The Gold Coast Bulletin

Virtual reality start-up scores a US safety gig


A BRISBANE virtual reality start-up has won a slice of the US’s $3 trillion investment in renewing the country’s crumbling infrastruc­ture.

Next World Enterprise­s will use its suite of virtual reality training software to help instruct the next generation of US engineers in safety standards as they build bridges, highways and other infrastruc­ture as part of US President Joe Biden’s Build it Back Better program.

Next World chief executive Michael O’Reilly said the firm had partnered with the University of the District of

Columbia to help roll out the safety training.

“President Biden sees the infrastruc­ture program as an opportunit­y to build the country out of COVID-19 and put a lot of people to work,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“We will be using VR to train people in hazardous material handling, working at heights and other safety procedures.”

The training provided by Next World could include anything from the safe operation of a chainsaw to how to use a fire extinguish­er.

“VR is not just about games these days,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“It can be used in medical services and health and safety compliance. Rather than just observing from afar the person is more engaged.”

Mr O’Reilly said Next World’s value had soared from $5m to $38.8m over the past year and was well on its way to becoming a “unicorn”, or billion dollar start-up.

The company plans to double staff to 30 by the end of 2021.

“Breaking into the US market is an important milestone for Next World as virtual reality training continues to expand,” Mr O’Reilly said.

“We would aim to be a unicorn by 2027.

“Virtual reality software is getting cheaper and the hardware is getting better. We are close to a tipping point with giant companies like BHP now having whole floors devoted to virtual reality and artificial intelligen­ce.”

Founded in 2018 by Mr O’Reilly, Next World has experience­d growth of 500 per cent over the past year, as local councils, mining firms and constructi­on groups seek its services.

The company has about 100 customers including John Holland Group, Burke Shire Council, Urban Utilities and The Iconic.

“It has really taken off in the last couple of months particular­ly as COVID has meant that people could not be sent off site to get training done,” Mr O’Reilly said.

He said the partnershi­p with the University of the District of Columbia in the middle of a pandemic was the perfect example of allowing people to “learn anywhere and at any time”.

He said virtual reality workplace training was shown to be 85 per cent more effective than other text-based methods of instructio­n. That meant graduates entering a worksite after being trained by Next World were overwhelmi­ngly less likely to be involved in a workplace incident.

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