Q&A

From virtual to reality: This Houston extended reality CEO weighs in on energy transition applications

Founded in 2023, MadXR is a Houston-based Extended Reality startup. The innovative company specializes in safety training experiences for the energy sector and beyond. From pre-built virtual reality training modules to custom developed, end-to-end XR solutions, MadXR creates interactive, lifelike virtual reality and augmented reality experiences that allow trainees to practice safety procedures in a controlled environment.

Houston Energy Transition Initiative recently connected with Miranda Palmisano, CEO of MadXR, to discuss the applications and benefits of XR—and how it can help energy companies reduce HSE risk and carbon intensity like never before.

HETI: You were at Chevron for nearly 10 years before MadXR. How did your experiences at Chevron shape your approach to starting and running your own company?

Miranda Palmisano: Prior to founding MadXR, I held many different roles at Chevron across upstream and downstream. As the Connected Worker Product Manager, I drove digital acceleration for our global field and maintenance teams in refineries, terminals, and manufacturing sites, elevating efficiency and safety. During that time, I began exploring the value case of VR across Chevron.

I formed the Extended Reality Team and shortly became the Extended Reality Product Manager. Our team began using VR to conduct safety training within a virtual environment. It allowed us to train Chevron’s workforce safer and more efficiently by providing hands-on experience without the risk of real-world errors.

HETI: What inspired you to start your own company?

MP: Extended reality is an exciting new technology, and I quickly discovered the growing need for flexible, cost-effective XR content development in relation to life-saving-action training, such as confined-space entry, lockout/tagout procedures, and working from heights. I believe that affordable and high-quality XR experiences should be accessible to all companies, regardless of budget. That’s why MadXR has transparent pricing options that range from pre-built VR training modules to turnkey teams—and we empower our customers to take full ownership of their content and assets.

HETI: How has being based in Houston helped MadXR?

MP: The network in Houston is unmatched. In the energy capital of the world, it’s much easier to access the companies we’re targeting and hire the talent we need to grow. Innovation hubs like Houston’s Ion District have given us the resources and opportunities to connect with a vast number of forward-thinking businesses.

HETI: Do you believe XR will be instrumental in helping companies reach low carbon or net zero goals?

MP: XR is poised to revolutionize the energy industry, offering unprecedented opportunities for efficiency, engagement, and environmental sustainability. Imagine donning a headset and virtually navigating a facility halfway across the globe in real-time, or preparing your entire team with comprehensive virtual training before they physically enter a site. These scenarios highlight XR’s potential to enhance operational efficiency and employee engagement significantly. Beyond the immediate benefits, XR also plays a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions by eliminating the need for unnecessary travel. This technology isn’t just about improving current processes; it’s about reimagining the future of energy industry operations in a more sustainable, efficient, and engaging way.

HETI: MadXR will be celebrating its first anniversary in April. Can you tell us more about your vision for the future and what you’re focused on in 2024?

MP: In 2023, we were focused on ramping up and generating awareness. This year, we’re dedicated to expanding our reach and impact. We plan to incorporate AI into our learning modules and XR development to make them even more informational and interactive.

While our primary focus is on energy, we’re exploring how we can extend XR training to other industries, including automotive, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals.

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This article originally ran on the Greater Houston Partnership's Houston Energy Transition Initiative blog. HETI exists to support Houston's future as an energy leader. For more information about the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, EnergyCapitalHTX's presenting sponsor, visit htxenergytransition.org.

To learn more about MadXR’s mission and XR training modules, visit MadXR.

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A View From HETI

Governor Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. Photo via X/Governor Abbott

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

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