University of South Australia helps overcome skills gap

Image: University of South Australia

The University of South Australia (UniSA) will be attracting talent pools to the Australian minerals industry by developing an immersive virtual reality (VR) education and outreach program.

The program, Project Live-MM (learning through immersive virtual environments for minerals and mining), will allow students to become a geologist for a day.

The power of VR will provide an insider’s view of geoscience in action and serve as a launching pad for future careers.

Project Live-MM will be developed over the next two years in synergy with the $215 million minerals industry research project, MinEX CRC, also based at UniSA.

Associate Professor Tom Raimondo, UniSA’s program director of environmental science and geospatial science, said, “The MinEX CRC will effectively act as a research arm for the mineral exploration industry, so not only will UniSA be leading the research that will drive the future of this industry, with these VR modules we’re also doing the outreach it depends on to attract the best talent.”

The project has received $100,000 funding from the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Project Live-MM will capture key geological field sites and activities that showcase core minerals industry capabilities including the application of fundamental geological knowledge, the use of research studies to reveal the subsurface and the demonstration of new technologies in real-life scenarios.

The use of VR is highly advantageous in accessing remote locations where training visits are impractical or cost-prohibitive.

Raimondo said, “People will be able to interact with 3D models to achieve a particular goal, progressively unpacking the information provided to make sense of it.

“So it will function like a series of mini games or tasks within the virtual environment, rather than a passive learning experience that is a bit like a documentary.”

Project Live-MM will incorporate the use of drones surveying, 3D photogrammetry, gigapixel photography, terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), augmented reality apps, among other technologies.

“These modules will give students a critical first impression of the industry that is both fun and stimulating and interactive, and the program will provide early exposure to digitally-enriched learning and technologies that are already being used in professional practice,” Raimondo said.

The project is an extension of UniSA’s virtual reality initiative, Project Live, a cross-disciplinary program that uses VR to create experiential learning exercises.