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Serious Labs raises $5m to develop VR equipment training

Successful Series A equity financing round for Canada’s Serious Labs and its virtual reality operator training bodes well for the future of the technology in the construction sector

A developer at Serious tests an aerial work platform VR training simulation.
A developer at Serious tests an aerial work platform VR training simulation.

Canada’s Serious Labs has raised $5m of investment to continue the development of its platform of virtual reality (VR) training simulations for construction, lifting and material handling equipment – in a good sign for the application of the technology in the segment.

The Series A equity financing round saw investment from United Rentals, the largest equipment rental company in North America, and Brick and Mortar Ventures, a venture capital company focused on innovation in the construction sector

Serious Labs and United Rentals have previously partnered on the co-development of United’s in-house online training, which has made it easier for its customers to conduct operator training – by lowering its costs and risk – and resulted in improved productivity and safety.

“Virtual reality can help customers work more safely and with greater productivity. Simulation offers hands-on training that mirrors the operator experience on a project site, but in a safe and controlled environment,” said Jeffery Fenton, senior VP for business development at United Rentals.

Serious Labs has also secured $3.5m in new product development contracts to augment its existing suite of VR equipment simulations to include further crane, forklifts, backhoes and skidsteer models.

“Our technology is something that the industry is ready for as the boomers continue to retire and are replaced by the digital millennial workforce that likes to learn by doing rather than sitting in a traditional classroom,” said Jim Colvin, CEO of Serious Labs.

“With our unique business model of working with industry domain experts, we have attracted the attention of many global companies looking to take their training content into the 21st century.”

The technology platform already has a significant global customer base, with clients from across the construction, mining, plant and maintenance, and oil and gas industries.

Darren Bechtel, MD of Brick and Mortar Ventures, added: “Virtual reality is already the gold standard in aeronautics and aviation, and adoption is now beginning in the architecture-engineering-construction world. Equipment operator training presents a ripe market for VR simulation.”

Earlier this year, Serious Labs won an award from the International Award for Powered Access (IAPA), whose judges noted: “This VR simulator brings to the access industry technology what has previously only been available in the military and aerospace industries.”

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Construction Week - Issue 749
Sep 15, 2019