OneBonsai enables businesses, hospitals, and law enforcement to train in virtual environments. The company is now working on a ‘metaverse platform’ to democratize such training.
Hopefully, it won’t happen to you, but if hospital staff have to create an opening in your windpipe called a tracheostomy, chances are they’ve been trained in virtual reality (VR). This is one of the training courses that the Vilvoorde company OneBonsai has developed for Belgian hospitals.
Belgian Navy – Virtual Reality Fire Training
Belgian Navy uses virtual reality training to fight fires, police learn to control hostage situations in schools. It can be realistic and stressful. ‘We use virtual characters that are controlled by artificial intelligence. Then they react with panic to the situation or to the emergency services”, says Evarest Schoofs. She founded OneBonsai together with Dimitri Pirnay.
- The Vilvoorde OneBonsai develops training courses in virtual reality (VR).
- It focuses on professional training scenarios for law enforcement agencies in hospitals, fire brigades, and warehouses.
- In addition to custom projects, the company offers standardized products to democratize virtual reality training.
In Vilvoorde they also heard from Mark Zuckerberg, who now calls his company Meta instead of Facebook. He speaks of the ‘metaverse’, a combination of virtual reality, augmented reality and ordinary online environments. “Silicon Valley is heavily focused on the consumer,” says Schoofs. ‘But the technology can also be used for vocational training. That’s what we focus on.’
China is strong on hardware and the US on money and marketing. But Europe and Belgium are strong on content.
OneBonsai works together with Acco Learn for Business to chart an “educational journey”. ‘The technology is easy to copy. A training process is already much more difficult’, says Schoofs. In terms of content, it’s also important that developers know what they’re doing. “They have to sit next to the customer. Our developers are going to put out a fire or see a tracheostomy.’
Step-by-step plans are being developed in which more pilot projects are developed. A multinational is now training staff in its distribution centers with OneBonsai virtual reality. That works better than in the physical environment. Training now takes two days instead of five.’ Now there are hundreds of employees.
Virtual environments are created from scratch or can be digital twins of physical environments. Customers then pay a lump sum and maintenance costs.
OneBonsai creates standard packages to make these projects manageable for smaller organizations as well. Different standardized training worlds are offered in a kind of metaverse. Think of tracheostomy care, fire drills, or evacuation drills at health care facilities. It can also be training in the port or in industry.
A client pays per user a license that ranges between 12 and 25 euros per year. This opens the door to eventually allowing individuals to be trained in virtual reality to control fires and provide first aid.
A ‘metaverse’ assumes that a virtual environment can communicate with other virtual environments. ‘Our training situations can be combined with other training courses, also from other providers. Paramedic training at a disaster site can be combined with police training,’ says Schoofs.
In 2020, OneBonsai received support from business angels and the Flemish government agency Vlaio. “These investors are looking for exponential growth in revenue from off-the-shelf products, the training metaverse,” says Schoofs. ‘Last year was challenging, customers had a lot on their minds. But they are catching up. We expect turnover to double next year and look forward to an investment round in 2023.”
Our developers have to sit next to the client. They are going to put out a fire or witness an operation in the hospital.
The company works abroad with distributors and resellers. Thus, it is present in Israel, Dubai, Germany and France.
The courses are designed for all headsets, but the focus is on the Meta Quest mobile headset. Eventually Vilvoordse’s training metaverse can run on Meta servers, but not all clients want that. “A client like the German military doesn’t want to be on Meta’s servers,” says Schoofs. “Privacy is also of utmost importance to us.”
The research department is working on integrating virtual reality with robotics. Next year it should be possible to scan an environment and turn it live into a virtual reality environment for a human operator who can control a robot. That’s handy for disasters.
‘China is strong on hardware and the US is strong on money and marketing. But Europe and Belgium are doing well on content,” says Schoofs. Although he also thinks that the strong emphasis on regulations in Europe sometimes makes companies desist from using innovative solutions.
In 2019 OneBonsai had two full-time employees, now it’s a 15-employee team with a lot of freelancers on top of that.