Innovation of SMEs Virtual reality for rescue teams

Innovation: offering workshops aimed at consolidating team spirit by immersing participants in virtual reality where they have to solve problems.

Posted at 11:00 am.

Karim Benessaieh

Karim Benessaieh
press

WHO?

In 2018, Nicolas Roy, a well-known actor who has a coaching certificate and works in mental health, acquired a franchise in Sherbrooke from MontVR, a chain that offers virtual reality arcades. He and his partner Mathieu Nuth, a civil engineering graduate and teacher at the University of Sherbrooke, then received business proposals to create training using virtual reality. They founded Immersia Studio that year.

“We were mixed up with the production companies,” says Mr. Roy, art director of Immersia Studio. We did some experiments. »

In complete isolation in the spring of 2020, the two men decided to start their own adventure based on the use of virtual reality for companies. With the help of professionals and developers, we design a game whose mechanics focus specifically on the development and consolidation of team spirit. The first experience is offered in the fall of 2021, around twenty groups have since enjoyed it. The Immersia Studio team consists of six people.

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In late October, on a boat docked in Montreal’s Old Port, press was able to attend the workshop that was offered to nine employees and managers of Leprohon, a Sherbrooke company specializing in heating and air conditioning. Each participant is isolated in a booth with a virtual reality headset on their head, while Nicolas Roy acts as the game master, “the creator of chaos”, as he sums it up. Almost everyone finds themselves in a game, with an avatar built around their photo, for a group expedition gone wrong where cooperation and quick decision-making are key, in three episodes.

The game is of a good caliber, with synthetic backgrounds against a background of real images. The members of this very friendly group shout, crash, laugh, brainstorm, scold or congratulate each other and learn the basic commands to move and grab objects in virtual reality. They go around the table to take stock of the adventure and very clearly identify the strengths and weaknesses of the team. Sessions last from two hours to half a day, with opportunities for more advanced workshops on the second day.

The cost of such a session: $2,500. “Here, we have a mature game,” says Nicolas Roy. There was a lot of thought beforehand, a lot of adjustments to find the right way to experience and live this journey. »

challenges

Designing such a game from scratch, with no experience in VR video game programming, was quite a challenge. After the first tests, it was necessary to go back to the drawing board. “We were more or less satisfied,” says Mr. Roy. We needed help at one point, we went looking for an ex-Ubisoft guy who helped us get structured. »

The technical challenges of designing a fun, informative, non-disruptive virtual reality experience that can handle up to 20 participants at a time have been formidable.

Believing in it even before the first customers also requires a good dose of self-belief, or unconsciousness. “We don’t know the future, we dive in, we think we have a good intuition and that we will offer something that can fill a need. We were lucky. »

The future

Without revealing the story proposed by Immersia, its co-founder wants to add episodes to it, especially a suite in the jungle to discover a lost temple. We aim for 2023.

“Our ambition is to create a virtual planet Earth, we want to have different destinations, three or four long-term experiences in different places with well-targeted themes,” explains Mr. Roy.

After team building, skills can also be changed to improve, such as the ability to show appreciation. “We’re starting to see what stands out the most, but it’s still embryonic. »

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