When Nanaia Mahuta recognised Company-X’s ability to build a virtual reality version of Parliament, no one expected such technology would be needed so soon.

The Minister for Local Government and Associate Minister of Trade and Export Growth quipped Company-X could build a virtual model of Parliament in October after she had experienced a series of virtual reality simulations Company-X had built for clients.

“We can debate from home,” Mahuta told the Government delegation she led to the Company-X office in Hamilton, New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Epidemic Response Committee, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Simon Bridges, has been debating New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic from home using Zoom video conferencing since March 31. A virtual Parliament has been created in the UK. Members of Parliament in the House of Commons are using Zoom, while the House of Lords is using Microsoft Teams. At least, for now.

The capability Company-X demonstrated during the ministerial visit is more immersive than video conferencing, with Mahuta wearing a virtual reality headset that dropped her into a series of simulated environments.

Mahuta visited a virtual version of a state of the art dairy shed Company-X developed for New Zealand quality assurance specialist AsureQuality. Before interacting with the simulated milking equipment in the Company-X office, Mahuta washed her hands at a virtual sink with virtual soap and water. “This is very cool,” she said.

With her virtual reality headset still firmly in place, Mahuta was transported to a virtual model built by Company-X of the Te Kowhai Main Line Valve for First Gas. The natural gas transmission and distribution network owner can use the simulation for risk-free training for high-risk activities like mainline venting.

“Oh my gosh,” was Mahuta’s response as she walked around the virtual environment and climbed a virtual platform overlooking the gas pipes. She said she felt like she had really climbed the platform.

“That was amazing! This gives me a whole new appreciation for Minecraft,” Mahuta said.

“When you look across the group of ASEAN countries and their demographic profile they are a younger population, digitally-led, and that’s what’s going to drive their economy, we’ve got to kind of figure out how we can impact in the knowledge space.

“More Minecraft then, I won’t ever doubt my son.”

Meanwhile, Company-X has seen an upsurge in client interest in the world’s leading hands-free remote collaboration tool, RealWear head-mounted tablets. Clients are using the RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-Z1 to offer remote assistance to frontline workers. The technology supports the Ministry of Health’s social distancing rules and reduces the need for workers to be in the same room.

CAPTION: WIRED: Nanaia Mahuta explores a virtual dairy shed at Company-X in Hamilton, before joking the virtual reality specialist build a virtual Parliament.