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More intuitive ship training thanks to Digital Twins and ViSTIS®

In case of an emergency during submarine operations, such as the failure of the platform management system, a crew is under immense stress and time pressure. In such situations, it is essential that necessary procedures have previously been internalized and can be carried out without wasting precious time.

 Thus, in order to anchor important procedures and hand movements both mentally and physically in the muscle memory of crew members, ship training must be carried out as realistically and regularly as possible. However, as the possibility to conduct training and simulate emergencies aboard a real ship or submarine is limited, this caused considerable costs in the past.

 ViSTIS®, the Virtual Ship Training solution from thyssenkrupp Marine Systems changed this from the ground up. Thanks to the digital training environment, instructors are now able to design flexible and more diverse training without any need for physical ships.

The Beginnings of Virtual Ship Trainings with ViSTIS®

 We spoke with Viktoria Stoßberg, Product Manager ViSTIS® Training and Simulation, and Stephan Braß, Head of Training & Information Systems Group Manager Training Technologies at thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, about the beginnings of ViSTIS® and the advantages of Digital Twins in training.

 ViSTIS® stands for Virtual Ship Training and Information System and was started an further developed since 2007. At that time, navies around the world were buying fewer and fewer ships and units. As a result of the lack of new builds, there were hardly any ships available for training purposes.

 But buying a ship solely for training purposes involves very high costs and is not economically attractive to customers. Eventually, this bottleneck of training ships led to virtual training taking hold:

 "That's why the ViSTIS®-team came up with an alternative, by moving the training into a game engine, as we know it from modern computer games. The ship is completely reconstructed virtually using a Digital Twin and made to be experienced. That's the idea behind ViSTIS® and digital training," explains Stephan Braß.

Generational change: New demands on ship training

 ViSTIS® was born at a time when virtual training was not yet as recognized on the market as it is today. Today, the number of younger people who have gained gaming experience at home and have grown up with digital tools and systems is growing. "Today's generations have a very native approach to digital tools. By gaming a lot in their personal lives or using apps to learn new things, they have a different expectation of learning than previous generations," Braß reports.

These new demands on ship training are also reflected among thyssenkrupp Marine Systems' customers. "Today we no longer have to convince them to use ViSTIS®. On the contrary, virtual training systems are increasingly being requested in tenders," says Stephan Braß, reflecting the development.


What does the training with ViSTIS® look like?

 Before ViSTIS® was established, training was already conducted with simulators. Today, there are two different simulators: the naval simulator and the tactical simulator. The former usually consists of a steering station and includes the Platform Management System, which is used to operate the automation software. The tactical simulator trains all areas of combat management issues.

"Basically, you can run a boat with these two simulators.

But ViSTIS® is the extension into the crews on board," Braß explains. The crews are integrated into ViSTIS® through avatars. Typical exercises include situations such as the failure of the automation system, when the boat has to be operated analogously and on site. But everyday procedures on board are also part of the training. With ViSTIS®, a detailed simulation of the boat's interior allows the crew to train as realistically as possible and to internalize where instruments are located.

Realistic training situations

 "Through ViSTIS®, both team and individual training sessions are possible,” explains Product Manager Viktoria Stoßberg, citing another benefit of virtual training with Digital Twins: “The digitization of training sessions makes training independent of cost issues in the context of physical training ships. So training can be done much more regularly and flexibly than before.”

ViSTIS® in action: The avatars of the crew can move freely in the Digital Twin of the ship and operate all technical equipment on board, which is modeled on the equipment in the real boat in every detail – in appearance and function.

Furthermore, thanks to the involvement of the crew in the form of avatars that can move within the ship's Digital Twin, increased familiarization with the environment takes place. “Virtual training with ViSTIS® helps the crew to improve their spatial knowledge and orientation on board. The anchoring of the environment and practiced hand movements in the cerebral and motor memory, the so-called muscle memory, makes learned material easier to recall even in stressful situations," the project explains.

Customer service is an integral part of ViSTIS®

 With ViSTIS®, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems is building a virtual ship for customers on land: The Digital Twin of a real ship that corresponds 1:1 to the original. This way, customers can train independently from the availability of their real vessel. Additionally, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems offers classroom courses using ViSTIS® for training each customer's crew during the construction phase of the physical vessel.

 "Crews have the opportunity to train in the simulator in a freeplay mode.

Basically, a complete training takes place over several years. Refresher units are also included after longer breaks," Stephan Braß reports on the range of training offered.

 In his eyes, the big advantages of ViSTIS® are the cost savings and consistent quality in training. Crews can train without a real ship, and the quality of the training sessions is consistent because, unlike a human trainer, the system has no good or bad days. "Human trainers, however, can never be replaced by programs,” emphasizes Bass. “But, trainers can improve through ViSTIS®for example by taking advantage of the training records that the program makes of each training sequence.” This monitoring capability allows trainers to address individual training needs of crew members - identifying weaknesses and strengths and adjusting the training accordingly.

Braß also emphasizes the complexity of ViSTIS®: "ViSTIS® is not just a software coupled with a Digital Twin. In addition to the complex, virtual replica of all technical systems around the Digital Twin of a boat, ViSTIS® also includes an entire infrastructure around trainees and trainers, as well as the close relationship between us and our customers."

 An effective innovation with fun factor

 ViSTIS® is the only virtual offering that combines software and service in this form and has done so to the complete satisfaction of thyssenkrupp Marine Systems' customers to date.

As a tool for team learning within a multiplayer scenario ViSTIS® is not only intuitive and good for training: "It's also a heck of a lot of fun. It feels like you're on a real boat, and the shared training experience welds the crew members together. Apart from the US Navy and its partners, thyssenkrupp Marine Systems is the only manufacturer worldwide to have placed such a complex training system on the market," reports the training technology expert, Stephan Braß.