Imagine a world in which you could experience anything you wanted to without risk to yourself or your pocket book? What would you choose to do?
In the virtual world, you can experience skydiving off of a building. That is probably something none of us would actually do in real life, but might try if there were no risks of failure in a simulated version of reality.
The virtual world is being used to explore and innovate in some fascinating and world changing ways, beyond personal experiences, as technology has developed to a point where data from the real world informs simulations of them. Take for example, the Living Heart project in which scans of hearts are used in conjunction with expected and actual performance data to allow doctors to diagnose and recommend actions for patients. The Living Heart also allows surgeons to practice operating on a patient in a simulated environment.
This type of technology can be applied in mining today as well. 3D Lidar scanning is common place, as is the collection of data on mining performance. This information can be turned into a virtual mining version of a mine site, one in which problems can be diagnosed and options for improvements investigated. Since this virtual mining is a simulation of the real world, ideas can be explored that would be otherwise deemed too costly or risky. These ideas might be small, such as scheduling, or larger, involving a reconfiguration of the mine site.
With a virtual mining environment in which to visualize, explore, and change things, continuous innovation becomes possible. This is not just continuous improvement, but one in which provocative ideas can be proven and improved upon before being deployed.