HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND: Cutting edge technology designed to simulate biosecurity threats has emerged from the collaboration of two Hamilton
A pioneering virtual reality shipping container packed with simulated biosecurity risk scenarios is helping preserve New
Zealand’s ecosystem and way of living.
Independent Verification Services (IVS) in Hamilton has launched a new virtual reality (VR) simulation built by Hamilton
software specialist Company-X. The Ministry of Primary Industries has approved the technology to be used in biosecurity
refresher training for Accredited Persons (APs).
The project was led by Company-X augmented and virtual reality specialist Lance Bauerfeind, with project manager Dilan
Prasad and augmented and virtual reality generalist Wonkee Kim.
Using virtual reality to assess frontline staff dealing with imported goods was a New Zealand first, said IVS chief
executive Peter Webb.
“It’s the first training course that is not undertaken in a classroom, using a written examination-style assessment.
Instead, it offers an online course with a virtual reality assessment that lets trainees demonstrate their practical
knowledge and skills.”
The technology provides trainees with a realistic environment to properly assess their abilities to detect and respond
to biosecurity threats such as foreign insects and vegetation.
A wireless virtual reality headset allows the person to walk around the simulated container externally and internally,
in the same way that they would in the real world.
“The virtual reality tool is the closest and more realistic assessment of skills,” Webb said. “It replicates real-life
situations that may be encountered on the job.
“We randomise all the different things that can happen, like poisonous spiders,” Bauerfeind said. “We can trick head
movements so we know where they are looking.”
“We chose to work with the team at Company-X due to their experience and capability. The fact that they are based here
in the Waikato, was also a bonus,” Webb said.
“Lance, Dilan and Wonkee are passionate, dedicated and great at project planning, always delivering on time. It was
awesome to bounce ideas with the team, get suggestions for improvement. This is one of the only, if not the first, use
of VR for assessment and we are very proud to be offering this exclusively, enabling trainees to demonstrate their
practical skills for the job rather than their memory.”
The project, Webb said, was the first step in what could be a transformational journey for the biosecurity industry in
New Zealand. It uses virtual reality to train staff dealing with biosecurity contamination immediately post-border in
the most realistic way.
“This technology has the potential to be used to educate all New Zealanders to identify and respond to biosecurity
risks,” he said.
“IVS believes virtual reality could be instrumental to achieving a biosecurity team of 4.7 million, where all New
Zealanders are aware of the importance of biosecurity and involved in pest and disease management, as set out in the
Government’s Biosecurity 2025 strategy.