Tone-Merete Hansen discusses the next steps for maritime simulation

Today’s maritime simulators provide a highly accurate analogue of ships, their control systems and the ports, harbours, seaways and oceans they operate in. Comparatively low-cost computing power has given rise to rich, life-like visual scenes, and water and line physics indistinguishable from the real thing, while expert simulation coders and model developers can mirror the intricacies of a ship’s movement at sea to the nth degree.

Of course, the work to re-create reality will only be complete when we have a true Star Trek style Holodeck. And while this could be possible in the centuries to come, Virtual Reality (VR), another technology that was once sciencefiction, is already starting to make its mark on the maritime world.

VR is currently in a renaissance period. Those of us that grew up with videogames will remember the periodic attempts of forwardthinking technology companies to place us ‘in’ the virtual world. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy is perhaps the most famous, but like all attempts that came before and after, it was a product out of its time. The computing power to provide a reactive, realistic visual scene via a strap-on headset just wasn’t available.

It is now though. VR has progressed to a point where a true 360° scene in all directions can be generated with imperceptible lag, meaning that when you move with your headset on, the virtual world you are viewing moves perfectly with you. Unsurprisingly the primary application is gaming and some incredible experiences are already available, from high-octane motor racing to fantastical underwater safaris.

But maritime simulation is catching up. Kongsberg Digital has been studying the implication of VR on the future of training crew and engineers since the VR renaissance started with the introduction of Samsung’s Gear VR, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vice. The driver was to apply the advanced realism of VR to make students feel like they are actually on board a vessel. As a result of this work, a new VR mode for K-Sim Engine Room Simulators will soon be available.

People are much more likely to remember actions they have performed themselves than those taught in conventional classrooms or shown in videos. 3D and VR training enables marine engineer students to familiarise themselves with their future work environment. Long before they set foot in a real-life engine room, they can spend time in a virtual real-life engine room. Using VR, marine engineering personnel are able to begin training while a vessel is still under construction, reducing the time needed to prepare the crew for their tasks and ensuring readiness when the vessel enters service.

While engine room simulation was the first logical application for VR, Kongsberg Digital is also in the process of developing and testing new disruptive VR solutions for K-Sim Navigation and K-Sim Offshore simulators, for the training of navigators and deck officers. A new R&D project recently granted by the Research Council of Norway will ensure further development of innovative simulators and methodology with the use of Mixed Reality (MR), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Augmented Virtual Reality. The project will add further advancements to fully take advantage of the technology’s powerful interactive learning potential.

In addition to training, VR can be used to test equipment and products in a virtual environment before they are made. This will save time and money while simultaneously increasing quality and flexibility.

Another important development within maritime simulation is eLearning and leveraging its potential to fit with cloud-based delivery platforms. Bridging this gap, new K-Sim eLearning solutions will be available online through the new KONGSBERG open ecosystem, kognifai. It gives students, maritime training institutes and ship owners online cloud-based access to simulation exercises as a time- and cost-efficient supplement to classroom training.

This new approach enables students to self-study at their own pace, with the possibility to practice anytime and anywhere until they fully understand the scenario. Students are given the ability to train in a realistically simulated environment on their own PC and given guidance and automatic feedback through an eCoach system as if an instructor was present. The system features built in testing and assessment functions.

As it is a cloud-based system, training centres can offer a more flexible service to shipping companies, while enabling a number of efficiencies including saving time through access to pre-made course-wear and saving money on PC equipment, since students don’t necessarily need access to classroom PCs. It will be a costefficient method for teaching basic skills before moving on to a higher level of training, where fullmission simulators or VR come into play.

Extrapolating to the end-customer, the ship owners and manning companies, cloud-based eLearning becomes a new way for them to refresh, maintain and monitor crew competence while reducing traditional onboard training requiring access to vessels and equipment. Training can be provided on board or when it is specifically required e.g. before a demanding operation. But perhaps one of the biggest attractions will be the potential to save money as course participants don’t need to travel to a training facility.

Digital platforms like kognifai can open a world of new possibilities within maritime training. In addition to easy access to advanced simulator technology, education and training centres and other partners will get the possibility to connect, develop and perform business through kognifai. The training institutes will for example, be given the opportunity to both upload and store exercises as well as share and provide course packages, not only to their own students, but also to other training centres and partners.

The aim is to help clients to educate and train seafarers, and to acquire and share knowledge promoting safety, cost-efficiency and innovation by providing easy access to simulation solutions and services. kognifai is the home of a multitude of digital shipping applications and services developed by KONGSBERG and third parties. In the context of simulation, itsability to simplify and optimise education and training as well as catalyse new business opportunities is an important next step towards the further digitalisation of maritime training and the industry itself.

Tone-Merete Hansen is Sr. Vice President at Kongsberg Digital, Maritime Simulation. Kongsberg Digital is a provider of next generation software and digital solutions to customers within maritime, oil & gas and renewables & utilities. The company consists of more than 500 software experts with leading competence within internet of things, smart data, artificial intelligence, maritime simulation, automation and autonomous operations. Kongsberg Digital is the group wide centre of digital expertise for KONGSBERG.