Virtual reality technologies gaining traction in South African mining sector – by Ilan Solomons (MiningWeekly.com – November 13, 2015)

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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The use of virtual reality (VR) technologies in the South African mining industry has grown considerably over the last year, particularly on the back of the University of Pretoria (UP) opening its R50-million Kumba Iron Ore Virtual Reality Centre for Mine Design.

Local software developer NxGN CEO Gary Lane is hopeful that VR will become more widely used in South Africa over the next three years, suggesting that UP’s VR centre, which opened in August, is “undoubtedly [the] catalyst for VR in the country”.

UP Mining Engineering Department head Professor Ronny Webber-Youngman postulates that, although people might be tempted to think that immersive VR technology is a bit superficial or simply a “cool” way of displaying information, “VR can, through either three-dimensional (3D) stereoscopic and/or immersive applications, provide first-hand experience of mining scenarios without any of the associated negative consequences”.

He adds that, instead of communicating in words, pictures or video clips, VR enables people to communicate in a new-age language of ‘seeing is believing’.

Local 3D-simulation technology provider Simulated Training Solutions (STS) MD Wilhelm Prinsloo tells Mining Weekly that it is critical for mineworkers to understand cause and effect when they are dealing with hazards, particularly in underground operations.

It is difficult to recreate mining conditions in a classroom setting, but using 3D simulated images creates an authentic experience of mining conditions and scenarios, which provides users with a sense of being immersed in the mining experience.

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