Virtual training for all the senses a reality

Ashley Nugent and Jeremy Orr of OCE VR and VirtuReal. | Newsreel
Jeremy Orr, founder of VirtuReal, and Ashley Nugent (left), who co-founded OCE VR with Mr Orr, with the unique VirtuReal system. | Photo: Supplied by VirtuReal

By Steve Zeppa

Two Gold Coast entrepreneurs have developed highly immersive virtual reality simulation systems which have attracted the interest of defence and emergency services across the world.

Jeremy Orr, founder of VirtuReal, and Ashley Nugent, co-founder of OCE VR with Mr Orr, are at the cutting edge of the virtual reality (VR) revolution, operating out of the Gold Coast.

VirtuReal develops Translocative and Fully-Immersive VR simulations for tactical and weapons training within defence and first responder organisations.

Mr Orr said he knew of no other publicly available dismounted personnel-focused product which brought together a range of systems and interfaces to offer coverage of as many of the major human senses.

VirtuReal’s Translocative VR system allows users to freely move about within, interact with, and receive feedback from virtual environments on a far broader scale than the room they are physically in.

“Our system has such a small footprint. You can do it all in a 2x2m space,” Mr Orr said.

This small footprint is possible thanks to the system’s unique mechanical omni-directional treadmill which allows freedom of movement in any direction and at any pace, within a set area.

A host of hardware integrations, such as 8k VR headsets, full body haptic suits and gloves, electromagnetic recoil system integrated weapon platforms, olfactory devices and optical tracking complete the set up.

Mr Orr said the system was designed to facilitate a seamlessly integrated physical and virtual experience, enabling users to utilise their standard operational equipment and naturally interact physically with virtual tasks, all while receiving real-time feedback to authentically simulate participation in virtual scenarios.

“If you have to think about clicking buttons on a controller to do something, then the training is over.”

He said the Australian Army and some civil emergency services had shown interest in the system, as had other partners across the world.

An appealing aspect of the system is the ability to network multiple platforms at the same location, or distributed across the country, to provide interoperable collective training scenarios.

The VirtuReal website plays out a scenario where there is a need to train dismounted combatants to deploy into, out of, and fight alongside infantry fighting vehicles and other mounted assets in complex environments.

Mr Orr said that with this system, a group of eight dismounted combatants could run an exercise simultaneously with each other, alongside several mounted assets.

“Four could be in Brisbane and four could be in Perth and when they take their headsets off, they just get off the treadmill.”

Mr Orr and Mr Nugent have been working in the VR space since 2012 when they were classmates studying a Bachelor of Computer Games at Bond University.

Mr Orr saw the potential and asked why you needed to be confined to a limited physical space and be restricted to non-natural interfaces to use VR.

His questioning nature led to the first prototype of today’s system being created 10 years ago.

Over a decade of development time, the two have been waiting for technology to catch up their ideas, partnering in 2022 with OCE VR to form a new consumer and developer focused company.

Mr Nugent said to supplement the high-end development work, OCE VR offered commercial services in lower-fidelity systems, including applications in workplace health and safety, featuring environments for the likes of VR process training and dangerous site simulation.

He said the company was also always looking for ways to help the industry and wanted to raise awareness of the VR market.

“We are excited to help other developers enhance their products” Mr Nugent said.

And operating out the of Gold Coast made that work easier.

Mr Nugent said the Gold Coast boasted a great diversity of customer-facing industries, such as film and tourism, and because it was smaller than Brisbane it was easier to find like-minded professionals.

“The Gold Coast is a beautiful city and for many a desirable end-destination, so you have an incredibly diverse set of industry professionals with a lot of knowledge.”

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