Students from the UK-based Solihull College & University Centre’s computing degree course have created a virtual reality (VR) carriage for Virgin Trains that could be used to train staff in the future.
Virgin Trains approached the college in October 2018 after members of its training team were impressed by the VR demos created by the students as part of their course.
The students developed software that recreates health and safety scenarios inside a virtual carriage kitchen. In putting trainees through their paces in VR, new members of staff can tackle safety issues in a virtual setting, which can then be deployed in real situations.
This includes dealing with kitchen-related accidents on a moving train that could lead to injury.
Examples of the virtual kitchen and carriage created by students at Solihull College & University Centre. Image credits: Virgin Trains
The VR headset immediately transports the wearer to the ‘carriage, which mirrors a Virgin Train. Hand-held devices are used to practise their duties ‘on board’ and to deal with health and safety issues.
Virgin Trains said it hopes VR could be used for safety initiatives and training for new members of the catering team, aiming to explore what might happen in a health and safety incident in a train kitchen.
A demonstration of the new technology was held recently at Solihull College. Among the attendees were head of safety for Virgin Trains, Garry Hall, and IT project manager Richard Taylor, along with on-board managers who tried out the new VR headsets.
Hall said of the VR experience: “The carriage is far more realistic than I expected, and the train is very close to the actual thing. It’s the first time Virgin Trains have taken part in a partnership project like this and the potential is massive.”
On-board manager Andy Rennie Scrivens added: “This project gives trainees the possibility to reach every area of the train, for training new starters or refresher training it could be a massive plus. The likeness to the kitchen is brilliant; I can see this being useful to everyone working at every level.”
Mohammed Mayer, head of computing at Solihull College, commented: “This is the latest trend in training employers. Virtual technology can not only develop a simulation to create something simple like making a coffee but this can now extend to building an entire train carriage. This sort of project supports solving a real-life problem with VR technology. It has been a fantastic achievement by the students and one we hope to see implemented.”