A Whole New World of Maritime Training

November 23, 2018 12:36 pm

Virtual reality (VR) is the future for engaging seafarers who need training as they enter and advance through their careers at sea. The future of maritime training is changing and evolving faster than ever, and virtual reality is a key component of that. KVH Videotel is leading the charge into change, here’s what you need to know…


The term ‘virtual reality’ basically means “near-reality”. Our reality of the world is seen through our senses and perception systems. Usually, we think of our five senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing.

However, humans have many more senses, such as a sense of balance for example. These other sensory inputs, plus some special processing by our brains ensure a flow of information from the environment to our minds. This flow of “data” governs how we react and respond to the world around us, as we perceive it.

Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. Our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information.

So, if you can present your senses with adequately realistic artificial information, our perception of reality will change in response to it. This is how virtual reality works, by presenting our senses with a computer-generated virtual environment that we can explore, interact with and even alter.


Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with. A person becomes part of a virtual world, immersed in an environment and able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.

If an implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software and sensory synchronicity just right it achieves something known as a sense of presence. Where the subject really feels like they are present in that environment. Whether that is standing in Times Square, or yes, even onboard a ship.

There are many different types of virtual reality systems, but they all share the same characteristics such as the ability to allow the person to view three-dimensional images. These images appear life-sized to the person, and the experiences or tasks take on a realistic lifelike quality.

A virtual reality environment ensures a person sees things in real time and they can explore their surroundings. Using a combination of headsets, and sometimes even omnidirectional treadmills and special gloves, the technology stimulate the senses in order to create the illusion of reality.


Wherever it is too dangerous, expensive or impractical to really perform a task, then virtual reality is the answer. Virtual reality allows us to “fake” the risks in order to gain real-world experience. Now that opportunity exists in the maritime industry too.

It is this ability to inject jeopardy and realism, but without danger that makes virtual reality such an incredible training tool. Obviously, it is better and safer for surgeons in training to perfect their techniques virtually rather than on other than real humans. Now fully-interactive, accurately modelled specimens, allow training surgeries to be carried out through a VR interface, and doctors can be tested like never before.

This makes for better-trained, better-performing surgeons – something that’s better for all of us. While for the airline industry, virtual reality is an incredibly powerful training resource. Pilots already learn to fly using flight simulators, but now they can have a far more immersive and realistic to properly hone their skills.

VR is increasingly that technology and has the power to change the way that training is conducted. Physical boundaries between the trainee and their online training environment are removed. The person simply dons a headset and is instantly immersed in their training world.


1. Remove the Risk, Keep the Jeopardy: Virtual Reality in online training gives you the ability to immerse trainees in dangerous situations without putting them in harm’s way. They don’t need to worry about making mistakes or trying out new techniques, because they are learning the ropes in a safe environment. Virtual Reality is the next best thing to real-world training, which allows them to see how they’ll perform under pressure.

2. Provide Mistake-Driven Learning: Mistakes are forgivable, but not learning from them is not. Virtual Reality is great at providing mistake-driven learning. Users have the power to fail, try out new solutions, and see where their choices lead them in a risk-free setting. They can see how they’ll react in stressful situations and identify performance gaps that are standing in their way.

3. Transport the Trainee: Now trainees can be “onboard” a vessel, in the engine room, or on the Wheelhouse in a split second by putting on a Virtual Reality headset. Virtual Reality worlds give the opportunity to be at sea, while ashore. They can be trained on vessel specifics, or new equipment – without the costs or inconvenience of travel.

4. All About Immersion: Immersive VR transports trainees into an environment that is specifically designed to support learning. These experiences cannot be obtained in any other way informal education, and learning is boosted by the manipulation of the relative size of objects. It is not enough to talk about pumps, or engines, or how to react to other vessels – seeing them and having to react is extremely powerful and a persuasive means of training.

5. Access all Areas: Virtual reality provides new forms and methods of visualisation, and can more accurately illustrate some features, processes, and so forth than by other means, allowing extreme close-up examination of an object, observation from a great distance, and observation and examination of areas unavailable or impractical by other means.

6. Virtual reality motivates students: VR requires interaction and encourages active participation rather than passivity. The immersive nature of VR grabs and holds the attention of trainees, and they find it exciting and challenging to walk through an environment in their own reality, but virtual three-dimensional worlds.

7. In Your Own Time: VR allows the learner to proceed through an experience during a broad time period not fixed by a regular class schedule, at their own pace. It transcends language barriers and is about the solution needed to be provided by the trainee.

KVH Videotel recently provided demonstrations of VR training during the CrewConnect Global Conference in Manila, alongside OMS-VR, and it proved incredibly popular. Both seafarers and shipping company executives alike flocked to try their hand at a series of shipboard tasks.

We think that VR has so much to add to maritime training – and we are extremely excited by the whole new (virtual) world of possibilities. We would love to hear your thoughts and to know what you think. What shipboard activities would translate best into VR? Let us know your thoughts.

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