Virtual reality set to revolutionise explosives education

11th December 2015

By: David Oliveira

Creamer Media Staff Writer


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Virtual reality (VR) will revolutionise education, said University of Pretoria mining engineering department senior lecturer Wolter de Graaf at the inaugural Explosives Education and Research in Africa seminar, held in Johannesburg last month.

De Graaf was speaking in light of the achievement in the area of mine design, following the launch of the Kumba VR Centre for Mine Design in August, but highlighted the potential for the centre to disseminate practical explosives knowledge by placing students in a three-dimensional (3D) immersive blasting environment without any threat to personal safety.

He asserted that the university’s nine-month blasting engineering course could be significantly shortened through the interactive training on offer at the VR centre: “What would normally take an hour to achieve in a lecture room will take ten minutes to achieve in the VR centre.”

De Graaf added that concepts were communicated more effectively when using the VR centre, resulting in students’ understanding of material being enhanced, course material being completed faster and errors being reduced.

The VR centre comprises an immersive 3D facility with a 360° view of a computer-generated environment, a mine design lecture hall and a 3D cinematic theatre. These features could all be used for a number of blasting applications, such as preoperational safety checks on explosives trucks, De Graaf pointed out.

The centre could also be used to model an explosives truck that could be disassembled to provide 3D representations of critical components, he added.

Further, errors could be built into the truck, such as a pump running dry, to show the consequences of mistakes in a safe environment. This could help students to identify and correct the mistakes, subsequently providing practical work experience.

Real-life incidents could be reconstructed using the VR centre, including misfires and how a misfire should be managed.

The centre could also be used to display inaccurate drilling and its impact on a blast, as well as provide visuals of the detonation process, displaying the interaction between explosives and rock mass during a blast. Different loading equipment could be displayed to show the equipment used to load various muck piles generated by different blast designs.

However, despite the many possibilities offered by VR technology, De Graaf acknowledged that much work still needed to be done and urged the explosives sector to engage with the university so that both parties could determine the needs of the sector and design solutions ideally suited to address those needs.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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