who facilitated this year's exercise, said in a July 2010 Military Technology News article on Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag:

"Virtual exercises are a valuable means of determining important combat mission data in an environment that is safer, less expensive and requires fewer resources. The outcome of the exercise is expected to benefit participating nations by providing mission-critical information relevant to future deployments.”

The Distributed Mission Operations Center in New Mexico was recently recognized by the Pentagon, and awarded the Department of Defense Modeling and Simulation Award for Training. In a United Press International article, Brigadier General Steve Hoog, USAF Warfare Center Commander said:

"Realistic, integrated virtual training using high-fidelity models and simulations is no longer the wave of the future, it is the here and now. Through exercises like Virtual Flag, the Air Force's primary venue to train the entire Theater Air Control System from the Air Operations Center to the shooters, the great folks at the Distributed Mission Operations Center are building and enhancing joint combat capabilities that will increase the likelihood of victory in the next conflict."

It's clear from the investment and commitment that militaries around the world put toward simulation-based training, that these tools and techniques not only work well, but are a necessary component of any training process that involves complex systems, processes, or equipment.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mining & Drilling Industry Relies On 3D Training Simulators

These days we are seeing more and more industries that require the use of heavy equipment and expensive consumables turn to 3D simulators when it comes to training employees. The Mining and Drilling Industry is no exception.

The July, 2010 issue of Drilling Contractor (the official magazine of the International Association of Drilling Contractors) featured an article discussing the major hazards present on offshore oil and gas structures, and how simulation-based training can be used to overcome these dangers.

Interestingly enough, the articles says that most fatal injuries that occur on offshore gas and oil rigs are due to the lifting of equipment. And while providing training simulators for operators to learn on is not new, providing multi-user 3D training simulations for entire crews to train on is. Using technology typically reserved for online video games, multi-user 3D training simulators allow organizations to train their employees on techniques and maneuvers that require a team to work together collaboratively.

Traditional training materials will always have their place, but more and more companies are turning to simulation technology to make sure their employees are receiving the highest possible level of training. In addition, the younger generations spend more and more time working with computers, on the internet, watching televisions, and using cell phones - to this so-called "Net Generation", traditional training materials may fail where newer technology solutions may succeed.

The article references a study done by Chief Learning Officer magazine that draws the following conclusion in regards to simulation-based learning:
"Simulation-based training was seen to have a positive effect and was recommended for ongoing or expanded use in every case. In equipment maintenance, for example, it was found that trainees achieved the same level of proficiency in nearly 60% less time. In truck driving, one hour in a simulator was found to be equivalent to four hours on the road, and operators used less fuel."
Luminant, the largest competitive power generation business in Texas, has a new training facility in East Texas that provides state-of-the-art training simulators to their employees to ensure the safe operation of critical mining equipment. From operating a dragline, to driving a hauler through a mine, the simulators allow operators to train for daily activities before ever putting lives, equipment, or materials at risk.

Luminant Simulator Video

The complexity and cost of modern mining equipment, demands highly skilled and well trained operators. Such operators are required to consistently achieve high production targets while maintaining exceptionally high levels of safety - individually challenging tasks, done simultaneously they become exponentially more difficult. This is where training simulators come in. 3D training simulators are well suited to provide year-round training of mining and drilling related tasks so that operators are as well prepared as possible.

To this end, The Northern Manitoba Mining Academy recently purchased a load haul dumper and an articulated dump truck simulator from ThoroughTec:
"Each simulator cab is a highly realistic replica of the actual equipment, allowing the student to fully familiarize themselves with the controls, instruments and operating procedures. Emergency procedures such as engine fires, tire blow-outs and brake failures can also be safely practiced over and over again on the simulator without fear of damaging equipment or endangering lives - impossible to execute in any other manner. Simulator trained operators are therefore better prepared to deal with these hazardous situations should they occur in the underground environment."
Just like the aviation industry, that is obsessed with safety and the bottom line, more and more industries rely on simulations to help them overcome the training challenges they face.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Zen Bus Driving Simulator

Check out Zen Technology's Bus Driving Simulator, used to provide standardized training by India's State Transport Department:

Drivers must learn to operate the vehicle and handle a number of challenging conditions like traffic, precipitation, freezing temperatures, and dust. The simulation software tests the driver's ability to preform critical tasks, for example the amount of time it takes them to bring the bus to a complete stop in the case of an emergency.

The simulator monitors driver's fuel consumption rates, to alert administrators to inefficient driving, and also delivers a list of all driver mistakes at the end of a simulator session. In the transportation industry, where fuel costs are at a premium, 3D simulators help operators gain the necessary expertise, while allowing organizations to overcome the high costs typically associated with heavy equipment training.

Friday, August 20, 2010

NASA's Moonbase Alpha - Online 3D Space Exploration Game

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released Moonbase Alpha, a free online 3D video game that runs on the Steam network, an online game platform with more than 25 million accounts. NASA teamed up with Virtual Heroes, the US Army's game development studio, to develop this realistic multiplayer lunar simulator. Moonbase Alpha is a precursor to a planned NASA-based massively multiplayer online (MMO) game called Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond.

Moonbase Alpha allows players to join a virtual exploration team that is working on repairing and maintaining a lunar settlement. After a meteor strike cripples the settlement's solar array and life support equipment, the team must work together to restore oxygen flow to the base and other critical services.

Players are able to build, and pilot, robotic repair rovers, that demonstrate lunar physics, in order to work together to make repairs on the settlement.

As with many disaster response training simulators, there are multiple ways to solve the problems the players are presented with. Effective teamwork and intelligent decisions allow players to make the necessary repairs before life support systems shut down.

NASA Moonbase Alpha - Official Trailer

The plan for Astronaut: Moon, Mars & Beyond is to expand the universe of the game, while teaching gamers about the realities of space travel, as well as math and science. The game is being developed in order to help students develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields knowledge and skills.

Moonbase Alpha is a great example of how using realistic interactive 3D simulations, to demonstrate aerospace engineering technologies, can engage and educate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. With the educational potential of online 3D games being rapidly recognized, NASA is actively developing this virtual online collaborative laboratory for students to develop the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills that are required to compete in today's academic and professional disciplines.

Download the game for free from Steam:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oil Drilling Simulators Increase Safety, Efficiency, and Cost Savings

With everything going on in the news right now about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s clear that the drilling industry needs to increase the amount of training their personnel receive. Interactive 3D simulators are an essential components of a training curriculum when it comes to complicated systems like oil or gas rigs - where a small mistake can lead to a catastrophic accident.

Oil and Gas Training Simulator

KCA Deutag, an international oil and gas services company based in the UK, has developed a real-time 3D drilling simulator that gives users virtual hands-on training for rig and drilling operations. The simulator allows a rig crew to train and practice for the drilling of wells in an environmentally and physically safe way. Mistakes made during simulated sessions will have no effect on the surrounding environment, serve as a lesson for what not to do, and allow operators to avoid making the same mistake in the real-world.

Oil Rig Training Simulation

Drilling Systems Limited, another UK-based company, offers their own line of simulators for the oil and gas industry. The simulators deliver operator training for well sites, wellheads, refineries, offshore cranes, and port cranes. Training oil and gas rig operators on a simulator, rather than the real-world facility, can help to reduce the risk to the environment and the amount of rig downtime – both of which lead to a more predictable bottom line.

Virtual Oil Rig Operational Procedure Training

Kongsberg Gruppen, a Norwegian-based company that supplies high-tech systems to the oil and gas industry, merchant marine, and defense and aerospace industries, offers a training simulator for the oil and gas industry as well. Kongsberg’s K-Spice is a process simulator for detailed design and verification of oil and gas processes and control systems at all stages of the process. Kongsberg’s clients report the simulator is an invaluable tool for oil rig operational procedure training, which translates into operator confidence and a increased level of productivity.

If you’re tasked with training personnel to operate complicated systems like oil rigs, you’re aware of the safety and financial risks associated with conducting training on real-world facilities. Interactive 3D simulators give your operators the ability to learn and train effectively while reducing physical, environmental, and financial risks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Medical Training Simulators Improve Hospital's Bottom Lines

Medical training simulators are rapidly becoming one of the most effective and popular uses of simulation-based training software. Medical training simulations can improve the bottom line by providing safe and relatively inexpensive training across many different medical specialties. In addition to providing new training for existing surgical procedures, medical training simulators are critical when it comes to training surgeons for robot-assisted surgeries which are becoming more common every day. Everyone benefits from medical training simulators, including medical and surgical equipment manufacturers, hospital administrators and surgeons, and even patients.

Simulated Surgical Systems provides a Robotic Surgical Simulator (ROSS) that is used to familiarize and train surgeons on the da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery system, practicing everything from cutting tissue and sewing incisions, to complete surgical procedures. The ROSS is divided into three levels:
  1. Motor skills: teaches surgeons the hand-eye coordination skills necessary to work with the robot.

  2. Clinical applications: teaches surgeons how to perform the specific elements of surgical procedures.

  3. Procedures: surgeons must perform virtual hysterectomies and prostatectomy, the 2 most commonly preformed robotic surgery procedures.
Medical simulations are becoming so popular that Banner Health has just established the Banner Simulation Medical Center, a virtual hospital used to train physicians and nurses before they ever treat actual patients.

The Banner Simulation Medical Center, located in Mesa, Arizona, is a 55,000 square foot facility capable of training more than 1,800 medical personnel on patient care situations common to intensive care units, emergency rooms, and operating rooms (including virtual surgery simulators).

Click to watch the Banner Medical Center Grand Opening Video

Health and Hospitals and the City of New York have also started construction on a medical simulation center that will be New York City's largest and most advanced medical training technology center. This $10 million, 10,000 square foot facility located on the Jacobi Medical Center campus in the Bronx, will simulate emergency room, operating room, and other patient care settings to help train health care professionals to master medical procedures. Expected to be completed by the fall of 2010, the simulation center will be able to train 14,000 medical professionals in it's first 3 years of operation.

Medical training simulators are revolutionizing medicine, changing the age-old approaches to training and teaching, and challenging the status quo. Taking advantage of the latest technology allows forward-thinking companies and hospitals to stay ahead of their competitors by providing the highest level of medical training, in a virtual environment where the worst-case scenario is a reboot, and not the loss of an actual patient.

Hospitals have found that the use of medical training simulations can reduce the amount of surgical errors, create time savings in both procedural and instructional settings, provide a reduction in real-world equipment repair costs (due to less trainee access), as well as provide a revenue stream by selling training time on the simulator. Medical training simulators allow for enhanced recruiting, better trainee evaluation, and a higher overall quality of care.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

UPS Trains Drivers With Interactive 3D Driving Simulators

If the training of drivers is part of your business, then driving simulators are for you. United Parcel Service, in an effort to fix the 30% flunk rate of candidates for their almost 100,000 U.S. based driver positions, have integrated an interactive 3D driving game into their training curriculum.

UPS Integrad is a next-generation training facility located just outside of Washington, D.C., with a second location opening in Chicago soon. Using a collection of simulations, employee candidates train for the company's "340 Methods", practices created by their industrial engineers meant to save money and time, as well as improve safety.

In a Wall Street Journal article titled "UPS Thinks Out of the Box on Driver Training", Jennifer Levitz reports that other companies like FedEx, Cisco, and Sodexo are also using simulation-based tools to train their employees.

Companies that adopt new technology are more likely to beat their competitors and survive in turbulent economic times. Driving simulators have been proven to be effective educational tools that teach safe driving techniques to operators of all classes of vehicles.

UPS plans to hire 25,000 new drivers over the next five years, their revenue is predicted to increase 8-10% in 2010, and the S&P gives their stock a 4 star buy rating - they must be doing something right. Does your company provide simulation-based training?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Driving simulators prove useful for new drivers

With the always increasing cost of gas, and the speed of computers, driving simulators have proven to be cost-effective and useful tools when it comes to training new drivers. These days just about every entry level computer you can buy comes with hardware acceleration capable of running real-time 3D simulations. Coupled with a USB steering wheel/pedal set and you're staff is ready to hit the virtual road.

SimuRide, developed by AplusB Software, is a personal driving simulator for beginners who are studying for their driver's license test. This home-based simulator provides a safe introduction to operating a vehicle, where students can practice their driving skills in a virtual world, without the need for expensive gas, supervision, or even a driver's permit. Drivers can gain an understanding of complex maneuvers like parallel parking, passing other vehicles, and merging onto a highway before they ever enter a vehicle.

Available in both Home and Professional versions, the SimuRide Home Edition is available for $75 while the Professional Editions cost between $800 and $1,000. For another $100 you can purchase alcohol glasses for the simulator that simulate drunk driving.

Just like flight simulators are the natural choice for new pilots, driving simulators are a natural choice when it comes to training students how to drive a car. When training is required for specialized vehicles that simulators are not commercially available for, companies turn to simulator software development companies to produce training simulators for their operators. For example, ForgeFX developed an Aircraft Deicing Simulator for Global Ground Support's customers to train to operate the equipment:

Monday, March 29, 2010

CNN report on simulating roadside bombs

With improvised explosive device (IED) attacks more than doubling in the past year in Afghanistan they have become the number one threat to soldiers. The US Army is turning to a training simulator to help prevent soldiers from dying in IED attacks.

The simulator trains soldiers to look for "signatures and observables" that are indicators of potential IED attacks. The training simulator uses up-to-date intelligence and data gathered at a military operations center near Ft. Eustis, Virgina. This data is analyzed and converted for use by the game development engine that runs the simulation software. This allows the simulation to accurately replicate current combat conditions, providing soldiers with valuable training.

When the safety of a nation is at stake, simulation-based learning is a clear cut choice in training. For other mission-critical tasks, and when lives are in the balance, interactive 3D training simulators lead to a higher level of success.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Caterpillar Provides Cost Saving Training Simulators

If you're in the heavy equipment industry, simulators can provide cost savings for your customers. The market leaders in the construction and mining equipment industry are using virtual training simulators to deliver cost saving and safety benefits. In order to compete in today's competitive market, you need to deliver training simulators with your equipment.

A great example is Caterpillar Inc. Caterpillar, better known as CAT, is the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. CAT delivers increased safety and cost savings to their customers through Caterpillar Virtual Training Systems and their custom line of heavy equipment training simulators.

These 3D training simulators are available to the public on the Cat Simulators web site. CAT sells their simulators to customers requiring training on Large and Small Wheel Loaders, Mining and Medium Off-Highway Trucks, and Hydraulic Excavators. The prices range from $11,000 for their Motor Grader Simulator to $25,000 for their Mining Truck Simulator.

The CAT equipment operator training simulators are designed to increase the bottom lines of companies that are using real-world CAT heavy equipment. Suited for both inexperienced and experienced equipment operators, the training simulators provide safety, production, and cost saving benefits to customers.

Cost Saving Benefits
  • Does not require expensive consumables, like diesel fuel and oil.
  • Does not increase engine-use hours on real-world equipment, lowering maintenance costs.
  • Leaves real-world equipment available for billable work.
Safety Benefits
  • Operators can practice complicated maneuvers until they master them.
  • Operators can become familiar with equipment controls before entering real-world vehicles.
  • Training can occur at any time, regardless of weather, time of day, etc

The simulators include a training curriculum that takes an operator from machine control comprehension, to basic equipment operation, to complex machine tasks and mining operation scenarios. The Mining Truck Simulator trains and orients operators on machine operation as well as equipment-specific tasks like loading, hauling, and dumping. The simulator tracks an operator's performance and delivers a scoring report across more than 20 different criteria, including the user's scenario execution time, total time spent in reverse gear, average break temperature, and number of collisions - valuable data when assessing an operator's ability.

The world's largest manufacturer of heavy machinery delivers hands-on training in a safe and economical way by providing operators with virtual training simulators that teach machine controls, operating procedures, and complex construction and mining tasks. CAT's training simulators produce safer operators and result in many cost-reduction benefits for CAT's customers.

Caterpillar achieved better than expected earnings in Q1, with 2010 revenue estimated between $38 billion and $42 billion. On average, analysts are estimating a $2.66 profit on CAT shares in 2010.


The bottom line is that if you're not offering a training simulator with your product, you cannot be competitive with the top industry players.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heavy equipment training simulators increase safety and cost-savings

If you're charged with training people to operate heavy equipment, you're aware of the financial and safety challenges associated with conducting training on real-world equipment. Using highly-realistic simulators attached to Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) controls, allows you to provide your operators with a safe and cost effective training environment.

A good example of one of these simulation systems from the mining industry is featured in the Australian Mining News, March 23, 2010 interview with Brad Rouse, Director at ThoroughTec, a company that specializes in the development of mining simulators.

“Traditional methods of training meant that managers would have no option but to let inexperienced operators drive expensive machinery and accept the increased risk of wear and tear, damage, maintenance costs and potential injury.”
"The cost of removing machinery from production for training as well as the potential damage to the machine is ineffective for mine sites."

Heavy equipment training simulators are used globally by leading mining, engineering, and construction companies, transforming the way industries train their heavy equipment operators.

The benefits of simulation-based training include increased safety, less wear and tear on machinery leading to less down time and production interruptions, and an increased understanding of machine operation. In addition, training simulators can be used to evaluate prospective trainee's abilities and allow experienced operators to keep their skills sharp.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Canadian Air Force report predicts a sharp increase in aerospace training simulation usage


The report, by the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre, and release at the end of 2009 is titled "Projecting Power: Trends Shaping Canada’s Air Force in the Year 2019". The report takes a detailed look at the short term future security environment—specifically the trends, drivers and strategic shocks—that will impact on existing and emerging Air Force concepts and doctrinal designs.

What we found most interesting about this report was the Science and Technology Trends section, specifically the Advances in Simulation Technology sub-section. The report predicts that in ten years computing power and simulation technology will have advanced to the point where 3D simulations will replace training that is currently conducted in actual flight operations.

“If the increase in computing power continues, one can expect a 1,000 to 3,000 percent increase in computing power by the 2019 time frame. For simulation technology, the flight in a 2019 simulator (designed and built with 2015 technology) is expected to provide an experience that is practically on par with actual flying conditions."

The Declining Energy Resources Section predicts rapidly increasing fuel costs, declining crude oil production levels, and less access to reliable energy sources. Coupled with the advancement in simulation technology, it is predicted that using aerospace training simulators will greatly help to offset fuel costs. The report warns that due to rising energy prices over the next 10 years, the Air Force will spend between 200 and 500 million Canadian Dollars on aviation fuel annually.

"The latest simulators of tomorrow’s time frame will be capable of replacing first-stage flight training as well as most collective and operational flight training.”

The report concludes that simulation training technology will be critical in order to counter rising energy prices and still meet the demands of increased number of military operations due to geopolitical instability, without reducing the amount of training pilots receive.

You can read the entire report here: Projecting Power: Trends Shaping Canada's Air Force in the Year 2019

If you’re a training simulation sponsor or considering having a simulation developed for your business, you may be interested in a new Canadian report. The report basically quantifies what we know from common sense: systems that are based around digital technology are going to continue to see exponential improvements in performance along with similar decreases in cost.  Although non-simulated real-world training programs do see quality improvements and find costs efficiencies over time, these gains are limited by real-world constraints. For example costs for energy consumption, fuel usage, physical materials, etc. These limits don’t apply to simulated systems. As technology advances, expect to get more and more for your simulation training budget in the future.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The 3 Stages of Performance Enhancement through Simulation

Don’t take the title the wrong way, this post is all business.

With conventional training, your staff learns competency. This is training for the basics – and that’s about where it stops until operators start getting hands-on experience. With simulation training, performance can be enhanced beyond basic competency prior to real-world experience. Further, seasoned operators can play out optimization experiments in a simulation environment which might not be practical or are too time consuming in a real-world situation.

The 3 stages of performance:

  1. Learning to Do
  2. Learning to Do Quickly
  3. Learning to Do Optimally


Let’s say that your business revolves around the efficient operation of farmer equipment. Safe operation is the baseline requirement, but beyond that, your most efficient operators are the one that really pay the bills.

Learning to Do


The first stage of training is just learning how to get the job done.

In the hay baling example above, a new simulation trainee learns how to steer the hay baler and begin the hay collection and baling process. Their route is semi-random as they’re getting their bearings.

Learning to Do Quickly


After mastering the basic techniques of operating the equipment, the operator takes a systematic approach and goes row by row to collect and bale hay.

Learning to Do Optimally


By experimenting within the simulation environment, and reinforced by a tight feedback loop of performance assessment, scoring, and timing, the operator discovers an optimal approach. By taking every other row, the time consuming tight turn-around at the end of each row is eliminated and scores improve.

Bottom Line

Even in a situation as trivial and simple as the efficient operation of a hay baler, optimization techniques can be found through experimentation. The key is that the operator is having a direct experience with the training material and is able to do trial and error refinements that aren’t possible in training that is non-experiential. Consider the optimization opportunities that are present in other systems which aren’t so simple, and the value of simulation training is clear.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Finding Quality Real-time 3D Simulation Demos

One challenge for sponsors of new simulation projects is locating playable demos of existing simulations. One solution is to demo simulation-style retail games. While training simulations share many qualities of and often use the same technologies as retail games, they're not the same thing. Experiencing a true non-game training simulation product saves development time and money by taking advantage of design patterns that have worked for others.

An existing simulation will not include the exact equipment from your business and may not even be from the same industry, but many of the basic constructs are the same from simulation to simulation. For example, just about every simulation has a title screen, a range of user preferences or settings, ideally a tutorial mode, etc. Once into the actual simulation experience, elements such as virtual camera perspective (1st person vs. 3rd person), navigation controls, etc. also are common across a range a simulation applications.

The majority of completed training and sales simulation products are proprietary and not publicly available, but there are some notable exceptions. These are typically the more game-like simulations which have some appeal to a broad consumer audience. One example is the excellent retail Farming-Simulator 2009.

Farming-Simulator 2009 homepage:

Farming-Simulator 2009 demo download page:

Title Screen

Settings Screen


Driving Tutorial

Hay Baling Tutorial

Taking an hour or so to download/install/demo a completed sim like this is time well spent. This type of demo gives your team and your simulation designer/developer a shared point of reference where you can start discussing what approaches you do and don't like and where you want your simulation to be similar or different.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Iraq & Afghanistan 3D Training Simulation Wins National Modeling & Simulation Award

The University of Texas at Dallas, Arts & Technology (ATEC) Wins National Modeling and Simulation Award for a 3D Interactive Program: First Person Cultural Trainer.

ATEC's First Person Cultural Trainer (FPCT) is a real-time 3D serious game that provides soldiers with the necessary training on cultural issues and values in both Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the project sponsors for the game is the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

When playing the game the user must gain an understanding of social structures, values, and customs in different communities in order to navigate their way through the game and complete the four missions. In the past this kind of training was done using live actors and set creation, a costly and physically limiting solution. Using interactive 3D virtual gaming technology for non-entertainment purposes is affordable, easily distributable, and highly effective.

ATEC's FPCT has been featured at the Modeling & Simulation Leadership Summit and Interservice/Industry Training Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

VSTEP Releases RescueSim Platform

The thing to note about this product is that it is not simply a one-off simulation, but is instead a fully-featured toolkit to construct a variety of unique simulation scenarios (within the limits of the building blocks that are provided).

RescueSim is training software that prepares public safety and security professionals for real-life incidents in a virtual environment.

RescueSim allows emergency crews to experience the incident as they would in real-life. They assess the situation and determine the best response strategy, implement it and then observe the consequences of their decisions.

RescueSim offers important benefits:
  • Train people whenever, wherever without time-consuming planning and preparation
  • Improve operational preparedness of the emergency response organisation
  • Reduce training costs
  • Learn new skills in a safe environment

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Service Rig Drilling Training Simulation

Coole Immersive's Service Rig Training is a 3D simulation that enables service rig drilling workers to learn how to perform critical mining tasks according to industry standards in a safe and cost-effective environment.

This training simulation is a great example of how industries like Mining and Construction, and Oil and Gas, can benefit from using interactive 3D simulations to train their employees without the associated risks and costs of real-world training. The simulation allows the user to train for positions ranging from an Operator all the way down to a Junior Floor Hand, including nearly 60 competency-based training modules.

Coole Immersive's Service Rig Training