Windsor’s virtual reality cave now accessible from anywhere in the world

Dave Waddell/The Windsor Star

A partnership with the Spanish firm Virtualware has created what is believed to be the world’s first multi-user, globally connected platform allowing users to connect to Invest WindsorEssex’s virtual reality cave from anywhere in the world.

The VIROO software, which also upgrades the technical capabilities of the Automobility and Innovation Centre’s virtual reality cave, means users no longer must be physically in Windsor as long as they have access to a PC, laptop or virtual reality headset.

“The most important thing of this is accessibility,” said Invest WindsorEssex CEO Stephen MacKenzie.

“You can be on the other side of the world and be able to access our VR cave. This enhances the assets this region has to offer in trying to attract new companies.

“But it is also important for existing companies already here. A number of companies can use this for digital twinning, training and product development and not have to come here.”

Virtualware is a global virtual reality company with offices in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and is headquartered just outside of Bilbao, Spain.

Among its clients are electronics giant Hitachi, Michigan-based Guardian Glass, French automotive supplier Faurecia and the international energy company Petronas.

Michaeal Rosas, Virtualware’s director/vice president North America, said the other barrier the company has removed is being forced to create content for specific devices in order to use the VR cave.

“VR caves have existed for many years,” Rosas said. “What we haven’t seen is these great pieces of infrastructure being able to connect remotely and at a multiple-user level.

“To be able to sync it all is something we’ve not seen in the marketplace.”

Rosas added there’s also no limit to the number of users of the platform at any given time, and it can be accessed using a variety of devices.

“You could be having hundreds of people on at the same time,” Rosas said. “We haven’t seen something like this.”

Companies will be able to create their factories and assembly lines digitally and begin training their staff before a shovel goes in the ground.

As part of last week’s announcement, Invest WindsorEssex showed an assembly line process for a battery factory they’d created.

“We’ve created something interactive,” said Invest WindsorEssex’s lead software developer Bryan Holmes.

“They’re (students) actually assembling cells for a battery and putting them in cases.”

Now that the Virtualware program is live, Invest WindsorEssex officials plan to present the possibilities to LG Energy Solutions for training of the workers they’ll be hiring for the NextStar battery plant.

MacKenzie said St. Clair College and the University of Windsor can now also incorporate the capabilities of Canada’s largest, publicly accessible VR cave into the classroom.

“It’ll help develop more qualified and experienced graduates,” MacKenzie said.

Rosas said the capabilities of Windsor’s VR cave gives the area something unique to attract companies. It also sends the message of a community investing in its future.

“Just as a piece of infrastructure, it attracts people from other countries to invest in the region because they see an investment happening in innovation here,” Rosas said.

“That there are tools and an ability to train their workforces using this that potentially wouldn’t be in other locations they’re looking at.

“The whole idea of this is for everyone to start participating in this.”

Rosas said the VR cave will also be useful for existing businesses adding new machinery, assembly lines or for finding efficiencies in production.

“It saves companies time and money,” Rosas said. “It saves on training and recertification.

“Assembly lines don’t have to be down for training. It also captures data that helps with proficiency and to see if people are doing something well and correctly.”