Virtual reality: see the world through a farmer's eyes
A BURLY farmer leads you into a busy shearing shed.
You turn and look around: a tractor on the right, guys shearing sheep on the left.
The manager takes you on a tour of the shed and you're by his side the whole time, and at the end you're looking down on a pen of sheep.
But you haven't taken a single step. Take off your headset and you are, as they say, "back in the room".
This is just one application of virtual reality technology that digital strategist and educator Tim Gentle is looking to bring to rural areas, and local farmers had the chance to try it out at an AgForce conference in Bundaberg.
With a lightweight Google Cardboard VR piece perched on his face, Mr Gentle showed the audience how to create an immersive 3D version of the conference room at Brothers Sports Club - and how the technology that has set the gaming world alight could be useful on the land.
"You might use it for training staff, you might use it for educating customers - 'look at how we grow our crops or farm our sheep', or you might use it for lobbying government," he said.
AgForce delegate and Monto farmer Narelle Galloway donned a headset to test out the technology, which also allows you to navigate and interact with incredibly real environments by walking and using wireless joysticks - which could simulate everything from using machinery to spraying weeds.
"It could be used for vegetation management - for before and after shots (to demonstrate to government)," Mrs Galloway said.
With the changes to vegetation management laws, this application is front of mind for many farmers.
She was also impressed with the potential for education.
"You can go through virtual reality and identify weeds, so that you can find them when you go out into the paddock."
Mr Gentle said the purpose of his visit to Bundaberg was "to plant the seed".
"The main purpose of my visit is to introduce technology that improves the way farmers communicate, and inspire them to use new technologies.
"It was great to see the leaders today jump into virtual reality for the first time."
Mr Gentle plans to take the technology around Australia in a mobile digital classroom for regional, rural and remote residents.
The Think Digital Coach will target parts of Australia that are "getting left behind the digital world", catering for small businesses, farmers, schools, organisations and local government.
VR will feature in the solar-powered classroom - which is fitted out with computer workstations and a large touch screen to host the classes on board - along with 3D printers, drones, mobile devices and wearables.
Mr Gentle also plans to fit it out with WiFi with a radius of up to 10km.
He is now in the process of designing his nationwide itinerary and wants to hear from communities who need the classroom most.
"We will be crowdfunding and approaching like-minded businesses who want to help those in regional, rural and remote Australia to receive digital education," Mr Gentle said.
To find out more and speak to Mr Gentle about visiting your area, visit think.digital or call 0422 900 858.