How virtual reality can help the oil industry’s worker shortage (video)

HOUSTON — From a non-descript office in the Galleria area, you can walk around a refinery, an oil rig and even an offshore platform — thanks to high-tech software taking advantage of virtual reality.

Houston-based FuelFX is hoping to cash-in on the need for more skilled, younger workers in the energy sector by developing training applications that use virtual reality technology to give employees an immersive experience.

The company is pitching the technology as a way to give workers a more effective — and in some cases, more affordable — training regimen. The sensation resembles something those younger workers are likely already familiar with: video games.

“It’s like Call of Duty,” said FuelFX CEO Oliver Diaz, referring to the popular shoot-’em-up game. “Except you’re on a rig.”

Video: ‘Augmented reality’ turns animation into oil business tool

The company builds 3D models of oil infrastructure and places them in a simulated environment that can be viewed through the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that surrounds a user’s field of vision and can be controlled by tilting the head in any direction.

Below, see Houston Chronicle freelance photographer Patric Schneider explore energy infrastructure using the company’s technology.