Competencies - January 2021

An introduction to Virtual Reality

The new way of learning

With Virtual Reality (VR), apprentices are to learn to press large dimensions of the Geberit Mapress piping system. Is this actually possible without being able to hold the right product, using VR on its own? Yes, it is. This is something demonstrated by a project study of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich.

It does look a little strange when someone wearing a large VR headset and holding special gaming controllers starts fiddling around in empty space. If you take a closer look, though, you will in fact see that someone is actually holding a virtual Geberit pressing tool in their virtual hands and, with great concentration, is pressing a large digital Mapress fitting with similarly virtual pressing collars. During the study, another group of apprentices wore gloves equipped with small sensors. This makes it possible for them to pick up a real Geberit pressing tool equipped with VR sensors and press with it virtually. The ETH study is designed to show not only whether VR can work as a teaching aid, but also whether the weight of real machines is needed in order to achieve success. Take a look at the following video to see the whole process in action.

Trial at the Vocational College in Lenzburg
The advantage of virtual training is obvious, although perhaps not visible. “In both economic and ecological terms, it would be ridiculous to produce large quantities of metal scrap just to be able to say the apprentices have all pressed the large diameters once,” says Nicola Palmisano, accompanying the project on behalf of Geberit. “The really large diameters don’t crop up all that often in the everyday life of a plumber, so the cost-benefit calculation certainly wouldn’t be balanced if you used real products. But with the VR model, users can repeat the pressing procedure as often as they want.”

Virtual experience, real enthusiasm
But you have got to ask whether experiencing something virtually actually helps in the learning process? “Both the instructors at the vocational college, as well as old hands in the sanitary industry and the apprentices are totally convinced of the possibilities,” says project manager Joy Gisler from ETH. Virtual technology is here – it just has to be accepted in the real world.