Spotlight on our startups : Chaac Technologies
Empowering Students Through
Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) Technologies 

Evergreen: the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal, vital trade link between Asia and Europe

Remember back in March when a giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, paralyzing global shipping traffic for nearly a week and causing billions of dollars in losses?

Whether the incident was due to human error, technical difficulties or adverse weather conditions, it clearly demonstrates the need, for both officers and crew, to be well prepared so as to be able to prevent risks and respond promptly and effectively to emergency situations.

And while this need for high-quality training in the shipping industry is not new, it nevertheless raised a number of challenges and limitations. Simulating complex environments and conditions without compromising the safety of learners or the efficiency of its operations is indeed far more easily said than done.

Interview with Guillaume Nepveu, CEO and founder of Chaac Technologies, a young Montreal-based company that has recently collaborated with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) to help place their new recruits in immersive VR-based training scenarios to perform tasks such as navigation, ship-handling and mooring.

Q. 1: Originally used in the gaming world, virtual reality now opens the door to new paradigms. What’s its potential in terms of training?

Virtual reality has always had the potential to revolutionize the field of training, but its maturity is really what has made it quite so popular today.

The benefits of VR training are manifold:

- immersion in the work environment;
- asynchronous, self-paced learning;
- simulation in hazardous environments, etc.

Its main advantage, however, is that it will save you time and money in the long run. Indeed, by cumulating both the direct (trainer, employee salary) and indirect costs (equipment rental, travel to the training site, living expenses, etc.), it is easy to understand the true potential of VR training.

VR training also offers significant potential in that it allows for customization of the pedagogical scenarios that can be based on the reality of the employees. Enabling employees to be fully immersed in their real work environment makes them better equipped and fosters a more sustainable learning environment.

Q. 2: To be effective, virtual reality experiences have to be tailored and respond, as much as possible, to the reality of the client or the situation on the ground. Tell us a bit about the process involved and the specific steps that need to be taken.

To ensure that VR trainings are relevant to the reality of the workers, it is essential to follow the right process when creating the scenarios.

At Chaac, this process can be broken down into three phases:

1. the storyboard;

2. the 3D environment;

3. integration into virtual reality.

The storyboard is probably the most important step, as it is the one that consists in identifying the learning goals and in assessing the right methodology that needs to be applied to achieve them with a VR scenario.

You then have to determine the best suited environment for employees to have an effective immersion experience, in an environment that most closely resembles their real work settings. To do this, we have developed a process that faithfully reproduces a real location by using drone-captured imagery. This enables us to perfectly reconstruct the work environment while saving time in 3D reconstruction.

Finally, you need to integrate the storyboard into the 3D environment. This is where interactions take place between the user and the environment. The interaction library and methodology that have been developed at Chaac enable us to create a scenario, quickly and easily, and have now been successfully implemented by clients such as the Royal Canadian Navy and Pomerleau.

Q. 3: New technologies are proving to be real vectors of innovation and growth for companies and organizations alike. What questions should one ask before embarking on virtual reality projects?

Before embarking on a large-scale VR project, one really ought to consider how this new technology will fit into the existing training plan.

As with any tool, the end goal is to improve the processes already in place. There might be things that may not be relevant and that don’t necessarily need to be transferred to VR; a PowerPoint presentation may, at times, be enough to achieve a particular learning goal.

But where virtual reality becomes really interesting is in cases where learning requires a concrete interaction between the student and his environment.

Q. 4: Since we're talking about growth, what's on the horizon for Chaac Technologies?

Chaac’s mission is to help organizations become more efficient in their field operations. Our strategy consists of developing and integrating the right technologies so as to enable workers to perform better.

With Coral, we aim to consolidate the needs of our customers on a single platform.

We also have a few projects in our roadmap that will facilitate the convergence of technologies for emergency response, simplified integration of drone data, data analysis by AI, etc.

We have big dreams, but we are not afraid of anything! We also know that we can count on CEIM’s help to develop effective go-to-market strategies for each of our products and to challenge us with tough questions!