Technology

VR site safety test that knows your weakest points

1 September 2020

London Southbank University (LSBU) is developing a site health and safety training VR tool that can target a user's weak spots.

The tool, presented as a VR game, is married to a psychometric test that the user must take before using the tool, ensuring they experience bespoke challenges each time they engage with the system.

The project is led by LSBU’s Dr Zulfikar Adamu. Some similar VR training tools are in development across the construction industry, however he notes his system’s unique qualities: the psychometric test approach means that each trainee gets a customised training regime, while its game-like feel will encourage regular engagement for continuous development. Indeed, Dr Adamu refers to the tool as being part of the 'serious game' genre, and thus someone using it is a player.

Each time a player starts the game, they must answer about 60 questions based on the established Big Five 'OCEAN' psychometric test. 'OCEAN' stands for five key behavioural traits:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Dr Adamu explains: "We all display different aspects of those five traits. The game reviews the player’s answers to the questionnaire and establishes which of the categories are critical, and then formats the order and intensity of game’s health and safety hazards around those areas."

We all display different [behavioural] traits. The game reviews the player’s [traits] and establishes which are critical, and then formats the order and intensity of game’s health and safety hazards around those areas.– Dr Adamu, LSBU

No 'gaming the game'

Furthermore, each time the game is played, the player will start from a different part of the virtual construction site. Thus, Dr Adamu says, each player will have a unique experience each time they play the game and crucially, it prevents players from 'gaming the game', which is an exploitative (even cheating) strategy that could happen when players know what to expect during certain game sequences.

The hazards on the virtual construction site are drawn from Health & Safety Executive (HSE) data: falling equipment, working from height, fire and so on. Specific health hazards are addressed via the likes of cement dust (did the player put on their mask?) or persistent loud noise (did the player put on their ear defenders?). Other variables that the player will face include changing weather and different equipment and tools.

When a player has finished playing, they are given a score. "It being a game, the chances are even if you meet the minimum score, you would want to play again to better your score," says Dr Adamu. "Peer-pressure will also play its part: players will want the bragging rights of being the best in their company and even across many companies in a country due to their popularity or prestige on leaderboards."

How the game will help construction

The ultimate platform for the game is necessarily a VR headset (such as HTC Vive). However Dr Adamu’s plan is that the game will also be available for both desktop and smart TV, played via keyboard and mouse or joystick. With the game then being in the home, there is the chance it could attract new talent to the industry, he says, when children see and ask their 'player' parents about the equipment and construction works. It is not impossible, according to Dr Adamu, for tech savvy millennials to defeat their parents in such games, once they understand what goes on in a construction site.

He thinks the average playing time will be 30 minutes to an hour, but the player can play for as long as they want.

One of Dr Adamu’s possible visions for use of the game is site staff being required to play the game once a month as a regular refresher, with the player’s results available to be reviewed by a health and safety professional. There is no current plan for the player’s psychometric test results to be made available to a third party but it is not impossible for the results to be used to determine the premium for a construction worker's/player’s health insurance, for example.

Initially developed with funding from the Royal Charter International Research Award (supported by the BRE Trust and the Worshipful Company of Contractors), the project now needs a second round of funding to get to full market trials.

Dr Adamu concludes: "If we get that funding, then it should be ready to be trialled by the market in the final quarter of 2021."

For more information, watch Dr Adamu’s video about the project here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5Bv9OnmMMM&t=7s

Dr Adamu can be contacted via the LSBU webpage: https://www.lsbu.ac.uk/about-us/people/people-finder/dr-zulfikar-adamuor directly on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zulfikaradamu/

Main image: a screenshot from the VR game.