Case studies
Travancore Analytics: Elevating forklift training with virtual reality
May 10, 2024
Virtual reality forklift operator training program created by Travancore Analytics
Overview
How Travancore Analytics creates immersive training that improves outcomes.
Solutions
Unity tools for Industry
Customers
Travancore Analytics, U.S. and Virtual Forklift, U.S.
Use case
Virtual reality immersive training for forklift operators

Travancore Analytics and Virtual Forklift: A Unity case study

Travancore Analytics is a leading software development company with 15 years' experience in creating custom, digital solutions. The immersive training program they designed for Virtual Forklift (previously known as Forklift University) leverages Unity's features to significantly improve training outcomes for heavy machinery operators, as demonstrated here:

Results

  • 20% increase in learner engagement and satisfaction
  • Training duration reduced by 75%
  • Substantial reduction in annual accident-related costs

Read on to learn more about how the innovative training program was created.

The search for the best solution

Safety and risk mitigation take center stage when it comes to training heavy machinery operators. Virtual Forklift, based in the U.S., specializes in providing training for the proper use of both forklifts and aerial lifts. In their push for excellence, Virtual Forklift recognized the need for a safer and more efficient training approach.

Traditional forklift training, which typically involves using equipment in real-world settings, can pose significant safety risks to both learners and instructors. Inexperienced operators maneuvering forklifts during training sessions are prone to accidents, leading to injuries, property damage, and operational disruptions. In addition, damage to expensive forklift machines causes significant financial impact. These incidents highlight the many risks associated with traditional training methods that rely on real equipment in physical environments.

Virtual Forklift initially adopted a third-party virtual training solution, but quickly realized it did not meet their needs. The solution displayed noticeable aliasing and other graphical quality issues, including jagged edges, pixelation, texture blurring, and inconsistent rendering, resulting in rough and unrealistic visuals that negatively impacted trainees' experience.

There were other performance issues, as well, and concerns about motion sickness caused by frames per second (fps) drops. Overall, the complexity of the application made it challenging to provide a user-friendly training experience.

Custom virtual reality training by Travancore Analytics

Recognizing the need for a better solution, Virtual Forklift commissioned a custom-built forklift training application tailored to their specific needs. They collaborated with Travancore Analytics, whose dedicated extended reality (XR) team is proficient in Unity.

Travancore Analytics developed the comprehensive forklift solution for the HTC Vive headset, addressing the shortcomings of the previous application while also introducing enhancements to elevate the training experience.

In the new solution, trainees can dive into various forklift driving scenarios tailored to their skill levels, ensuring active engagement and effective learning. Additionally, the application features a user-friendly portal where administrators, instructors, and trainees can easily manage institutions, user permissions, and trainee data, streamlining the training process.

In the VR forklift simulator, instructors and learners can meet in a shared warehouse space. The solution facilitates real-time collaboration, coupled with the ability for multiple users to join the platform during the same session, creating a dynamic training environment. Additional features like voice chat capabilities and presentation-sharing options further enhance the training experience.

Read more about the Virtual Forklift training program created by Travancore Analytics.

Virtual reality forklift operator training
The VR application allows trainees to learn in a realistic environment without risking injury or costly damage to machinery or surroundings.

Key Unity features

The advanced training solution enables instructors and learners to collaborate in real-time within a virtual warehouse space. To build it, Travancore Analytics leveraged the following Unity features:

  • High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) templates improved the overall quality of the simulator in the forklift solution, enhancing the visuals and making it more appealing to users. The team integrated real-time lighting, giving users the feeling of working in a real-life warehouse setting. Additionally, they incorporated:
    • Volumetric Lighting to enhance the realism of lighting effects.
    • Vertex animation in Shader Graph to optimize visual effects.
    • Decal Render to enhance the forklift scenes by adding intricate details like floor markings in the warehouse space. This included the procedural generation of warehouse layout elements such as parking and pallet placement lines, floor markings, and customized branded stickers, without the need for new texturing at runtime.
  • New Input System facilitated seamless integration and operation of custom 3D-modeled controllers, individually designed for the forklift training solution.
  • NavMesh AI played a crucial role in ensuring smooth navigation experiences. It optimized functions such as providing the navigation route for pallet placement, pallet retrieval, and forklift parking. Additionally, NavMesh was instrumental in coordinating pedestrian navigation within the warehouse environment, treating pedestrians as non-player characters (NPCs). This ensured the seamless movement and interaction of pedestrians, contributing to the overall realism of the simulated environment.
  • Implemented real-time physics simulations for the forklift, focusing on critical aspects such as suspension dynamics, center-of-mass calculations, and the stability triangle's physics. This helped to ensure the realistic and accurate behavior of the forklift.
  • Profiler and Frame debugger tools were used to optimize performance and identify rendering issues causing high rendering loads. These tools enabled the team to pinpoint problematic areas and efficiently address them.
  • Addressables were implemented to allow for the efficient management of numerous assets within the virtual environment. This streamlined approach facilitated better organization and accessibility of resources.
  • AssetBundles extended the functionality of the fork in the forklift through a downloadable content (DLC) format. This approach enabled individual downloading options for users, allowing them to customize their experience as needed. Additionally, AssetBundles facilitated seamless updates for future modules, ensuring the solution remains up to date and adaptable to evolving needs.

Delivering from concept to deployment

Unity's all-in-one development environment streamlined the entire development process, from conceptualization to deployment.

The robust Unity ecosystem made it straightforward to integrate and optimize the various features required for the solution. This included advanced capabilities like HDRP for enhanced visual quality, Shader Graph for custom visual effects, NavMesh AI for optimized navigation experiences, and NVIDIA PhysX for realistic physics simulations.

Access to a wide range of resources, such as pre-made assets, scripts, and plugins, along with expertise from the Unity community, also helped to accelerate development and overcome challenges more quickly.

Unity's cross-platform compatibility was instrumental in seamless deployment across different devices. This provided access options for instructors and learners, allowing them to run the training program on their preferred platform.

Results

Prior to adopting the current solution, Virtual Forklift had been striving to deliver a seamless training experience to their learners. The Travancore Analytics team embraced Unity's extensive features to create a solution that outshone the legacy solution, resulting in:

  • 20% increase in learner participation and engagement compared to traditional training methods.
  • Reduced training delivery time, from a full day to one or two hours, marking a notable efficiency improvement.
  • Reduction in training-related accidents and associated costs.
  • Delivery of considerably better visual quality and more user-friendly interfaces. Users are immersed in training modules and train themselves with minimum risk or damage to themselves or company assets.
“We excel in using top-notch technology services like Unity to build game-changing transformative solutions. Our collaboration with Forklift University (Virtual Forklift) in developing forklift training solutions illustrates this.”
GOKUL R J / TRAVANCORE ANALYTICSLead Engineer, Spatial Computing Solutions
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