Client wins award for VR content made with Near-Life

Near-Life users, Unison Group, win award for VR work

Unison wins eea award for VR project

Leading New Zealand utilities company, Unison Group, were looking for innovative ways to engage people around their work to support  a sustainable energy future. 

As part of this, Unison decided to share designs for one of their new energy substations, which had  won a Low Carbon Future Award at the New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards.

Unison Group chief executive, Jaun Park, said the aim was to: 

“accelerate the progress of our industry towards a sustainable energy future”. 

The Windsor substation was constructed using locally sourced, repurposed and environmentally friendly materials, including the use of 46 salvaged Unison power poles from the 1950s. The site also captures and recycles water and a native habitat was established outside. The project was designed to be modular so it can be replicated and built again across the network. It is also relocatable. It is the first of its kind in New Zealand. 

Award-winning virtual tour

Attendees at the Electricity Engineers’ Association conference had the opportunity to explore Unison’s Windsor substation and see the innovations for themselves.

Built using Near-Life’s interactive video and VR authoring tool, the immersive virtual tour won Unison the Best Technology Exhibition Stand Award at the conference by transporting participants from Te Pae in central Christchurch to Sylvan Road in Parkvale, Hastings. The 360-degree experience begins from the slightly unnerving vantage point of a bucket truck platform about 3 metres above ground level.

Woman wearing VR headset and using VR hand controllers - virtual reality has the advantage of being a safe way of providing experiences, especially for work that carries risks in the field.

Once acclimatised, voice and text prompts guide visitors through the site, pointing out features that went towards the Living Building certification including recycled materials used in construction, rainwater harvesting and the solar array.

Unison learning experience manager, Rachel Masters, says the award was a great validation of the work that went into developing the experience. She says the idea of the tour arose from brainstorming how they could get people to the substation site as part of its recruitment processes.

“We flipped that on its head and decided to take the substation to them instead.”

Training opportunities

Unison have big plans for Near-Life in the future.  They are looking at many more ways to use the technology, including as an approach to immersive learning for staff.

Masters says virtual reality has the advantage of being a safe way of providing experiences, especially for work that carries risks in the field.

“For line mechanics, live line work has safety risks. This is a way that we can provide a training experience in complete safety.”

Masters also sees how it could be used to refresh skills and provide reminders about how tasks should be correctly performed.

The immersive learning approach  will also provide a way to standardise instruction, as “everyone will have the same experience” no matter who is leading the training.

The Windsor video was filmed on a 360 Go-Pro and then the interactive experiences were developed within the Near-Life platform.

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