Public Awareness – The Unveiling of New York 811’s New VR-X-SIM

Ready for Reveal

Throughout the winter I’ve had the pleasure of revealing aspects of New York 811’s new VR-X-SIM, an immersive virtual reality (VR) tool with the potential to revolutionize the way we think about damage prevention education, damage investigation, and how we train excavators. After years of hard work alongside our partners, UTTO and IPEG, we’re finally ready to reveal the machine this spring! But before we do, I wanted to talk a little about the how the VR-X-SIM came to be, and why the process is so important to future innovation in damage prevention.

Where it Began

The idea for the VR-X-SIM, or at least the concept of a system for replicable excavation scenario training, is not new. In fact, over a decade ago I had the idea to create a “Safety Town” for excavator training. For a variety of reasons, the “Safety Town” method was not as viable as I had hoped, but the idea remained: What if we could create a tool that replicated a job site in such detail that we were able to manipulate and measure individual variables and their effects on damages?

The idea was put on the backburner for a while. Scaling a physical replication of the excavation process and its near-endless factors seemed out of reach. As time passed, though, technology caught up to the vision. The two collided when I saw what UTTO was doing in utility locating. By integrating their technology with existing locate technician processes, an untapped well of data was suddenly available – data that was there all along but could finally be captured and used to improve safety and efficiency! That core concept, collecting data points from as many parts of a process as possible, could be transferred to the entire excavation process with VR-X-SIM.

Challenges

It is easy for me to get caught up in the endless possibilities of the simulator, but I think it is important to note that the road from inspiration to finished product was far from straight. First, and maybe most obvious to fellow One Call readers, this initiative was naturally expensive. It is brand-new technology being originated and customized for the needs of the industry. Luckily, the NY811 Board of Directors saw the potential in the concept and its impact on the industry and voted in favor of funding.

Second, like any damage prevention initiative, there were questions about whether the simulator could truly move the needle in the industry. That is the point after all: To effect real change that protects buried infrastructure and the people who rely on it. To this point, we believe in the idea and its potential so strongly that NY811 has filed a patent on it. We believe that virtual reality, and eventually augmented reality, will play a critical role in the future of damage prevention. We are investing accordingly.

Lessons Learned

Despite the loftiness of the idea and the expense of executing it, together with UTTO and IPEG, NY811 has managed to complete the VR-X-SIM to our original vision. It took perseverance, constant collaboration, and, most importantly, a collective shared vision of a massive technological leap forward for the industry. We believe it is a positive example of what can happen when the industry collaborates with innovative technologies.

The Full Reveal

Visit ExcavationSafetyAlliance.com to watch the recording of the unveiling of the VR-X-SIM (available April 12) for a glimpse of the exciting future of excavation safety! D

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