Virtual Reality Mobile Crane Simulators: Why Are They All So Bad?

Virtual Reality Mobile Crane Simulators: Why Are They All So Bad?
12/20/2016 11:16:57 AM

Construction Crane Simulation

Here's the problem:


"Crane simulators are so unrealistic. My field of vision is so limited that I can't see the boom tip."

"Our simulator is nothing like a real crane cab. It is a toy."


"It gets our trainees only 5 percent of the training they need."

"We can't get everyone needed to the office it sits in."

"We've been pretty frustrated with the ROI."



Industrial Training International (the provider of training for cranes, rigging, lift planning and rigging engineering), conducted a survey of mobile crane simulator owners to get their opinions. They wanted to know about their experience with the simulators they had purchased and learn about the ROI (or lack thereof).

They were not happy, as you can tell from the quotes above.

Your reps at Larry Collier Crane Parts & Service are watching developments in virtual training. We have written about it before. There are a lot of improvements to be made in what is currently out there, for sure. This could be something to watch.

ITI is preparing to launch its next-generation virtual reality (VR) mobile crane simulator at the construction expo CONEXPO in a few months. The company says its crane simulator will address these pain points. If they are correct, it will be the first mobile crane simulation that actually delivers on its promises.

You can preview their upcoming product via the video below.



ITI says the VR Mobile Crane Simulator will advance the crane and rigging industry in a few key ways by leveraging recent technology as well as customer feedback.

"We have been interested in simulation-based training solutions for several years," says ITI President Zack Parnell.

Parnell says ITI decided against buying VR training simulators for use in its own training because the simulators were too expensive and they couldn't train very many employees in a given year. Also, most simulators aren't transportable, meaning the trainees must come to one central location rather than having the training come to them in the field.

That's why ITI created the survey that yielded the responses above. Parnell says the responses they got to their survey raise some key pain points that he hopes the ITI VR simulator will address.

These customer complaints included:

  • Price Point. High price points are common in the crane simulator business because there aren't many crane simulator manufacturers. They have a corner on the market. Also, the high-cost hardware sales approach most of them take requires the customer to pay a front-loaded price. Think of it like buying a new car with cash. This is not a realistic way to do business.
  • Minimal Use. Of course, expensive simulators can be a good investment if they get used enough to justify the cost. In ITI's research, existing owners of simulators weren't able to use their equipment as much as they had hoped. In addition to poor user experience (small displays, for example), the high cost prevented companies from buying multiple units to fully train their workforce.
  • Low Customer Satisfaction Score. Respondents were asked "How likely would you be to recommend this product to others?Not many of them were.

    Construction Crane Simulation

    A screenshot from the ITI VR preview video

    To solve the price issue, ITI has replicated its e-learning distribution approach in which customers pay for each actual course or simulation use. Essentially, this is a subscription model used by software companies. The simulator hardware (VR headset and controls) is distributed very near actual cost, rather than as an expensive "upsell."

    Serious Labs, Incwas selected as ITI's virtual reality simulation development partner for a planned library of crane and rigging-related simulations. Serious Labs develops advanced simulator and game-based training systems for high-stake jobs in the global construction, mining, and oil and gas industries.

    "As VR was becoming commercially viable earlier this year with Oculus Rift and other headset manufacturers, we began looking for experts on the cutting-edge of that space," Parnell says. "We believe the user experience and low distribution cost of VR makes it a winner for our customers. We could not have found a better partner than Serious Labs."

    ITI and SLI aim to overhaul the mobile crane simulator business with three main objectives:

    1. Provide an incomparable, totally immersive user experience.
    2. Remove barriers to entry with a subscription model and low capital costs.
    3. Open up simulator training to all applicable team members by making access and utilization simpler than ever before.

    These deliverables will be accomplished through the following features:

    • A Growing Course Library. In addition to the initial simulations available in the library, additional planned simulations include overhead cranes, tower cranes, rigging, and assembly/disassembly of cranes.
    • Equipment. The ITI Mobile Crane Simulator leverages the technology of VR to allow a fully immersive experience that is a mere two inches away from the user's eyes.
    • Desktop & Motion-Base Versions. Two hardware models are available: a fully mobile desktop version and an immersive (though mobile) Motion-Base Simulator.
    • Learning Management & LMS Integration. Integrated VR training works with your current learning management system to enable employee training paths. This can be used for candidate screening, operator qualification and record-keeping.

    ITI VR is currently deep into the "development" phase of the project, but operating prototypes are currently available.

    If you are interested in reserving the Desktop or Motion-Base hardware package, contact E-Learning Specialist Caleb Steinborn at

    A Beta-Version Reservation is also available. If you want to participate, you will receive a computer system and Oculus Rift VR headset. It's a great way to participate in the development process by experiencing the simulations in development. Visit for information on joining the beta user program.

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