Con-tech startup Serious Labs brought in $5 million of equity funding in its first financing round, according to the company. Stamford, CT–based United Rentals and San Francisco–based Brick and Mortar Ventures made the investment.
Serious Labs makes virtual reality simulation technology for workforce training in the construction, plant and maintenance, mining, and oil and gas industries.
The company also nabbed more than $3.5 million in new product development contracts to add functionality for additional crane models, forklifts, backhoes and skid steers.
Virtual reality technology has emerged as a promising new conduit for training in construction. That’s in part because it allows companies to instruct their workers on handling job-site hazards and other challenging conditions without putting their safety at risk.
Last year, construction firm Bechtel teamed up with Human Condition Safety, a New York City-based technology company specializing in construction safety, to develop a VR training program. Bechtel will use the data gathered through the program to inform future training and real-world safety practices.
In addition to training job site crews, VR also lets project stakeholders weigh in more easily during the design phase. Mortenson Construction has used VR to let nurse practitioners offer feedback on the location of medical equipment in a new healthcare project and maintenance workers at a new ice arena to suggest the location of infrastructure critical to keeping the ice smooth, Construction Dive reported last fall.
Outside of construction, branches of the U.S. military are incorporating VR training to draw in more potential recruits and to ensure they’re better equipped to handle the realities of their respective jobs, according to HR Dive.
VR has proven more effective than computer-based training in some studies, including a recent one by Google. In that study, one team watched an instructional video about how to operate an espresso machine and the other was given a VR tutorial. Those who used VR learned faster and made fewer mistakes in real-world operation than those who watched the video.