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Pictured is Jaylin Gillam posed with the VR head set. The project, known as the Hazard Elimination/Risk Oversight program, is an immersive simulation that teleports users into a virtual construction site riddled with potential hazards in an effort to reinforce safety training among its employees.

Haskell, a leading architecture, engineering and construction firm, has partnered with Kennesaw State University’s College of Computing and Software Engineering on developing an innovative virtual reality training aid.

The project, known as the Hazard Elimination/Risk Oversight program, is an immersive simulation that teleports users into a virtual construction site riddled with potential hazards in an effort to reinforce safety training among its employees. Originally conceived by Dysruptek, the corporate venture arm of Haskell tasked with developing emerging construction technologies, the program was refined by a team of KSU software developers and students over a six-month period.

HERO works by mimicking an actual wastewater treatment plant project handled by Haskell in St. Petersburg, Florida. Using 3D and drone imagery to recreate the setting, the program is populated by randomized characters and hazards, such as unprotected leading edges, in order to test the users’ ability to recognize jobsite hazards. Users can tag objects spread throughout the timed simulation and are given a score based on how many at-risk observations they discovered. Users can also identify safe conditions and tag them accordingly.

Hamzah Shanbari, manager of construction technology and innovation at Dysruptek, said the project can trace its roots to his doctoral dissertation at the University of Florida, in which he developed an educational video game to teach high-level construction management concepts. Eager to apply a similar concept at Haskell, he began building HERO on the Unity gaming platform but was unable to commit to the project full time. The company engaged a number of professional software developers for proposals to complete HERO before Cutler Knupp, director of strategy and technology investments at Dysruptek and a 2012 KSU graduate, suggested they reach out to the university’s computer game design and development faculty.

After meeting with CCSE Dean Jon Preston to share its vision for what the project could be, Haskell was introduced to a team composed of assistant professor of gaming Rongkai Guo and VR software developer Jaylin Gillam, and student assistants Luke Crowley and Michael Revit, who immediately began work on perfecting the program.

Throughout the process, Haskell was awestruck by the work produced by the university, Hamzah said. Over the last six months, both groups would hold conference calls and in-person meetings to discuss HERO’s progress and provide feedback before delivering the latest version in early August.

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