• A new South African virtual reality system can test whether you have a fear of heights, and how well you function up high. 
  • The average cost to train and place an apprentice to work at height is around R300,000.
  • A fifth of all participants display a debilitating fear of heights. They will feel dizzy or disorientated, with their heart rate increasing by an average of 20-30 beats per minute.

A new South African virtual reality system can test whether you are good with heights, without you having to leave the ground.

The Working at Heights VR experience is designed by South African augmented and reality design company Sea Monster.

The programme is going a long way to helping ArcelorMittal South Africa, the largest steel producer on the African continent, to train workers a steel plant in Vanderbijlpark. Here employees need to scale dizzying heights, up to 190 metres, to work. 

The virtual reality system test whether you have a fear of heights, and how well you function up high. 

“The experience lends itself perfectly to virtual reality. A fear of heights is a deeply psychological process. It's when the brain is overruled by a much deeper instinct. Virtual reality triggers that base reaction,” said Glenn Gillis, Sea Monster’s Managing Director.

The training programme cost between R1 and R2 million to develop, said Gillis.

The average cost to train and place an apprentice is around R300,000 says Gerda Fourie, learning experience design specialist at ArcelorMittal.

"Catching a fear of heights early can help us to direct a person to the correct environment from the start," said Fourie. 

The trainee starts off on the ground floor, getting used to the virtual reality environment.

Once at the top they are asked to complete three tasks, each designed to assess cognitive performance while exposed to height.

A fifth of all participants display a debilitating fear of heights. They will feel dizzy or disorientated, with their heart rate increasing by an average of 20-30 beats per minute. 

Because the ArcelorMittal plant’s layout closely mirrors others around the world, they can implement the programme on other sites.

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