Videogame Creator Now Using VR to Train Against Industrial Accidents

Startup NextWave claims that old-school processes enable little visibility, accountability and engagement, making it impossible to spot trends in time to prevent injury or enhance efficiency.


Can specialized software and a virtual reality application be used to help eliminate workplace accidents? The man who created the video game “Grand Theft Auto” and his startup NextWave Safety Solutions, say yes; as a result, manufacturers, enterprises and insurance companies may soon be sitting up and taking notice.

The New York-based company on Jan. 25 released two VR training modules, “Hazard ID” and “Forklift,” along with customized safety programs that include on-site predictive analytics support to recognize potential hazards before they become dangerous to life, limbs and/or finances.

Industrial accidents and workplace injuries have always been a major problem in the industrialized world. NextWave claimed that insufficient safety standards and antiquated training and management processes cost more than 337,000 lives and a whopping $3 trillion last year alone in the U.S. The startup claims that old-school processes enable little visibility, accountability and engagement, making it impossible to spot trends in time to prevent injury or enhance efficiency.

Developed Own Analytics Engine and VR for Its Apps

So NextWave is using a home-built analytics engine and VR experiences to bring transparency and preparedness to the safety industry to save both lives and money.

“We look at OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards as the bare minimum,” NextWave CEO Lorenzo Gallo said. “Would you want your child driving around in a car with minimum brake power? For companies wanting to go beyond OSHA, we’re offering not only VR-enhanced training programs but on-site support, both associated with reducing the number of incidents.”

Success in this area can be rewarded with lower insurance premiums for users, because insurance providers can count on there being fewer workplace accidents, Gallo said.

NextWave is taking on the entire safety industry, which involves jobs in construction, mining, oil rigs and law enforcement. The company already is working with two major insurance firms: Aflac and Lloyd’s of London.

'Grand Theft Auto' VR Designer is Involved

Leading the VR team is Rockstar Games (“Grand Theft Auto”) co-founder and former CTO, Gary J. Foreman, who is applying his 20-plus years’ experience designing virtual worlds to creating lifelike workplace scenarios. These include enabling learners to improve skills such as scaffold safety at 23 stories high, operating a crane on a foggy morning or practicing for an active shooter scenario without risk of injury.

Gallo, an ex-Lehman Brothers managing director, is known as a safety and risk management expert. He has drafted safety regulations for the city of Philadelphia, the fracking industry, fire and building codes for the city of New York and developed the first active-shooter trainer curriculum. At Nextwave, Gallo has instilled the safety industry with real-time analytics, geo-located wearables and VR training.

The company has what it calls NextWave Academy, in which customers have access to a full range of OSHA and IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training)-certified programs offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Italian and Polish that can be done on site or at one of NextWave’s state-of-the-art facilities.

Eight More Releases Planned in 2018

Currently, the forklift and hazard identification training modules are enhanced with VR components, but the company has eight more planned for 2018 release. VR-based training lets users learn through doing, which studies have shown increase retention rates leading to safer practices and fewer incidents.

NextWave’s approach to education has provided training programs for the New York Fire Department, the New York City Department of Buildings and emergency responders. The company brings the same level of competency outside the classroom to its customized site safety plans. Companywide or site-specific assessments identify the greatest safety risks through real-time, historic, and predictive data and NextWave experts specify mitigating solutions to meet safety goals.

“Infrastructure is an area of huge investment and will continue to grow,” said Gallo. “We want to ensure that the people building our future get home safely. It’s a great bonus that our efforts lead to lower costs on insurance premiums, workers compensation and work stop through injury. It’s really a win-win for insurers, developers and workers.”

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...