Digitisation of industrial training gives XR (extended reality) start-ups a shot in the arm

XR start-ups are seeing increased demand from enterprises in manufacturing, construction equipment, power, oil and gas, and automotive among others, for solutions that aid industrial training

Updated - March 12, 2024 05:47 pm IST

Published - March 12, 2024 09:00 am IST - Bengaluru

XR for training and simulations alone is expected to be $300 billion market globally by 2050, say experts.

XR for training and simulations alone is expected to be $300 billion market globally by 2050, say experts. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A leading Indian company in the construction materials sector was facing a particular problem post-COVID. A good portion of the elderly members of its blue-collar workforce stopped coming to work owing to health fears. This meant a lot of newcomers suddenly in the workforce leading to a gap between the required and existing competencies.

“We did a lot of benchmarking and understood there is a need to increase the level of competency of workers,” said a general manager at the company who wished to remain anonymous.

Simulated factory setting by AutoVRse.

Simulated factory setting by AutoVRse. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The search for a technology that would allow them to achieve the desired results in a quick span of time led them to deploy VR applications for industrial training by Bengaluru-based start-up AutoVRse.

The company began by deploying 30 modules in 2021 and is now rolling out 14 more. So far it has trained around 50,000 of its staff using VR. According to the GM, after the deployment of the application, its LTIFR figures (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate tells the number of incidents in which a worker could not resume duty within 48 hours) have come down by more than 53%.

Extended Reality or XR start-ups are seeing increased demand from enterprises in manufacturing, construction equipment, power, oil and gas, and automotive, among others, for solutions that aid industrial training, thanks to the improved safety and actionable insights they offer.

Ashwin Jaishanker

Ashwin Jaishanker | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Industry 4.0

Extended Reality, or XR, is an umbrella term that comprises Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality. According to the report ‘The Potential Global Economic Impact of the Metaverse, ‘ XR is expected to contribute $240 billion to India’s economy by 2030.

XR for training and simulations alone is expected to be $300 billion market globally by 2050, say experts.

“VR training was always reserved for defence or aerospace where they would be trained in multi-million-dollar simulators before they are asked to finally land a fighter jet on a tiny aircraft carrier or other similar tasks in real. Now there’s the option to bring that training to people who are working in any dangerous situation be it in factories, refineries and so on,” says Ashwin Jaishanker, cofounder of AutoVRse.

According to him, one of the main reasons for the VR push among industries is what is referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, or simply the digitisation of industries.

“With Industry 4.0, companies in sectors like manufacturing have been trying to push and adopt technology at scale. VR helps them simulate a world that can replicate their actual working situation. Once you put on the headset, you’re getting something that no other software platform can offer,” he notes.

Yet another reason for the sectors being the first adopters of VR has is also their familiarity with 3D, he says.

“These are industries that have been using 3D, like CAD (computer-aided design – a 2D and 3D design software) for a long time,” he points outs.

InfiVR Simulations for fire trainings.

InfiVR Simulations for fire trainings. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The hardware effect

Atish Patel, co-founder of Bengaluru-based XR company InfiVR, notes that in the last two years, the company has seen a significant rise in demand from enterprises for its applications in training simulations, familiarization, collaborative working, and onboarding solutions.

Atish Patel

Atish Patel | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The sector also saw the launch of new hardware devices such as Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro in the last few months. According to Patel, the hype around the devices has contributed to the buzz.

“Based on our experience, the traction of these devices has increased fourfold since their launch. A few more launches and events around those created a lot of buzz, which gave a lot of push to the whole industry. We are seeing many companies, including Fortune 500 companies, allocating significant budgets for these kinds of activities,” says Patel.

 Sabarinath C. Nair

 Sabarinath C. Nair | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Sabarinath C. Nair, cofounder of XR star-up Skillveri, seconds this. The device’s improved quality and reduced costs have helped, he says.

“The cost of devices has come down to 1/7th to 1/10th of the earlier prices, and you can do better things with it. The interactions are more natural. People don’t feel like they have to learn something new, and the software doesn’t give you a headache,” he says.

Improved efficiency

Investing in an XR application may seem costlier in the beginning, but start-ups in the field swear that cost-benefit is higher in the long run, and their clients see a reduction in the cost of their processes over a couple of years cost-benefit compared to conventional ways.

“Yet another thing is that in these environments, there is heavy attrition since these are high-stress environments. So, when someone new comes in, you need to train them again. In many places the existing system is to do a workshop with the help of an agency. But in many instances, the trainer comes in, ticks the boxes and leaves. There’s no confidence that the person has actually learned what they need to learn.”

“With VR, the advantage is that in an interactive space, you can truly guide them through it. They can learn at their own pace, and the application is designed intelligently,” says Jaishanker.

Patel too notes that the applications introduce efficiency.

“Performances after VR Training have proved to be better than after conventional methods... Also, as per a few case studies implemented by us we have been able to save millions of dollars and precious lives for our clients using XR Trainings,” he says.

Skillveri AURA Z+ welding simulator

Skillveri AURA Z+ welding simulator | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRAGEMENT

Challenges persist

While VR solutions are increasingly seeing adoption from big enterprises, it is not without its share of the challenges.

“Technology is changing things so fast. But when you work with enterprises, some of them are slower to adopt as they are risk-averse,” says Jaishanker, who adds that the team also works with clients to avoid over-engineering.

Yet another challenge is the degree of understanding of VR applications among enterprises. The start-up founders say the client’s lack of understanding of VR and inability to visualize in 3D could all add to the problem.

“It is easier to sell abroad,” notes Nair.

“Here, you have to first convince someone that training is required. Then you have to convince them VR for training is required and, lastly, why VR for training is better. In the West the first two steps are already taken care of. You only have to convince them your product is more relevant than others,” notes Nair.

His client list currently consists of almost equal numbers of enterprises from India and the U.S. However, he expects the latter to increase to 70-80% in the coming years.

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