Working through the development of CAVR Design, I have been thinking about this hurdle that most people face when first using a new piece of software. At every stage of development, the user has always come first. As a mining engineer, it has been relatively easy to put myself into the users shoes and ask, what do they need, and how can that be achieved.
As a developer, it then becomes an interesting balance of implementing the technical features required for the software, while also ensuring that the experience of using the software day to day is pain free, user-friendly, and ultimately, useful!
This interesting combination of developer and end-user mindsets can have positive and negative implications. On the plus side, I am able to understand the user and their needs - I have been in their shoes, completed the tasks they are trying to achieve and understand their pain points to anticipate the features and functionality that they would expect. But as a developer, it is easy to become too close to the project. Understanding the functionality of software from the code-up means that it becomes second nature to know what button to press, what menu to access, what gesture to make - all of which are actions that may not be quite as obvious to an end user.
To combat this, user-testing and agile development is crucial to creating an optimal user experience. Throughout the ongoing development of CAVR Design, multiple users have tried and tested the software, noting what they liked, and what features they would like to see implemented next. Doing this means that as a developer, the users behaviour can be understood - are they finding what they need in menus? Reaching useful and productive outcomes? Leaving the experience satisfied? This user experience data can then effectively guide the future development of the product.
This has allowed CAVR Design to be developed into a solution which is easy to learn and quick to implement. There are no steep learning curves with days of training and brick-sized manuals. Users are able to put on the headset and feel immediately comfortable within the virtual workspace, their hands move with them, their view of the world is tracked in their headset, and each user can see and interact with others in the space in real-time. Any data required can be easily be loaded into the space and visualised, and plans can begin to be created within seconds.
This is just one of the benefits CAVR Design is able to provide for mine planning and design - more to come in the next post!
Animation, mining engineering and software development - sounds like an unconventional series of events? At first glance, definitely. Despite the wild variety in industries, this path has allowed me to bring a very unique mindset to the mining industry. I approach engineering problems with a foundation of creativity and out of the box thinking, while delving into the data and exploring the real problem to be solved. This path has led me to my current position, CEO and founder of CAVR Design - a virtual workspace for collaborative mine design.
Despite these three industries seeming disconnected, with similarities few and far between, I often reflect on a fundamental idea, that carried through my career to date, ultimately led to the conception and creation of CAVR Design.
Creativity + Iteration = Success
The typical approach to starting a new animation is to block out the big, key body shapes, and gradually blend the detail from there. The result hits the key metrics for animation: movement that is readable, entertaining, and believable.
Walking through the key shapes before focusing in on the detail is so important. Animators will often run through a number of options at this early stage, considering different poses, flow and focal points. In doing so, they are able to find the optimal sequence - the movement that delivers the best result.
Similarly, mine design involves a series of steps through feasibility to final design that gradually breaks a plan into smaller and smaller details in order to deliver a result that hits mining-specific metrics associated with safety, cost and revenue.
This process of quickly exploring multiple options in order to reach the best result is so crucial, particularly in an industry in which we deal with finite resources - we only get one shot at mining each deposit, so we better do it the best way possible!
Given the time constraints of a working day, and the effort required to generate multiple iterations in available mine design packages, this crucial period of exploration is not currently possible, with engineers needing to constantly move onto other jobs.
In developing CAVR Design, this has always been at the forefront of my mind. The mining industry needs a tool that allows for fast and efficient exploration of ideas, within teams of talent that hold varied expertise. The ease of use and simple learning curve of CAVR Design lets engineers quickly load relevant data, jump into the virtual workspace, and start fleshing out multiple ideas as a team.
I’d love to speak more about the importance of creativity and iteration in the mining industry - more to come in another post!