The Importance of Immersion in Simulation Training

Simulation training has made significant advancements in technology over the years. By incorporating motion platforms and realistic elements, simulations offer an immersive experience that enhances operator confidence, reduces incidents on the job site, accelerates learning, cuts costs, and boosts productivity. Ultimately, it’s an investment that prioritizes the people who work for your business.

However, not all training simulators are created equal. So, how can you identify the training solution that meets all of these criteria? The answer lies in immersion. Immersion is a key feature that ensures the success of a simulation.

Consider a trip to the movie theater. The large screens, high-quality sound system, and reclining seats that vibrate with the sound provide an environment that immerses you in the movie. You become a part of the story, engrossed in the characters and their journey.

Simulation training requires the same level of realism to be effective. If the experience feels believable and the trainee is immersed in it, they will take the training seriously. On the other hand, if the simulator does not accurately represent the equipment or work environment, it loses its believability and it does not help in achieving desired results. If the trainee perceives it as a game, they might adopt reckless behavior and develop bad habits. This is what we refer to as negative training.

From an operational standpoint, using equipment roughly or abruptly puts strain on its components, leading to maintenance issues in the future. Destructive operating behavior is sometimes difficult to identify on the live machines, but a simulator makes them easy to detect.

The Components of Immersion

Visual Accuracy

Several components of immersion contribute to creating the perfect simulation environment. One of these components is visual accuracy, including the quality of graphics. The field of view in the simulator also plays a crucial role in the learning experience.

For example, lighting and shadows are often overlooked aspects of our everyday lives. We perceive a 3D world as a collection of objects interacting with each other. However, what truly makes us feel present in that world is how light interacts and bounces off objects, as well as the quality of the shadows. All these details enhance the visual fidelity and realism of the simulation. If the visuals are inaccurate or of low quality, it breaks the immersive experience, and trainees are less likely to take the training seriously.

Equipment Realism

While visuals and graphics are important for immersion, the realism and physics behind equipment simulations allow trainees to seamlessly transition from the simulator to physical equipment. For instance, if you are operating a spreader and notice that it is swaying incorrectly or that the cables are becoming loose, but you manage to land right on the container every time, you immediately realize that something is off. This discrepancy detracts from the training experience. An immersive system accurately replicates the movements of real-world equipment on the screen.

At one of CM Labs’ port customers, the crane operators rely on changes in the cables attached to the spreader, paying attention to how they appear to go slack, when locking and loading the containers. The customer observed the exact same phenomenon while operating the CM Labs’ simulation training and incorporated it into the operator-training program. This connection made the simulation much more believable and instilled an additional layer of trust that the equipment simulation faithfully replicated the behavior of the physical equipment.


Another layer of immersion is haptics, which relates to the sense of touch. Controls are a significant component of haptics in simulations. Whether it is joysticks, a steering wheel, or pedals in the machine, they need to be realistic, not just in terms of quality, but also in terms of the number of buttons and their layout, accurately representing real equipment.
When the controls are representative, trainees gain an understanding of how the equipment will react. It is akin to learning to drive one car and then applying those skills to another car. When the foundation is the same, skills become transferrable to other equipment.


Motion is another crucial haptic component. Some simulators have moving seats, while others have platforms beneath the seat that move. In either case, trainees receive feedback through some form of motion. Haptics helps operators learn how the equipment reacts. For example, if you are lifting something high on a stacker and notice that the back is slightly lifting off the ground during a poorly executed operation, you know that you are entering a dangerous situation. Operators must learn to listen to the equipment they operate to anticipate what to expect and what to avoid.


The final piece of immersion is sound. Operators need to hear the engine’s roar when operating a yard machine. It is important to hear the trolley while moving forward and backward on a quay crane. When the equipment simulation accurately reproduces the sounds of real equipment, it adds an extra dimension to the experience.

In conclusion, achieving immersion in simulation training is essential for its success. Immersion enhances the trainee’s experience by making it believable and engaging, leading to a more serious and focused approach to training. By prioritizing immersion in training simulators, businesses can maximize the benefits of simulation training, including increased operator confidence, reduced incidents, accelerated learning, cost savings, and improved productivity.

Approved by German DGUV

In September 2021, German Statutory Accident Insurance (DGUV – Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung) issued report FBHL-019 allowing the use of simulation systems for the qualification of heavy equipment operators. DGUV, the organization that oversees the use of simulation for heavy equipment training in Germany, helps companies and educational institutions with a broad range of prevention measures and services.

Matthias Mueller, Management Safety Engineer and owner of AST (Arbeits Sicherheit & Technik, a recognized educational institution), supervised the live certification and documented the process. AST has been using CM Labs simulators for the past two years to qualify operators in accordance with DGUV guidelines.

“Using simulation to certify crane operators offers the next level of training and development in the skilled trades,” said Lisa Barbieri, CM Labs’ VP of Marketing and Product Management. “The requirements set by DGUV are essential to creating a unified objective standard of measure to use simulation for certification in Germany. CM Labs is positioned to provide the right solution as the industry evolves to take advantage of the benefits of simulation training in new ways.”

The DGUV report stipulates that simulated curriculum must include realistic use of the equipment, real-world scenarios to reinforce correct safe working interactions and habits, and problem-solving scenarios to establish good judgment for safe operation and avoiding near collisions and injuries.

Simulation for certification must meet five technical criteria in order to comply.

  • Realistic immersive display (such as curved or 5-sided case);
  • Acoustic feedback to reinforce audio queues common on the job site (engine, alarms, etc.);
  • Realistic motion system – such as 5 degrees of freedom and motion platform;
  • Faithful replica of a typical worksite for operator context;
  • Realistic high-quality simulation model – real-time simulation, vehicle behavior, steering, vibrations, the behavior of objects and materials, graphics, and environmental scenarios (night/day/wind gusts, etc.).

CM Labs accurately replicates real-world machine and materials behavior, resulting in effective, efficient operator training. The company’s patented Smart Training Technology™ exceeds the technical criteria for German certification. The high-fidelity STT provides real data accuracy and reporting insights. Comprised of proprietary and patented algorithms, the simulation delivers careful modeling and reproduction of machine data that interact with the environment and materials just as they do in the real world. Its precision is backed by more than 20,000 automated daily tests and ongoing research and development. Trainees gain a better feel for engine transmission, crane boom, and jib bending/torqueing, as well as wire rope and crane block spin and environmental factors (like wind, precipitation, day and night settings). Learning hook and load management, reducing pendulums, snags, and collisions, operators improve cycle times, and which can ultimately reduce production costs.

crane certification on simulator at bauma 2022

Use of Virtual Training and Certification in Construction

While other industries, like aviation, have approved the use of simulation for certification, the construction industry, except in Germany, has not. CM Labs solutions include simulation exercises to prepare for certifications for forklift, as well as the NCCER and NCCCO testing for cranes. Electrical Training Alliance (ETA), the curriculum arm for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), collaborated with CM Labs to add additional specialized training scenarios for boom truck and crane for utility industry certifications.

With the current labor shortages and energy costs, these latest developments in simulation certification look promising for health and safety governing bodies, such as OSHA, and other organized labor groups to consider as alternatives to measure the proficiency of operators.