Envision Center VR app teaches residential construction safety

A Purdue professor has partnered with ITaP’s Envision Center to teach construction workers to avoid falls using virtual reality.

Instead of watching an instructor click through a series of dull PowerPoint slides, trainees can now step into a virtual environment to experience firsthand what it would be like to be working on a construction site, thanks to simulations developed by James Jenkins, associate professor of construction management technology, and the Envision Center.

“We wanted to make the fall safety training more interesting, more interactive and hopefully more effective,” says Jenkins, who teaches construction safety classes at Purdue and plans to use the new simulations in his construction safety class next semester.

With his collaborators Dr. Wanju Huang, clinical assistant professor of learning design, and technology, and Mark Zimpfer, assistant professor of practice in construction management technology, Jenkins wrote scripts for the simulation modules and then turned to George Takahashi and his team at the Envision Center to build the virtual world that would bring the scripts to life.

Jenkins had previously worked with the Envision Center on other fall safety training simulations, but decided to focus this one specifically on residential construction safety because residential construction sites account for a significant number of construction fatalities, a majority of which are due to falls. Overall, the construction industry accounts for a full 20% of all workplace fatalities in the United States, so safety training is an important priority.

While their previous simulations were built using the HTC Vive, the new set of simulations was developed with the Oculus Quest, meaning that a user doesn’t have to be connected to a computer to use it. The Oculus is also cheaper and the choice to design it on that platform means that more people will be able to access it.

This project was entirely funded by a $75,000 grant from the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, grant number SH-05148-SH9, of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) agency of the US Department of Labor. None of the project was financed through non-governmental sources.

For more information about working with the Envision Center, contact envision@purdue.edu

Writer: Adrienne Miller, science and technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-496-8204, mill2027@purdue.edu

Last updated: June 21, 2021