Mining Feature: NIOSH Mining Brings Expertise to Washington

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

NIOSH Mining researchers Tim Orr, Will Helfrich, and Brendan Macdonald of the Technology Integration team within the Mining Program’s Human Factors Branch recently shared their technical expertise with fellow government workers who had developed an immersive, virtual reality-capable space.Tim Orr shows colleagues a surface mining operation in virtual reality.

The three researchers work extensively with the Virtual Immersion and Simulation Laboratory—better known as VISLab—at the NIOSH Pittsburgh Mining Research Division (PMRD) campus. The VISLab allows Mining Program behavioral scientists, trainers, and mine design engineers to examine how workers perceive threats in their workplaces, what design challenges might be seen in 3D images of actual work settings, and how individuals and groups choose to react in life-like emergency scenarios.

Through connections made in a technology working group, Orr got the word out about the VISLab’s capabilities. Because of these connections, Orr, Helfrich, and Macdonald were at the top of the list when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C., needed help developing content for their own VR space similar to the VISLab’s 360-degree theater.Orr points out details in a 360-degree view of a maintenance shop.

As HHS staff readied their new space, they needed example applications to show other HHS staff what their facility could handle. Several weeks ago, the three PMRD researchers were asked to bring their vast knowledge of VR to Washington in order to test out the new room. They uploaded multiple digital scenarios to the system and put the technology through its paces. By all accounts, the visit went well.

“We’re planning to develop an Intra-Agency Agreement that will allow us to share some resources, learn from each other, and help teach some other groups what we have learned,” Orr said.

The HHS system is regularly used for disaster planning, strategic response exercises, and data modeling.

Page last reviewed: March 31, 2017
Page last updated: March 29, 2017