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Virtual reality in the forest: Fichtelberg forestry company trains wood harvesting on the computer

Supported by safety engineer Sebastian Großmann from the Bavarian State Forests (right), Adrian Thoma trains how to use a chainsaw in a virtual forest. The VR glasses on the head show the trainee at the Fichtelberg forestry company his simulated working environment.

The Bavarian State Forests are testing new methods in the training of prospective foresters: training in a virtual environment. Equipped with so-called VR glasses and sensors on the chainsaw, the trainees can safely practice felling trees, as the Fichtelberg forestry company reports. There is much more to virtual tree felling than just a nice experience: it trains employees and raises awareness of the dangers of timber harvesting. According to the announcement, Adrian Thoma is standing in the forest – not unusual for him as a trainee forester at the Bavarian State Forests. “A mixed forest of beech and spruce. Rustling leaves and broken branches lie on the ground. A pick-up truck is parked in a clearing, the loading area of ​​which is filled with all sorts of logging tools.” The trainee gets equipment from there. He picks up the devices with a push of a button and carries them to his place of use with another push of a button. The whole scene takes place in a computer simulation.

Instead of his protective helmet, Adrian Thoma wears so-called VR glasses. Small screens in the helmet-like device give him a spatial image of the simulated forest. Headphones give the right acoustic impression. Sensors record head movements, handles, and the position of the chainsaw. In reality he is standing on the tiled floor in the training workshop of the Fichtelberg forestry company. Sebastian Großmann, safety engineer at the Bavarian State Forests, supports him as a trainer. With the Bavarian State Accident Insurance Fund, he developed “the innovative simulation program that is unique in Germany to date”. He can incorporate different scenarios into the exercises. “The aim of the training is to train the perception of danger,” Großmann is quoted in the message. Of course, training in virtual reality does not replace training in reality. The computer program evaluates the simulation run and allows immediate feedback. In the future, the VR glasses will also be used to offer refresher training for experienced foresters and use them to sensitize the managers of the Bavarian State Forests to the dangers of timber harvesting.