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Northern Ont. business competes for awards on international stage for work in VR

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A northern Ontario business is a finalist for an international awards show celebrating advancements in virtual reality.

Sudbury-based health and safety training organization NORCAT is nominated for two awards at the Academy of International Extended Reality, taking place in the Netherlands.

NORCAT is the only Canadian company nominated.

It’s up for the Outstanding VR Company of the Year honour, and Education and Training Solution of the Year for Certi-Fire VR.

Andrew Kostuik, studio director, and Edward Wisniewski, chief technology officer, are in Rotterdam for the awards ceremony.

The idea for Certi-Fire VR was born during the pandemic when NORCAT was approached to create an interactive program for fire certification training.

"We developed a program that allows electricians to go in and learn how to do fire suppression system, the type of systems we'd have at our facility, fallout systems, alarm systems," Wisniewski said.

"Then the instructor can go in and cause all kinds of havoc with the system and the electricians have to go in and troubleshoot."

The accredited program allows users to experience realistic scenarios in a safe way. Kostuik said it took a lot of time and effort to create the program.

Sudbury-based health and safety training organization NORCAT is nominated for two awards at the Academy of International Extended Reality, taking place in the Netherlands. (Photo from video)

"It was one of our most challenging projects to date," he said.

"We had to develop and electrical system inside VR."

Kostuik said emphasis was placed on the realism.

"You can do real-world interactions like picking an object up, turning a knob, opening a door, all things we've spent a lot of effort and time to develop," he said.

"It feels life-like as possible and intuitive and friendly to the end user."

LIKE THE VR OSCARS

He said it took one and a half years to complete, with five years of investing in the right technology to make the project possible.

The awards will take place on Thursday, which Kostuik said holds the same prestige as the Academy Awards, with tech giants like Meta, Google and Microsoft present.

NORCAT will be competing with seven other businesses in the respective categories.

"It's not the only one of its kind but it’s the most respected one," Kostuik said.

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"It's garnered a lot of attention from the best companies from around the world. It's an honour to be a finalist within it and winning it is even better."

NORCAT won an award in 2021 and said that positioned the company to be recognized globally.

Winning one of the awards, Kostuik said, will position Sudbury as an industry leaders and an ideal place to work for the upcoming talent in the industry.

"Things are being done here and that’s huge," he said.

"When you aspire to do great things in this field, you want to leave Sudbury and now we're proving it can be done here, we can retain talent locally."

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