Japanese construction companies looking to attract esports talent to operate machinery

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His Minecraft meets The last fighter.

The popularity of esports continues to grow as many young players hone their skills so that one day they can compete at a professional level. But as with any competitive circuit, only a few will be able to rise to the level of perpetual success. For the rest, there is nothing left but to refer back to all the years of honing Baron Nashor’s killing skills.

Is it true?

At the end of October this year Contest e-Building Machines Challenge was held in Roppongi, Tokyo. In this tournament five teams competed in remotely piloting construction equipment from approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) away at the training ground of the Chiba Boso Technical Center in Ichihara City, Chiba Prefecture.

▼ Report from the competition

Each team consisted of two operators and one supervisor who piloted excavators and dump trucks to move large amounts of earth in the shortest possible time. The teams consisted of people experienced with such equipment, as well as students and eSports players. In the end, the Chiba Fire Rescue team won the grand prize, but it was the addition of eSports players that was what the Transportation Digital Business Conference (TDBC) organizers were really interested in.

Population decline is proving to be a challenge for the construction industry and TDBC is taking a two-pronged approach, both by making machine operation more efficient and by making it more attractive to younger people.

during the tournament, tests were carried out to see how well conventional gamepads or joysticks used in games could be adapted to operate really heavy machinery such as cranes or excavators, and the results were encouraging. This would suggest that the smooth transition from professional gamer to construction worker could become quite seamless.

▼ The entire tournament can be viewed on YouTube and also shows gamepad testing, but it takes about three hours.

And because the operation is performed remotely, one operator can work in multiple locations from one office, compensating for the lack of available manpower. TDBC also hopes that by attracting esports talent to construction, its image as a dirty, heavy and dangerous profession can be replaced with a cooler and more sophisticated reputation.

▼ I don’t know, these guys still seem pretty cool to me.

The thought intrigued online commentators who weren’t even involved in esports, but there was also a lot of skepticism about whether such a marriage of gaming and construction would really work.

“It’s a neat bridge between esports and construction.”
“I wonder if you can work internationally and kill in an Australian mine.”
“And they let you use your own controller?!”
“That’s good because I think if you put the player in a real construction site, there could be problems.”
“I wonder how effective it can be online. You really need to see your surroundings to be effective.”
“I think the construction industry was thinking about introducing a PS gamepad some time ago.”
“A heavy machine is very dangerous and should not be treated like a game. People can die there.

Of course, going from pro-gamer to machine operator is not just a matter of changing chairs. The industry is currently working with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on a training and licensing program as there is currently no such program for remotely operated vehicles.

In addition to construction, this technology is expected to be useful in disaster-stricken areas that are dangerous or hard to reach for people. Instead of sending transport excavators and operators over damaged roads to the earthquake-affected area, the equipment can simply be logged on remotely and get to work right away.

Not only that, but we’ve also seen Japan involved in NASA’s Artemis project, with the long-term goal of building a base on the moon. Needless to say, this will require several remote equipment operators, so it would be nice to get to the ground floor of it all. So I’m dusting off my old Mad Catz controller with a slow motion feature that would pause and resume the game really quickly.

Source: Sankei News, Hachim Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Place an image: Wikipedia/Charles Clyde Ebbets
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