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Tactus Technologies develops forklift simulator

By

March 15, 2013

The 3D Forklift Trainer

The 3D Forklift Trainer

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Workplace safety is a major concern, but training to avoid accidents often involves little more than reading manuals and watching videos before getting behind the controls of a potentially dangerous machine. University of Buffalo spinoff Tactus Technologies’ 3D Forklift Trainer uses gaming technology and software to produce a virtual environment, where beginner forklift drivers can practice without racing about a warehouse in a very heavy vehicle with prongs on it.

Tactus says that the simulator is the first of its kind and fills a gap in forklift training. Forklifts are very useful things, but when they aren't used properly they can be extremely dangerous. According to the United States Occupational Safety and Health and Administration, forklifts cause 100 fatalities and over 100,000 injuries in the US each year.

This means that proper training is extremely important. Unfortunately, current instruction consists of classroom-based lectures, videos and observation, and then the student is put straight into the driver’s seat. Worse, up to getting into a forklift, the training is almost entirely passive.

Active feedback in simulation

The 3D Forklift Trainer takes a page from airplane pilot and military training by providing students with a virtual training environment. “Until recently, such virtual reality technologies were only available to military and university laboratories,” said Thenkurussi “Kesh” Kesavadas, Tactus co-founder and UB professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “By pioneering the use of gaming technology and computers in our software, we are able to offer the 3D forklift simulator at a low and reasonable cost for industrial safety training.”

The system includes not just a bit of 3D animation, but peripherals such as a steering wheel, joystick and pedals for a realistic feel while moving about simulated warehouses and loading docks. As the simulation progresses, the student is presented with safety challenges, such as negotiating ramps, elevators and people moving about. The simulation also provides positive feedback and tracks performance.

According to the company, training takes about four hours to complete. “Companies using our product will find that they have shorter training cycles with less supervision needed and, most importantly, a safer environment,” said Jim Mayrose, chief executive officer and co-founder of Tactus.

Tactus said that the system can also be customized to meet the customer’s needs.

The video below shows the 3D Forklift Trainer in action.

Sources: University of Buffalo, Tactus Technologies

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
4 Comments

'Tactus says that the simulator is the first of its kind'

That's not 100% accurate, there's a forklift video game out there, and it's a simulator as well!

Michael Lauzon
18th March, 2013 @ 03:02 am PDT

First of its kind? ...Hmm, that's a funny claim. Maybe the Tactus PR guy forgot to use this new-fangled thing called 'the internet'. I'll give one example: look up a company called GlobalSim in Utah. They've been doing this stuff for... oh... about TEN YEARS! ;)

Don't feel bad David, you aren't the only one to fall for the hype. A quick search on Google reveals a blitzkrieg of online articles proclaiming that this Tactus system is a revolutionary 'first'. I just wish authors of online articles would be a bit more careful (read: investigative) before casually reprinting whatever BS a company PR spokesman throws at them. People want to trust the information you write as much as they would trust a professional news reporter.

Anyhooo... my self-righteous rant aside, this article does make a solid point that training is key to using any kind of heavy equipment, and even the most basic of virtual simulators is a cost-effective and safe first step in making any jobsite safer. The Tactus system probably is a lot less expensive than most others out there and might be a great option for a lot of smaller companies.

Tony Morrill
18th March, 2013 @ 10:09 am PDT

Why did they spend so much time making the paint of the forklifts look all beat up?

Meanwhile, the environment textures and models look about as good as Duke Nukem 3D.

Tactus should add a Staplerfahrer Klaus deathmatch mode. :-)

Gregg Eshelman
18th March, 2013 @ 07:29 pm PDT

Actually we made something VERY similar about a year ago. http://www.grin.be/blog/?p=754

Wim Wouters
19th March, 2013 @ 07:35 am PDT
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