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Virtual Reality Training: Effective and Scalable
Virtual reality training feels like the wave of the future because it is. But VR training for skills and experiential enhancement isn’t something entirely new.
Fields like medicine have used virtual reality for a long time to help both freshly qualified and experienced surgeons alike gain experience and real insight into their work. In an application like surgery, it’s easy to understand the benefits of VR technology: the surgeon can learn and develop skills, and there’s no live patient involved.
But virtual reality training can have a significant impact on a host of industries, from construction to logistics to the utilities sector. The reason VR is so valuable to these industries is that it has real benefits and enables staff to learn in an environment that mirrors their everyday workspace, without incurring the same levels of risks. More than this, virtual reality technology is easy to scale up to meet the demands of large corporations, but not so prohibitively expensive to lock out smaller companies.
When it comes to modern-day training across a range of areas, VR training technology can be a cost effective way to improve learning outcomes, increase safety, and boost skills.
As more and more business large and small move towards VR training, it’s important to look at the core reasons why.
One major benefit many businesses are seeing from bringing virtual reality training capabilities into their operations is a drastic reduction in training costs. VR can lower, or even eradicate, hidden training costs associated with things like equipment and professional supervisors hired in for the duration.
STRIVR, a leading US VR startup with a focus on training applications, has already teamed with big companies like Walmart and Chipotle to train staff and bring down associated costs. As of now, Walmart has used STRIVR to train over 140,000 of its employees.
This includes the deployment of specialised VR experiences to help staff cope with the increase in customer demands on Black Friday. According to a STRIVR case study, they helped United Rentals increase the effectiveness of their training, while at the same time reducing overall training time by 40-percent.
Businesses in varied fields are seeing the health and safety benefits of virtual training technology, with dairy company Fonterra pairing with Beca to produce a complete health and safety training program for workers. The new VR capabilities enable the company to tailor training to individual sites, as well as allowing them to replace a big part of their manual health and safety training. The result is training that’s more effective, tailored to the role and cheaper.
When it comes to learning, there’s no better teacher than experience, and that’s what makes VR such a powerful training tool. Virtual reality technology achieves higher levels of assimilation and mastery by making the user’s mind think they really are in that space.
Stereoscopic depth plays a big part in this, and it’s one of the critical benefits of VR training. Stereoscopic depth enables the VR user to experience depth in the images that surround them. That provides dramatic improvements to immersion and, in turn, learning retention.
An academic study on VR for medical student training from the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicated that virtual reality training could improve knowledge retention and increase study motivation. Practically, STRIVR and Walmart reported that VR training had helped 70-percent of their trainees improve their exam scores, while retailer Lowe’s received feedback from employees that said 90-percent felt VR would help them develop and improve their customer service skills.
Industries that often struggle to offer quality experiential training – often due to safety hazards – are also deeply interested in VR training technology, with a 2018 study from research firm Brandon Hall Group revealing that 45-percent of high-consequence industries see virtual reality as important or critical to meeting their goals over the next 18 to 24 months.
Putting people in the right position to succeed is essential in any industry, and that means giving real experience. But sometimes – in the construction industry, for example – this isn’t always practical or safe.
Virtual reality induction can put workers in the middle of any site, making the technology both practical and immensely valuable when it comes to acquainting workers with a site and associated risks without them ever being on-site.
Scottish firm Morrison Construction made some waves earlier this year when they introduced tailored VR site induction to their business. Developing three modules in conjunction with the University of the West of Scotland, the VR induction experience enables workers to familiarise themselves with a specific construction site and find danger points, with the emphasis on-site health and safety procedures.
In a correlated industry – that of architecture – the firm Kier has begun using VR induction to speed up their project design and build phases. Providing two test cases – one for a school build project and another for a hospital ward refurbishment – Kier found that the technology reduced the time it took to complete an on-site induction, the cost of production of the VR assets was minimal and concluded, “there is no reason why this approach could not be adopted more in the construction industry.”
When it comes to the variety of VR technology for viewers, the choices are broad. But most businesses want something mobile that gives users freedom of movement, and that’s why options like Oculus Go, Google Cardboard and the HTC Vive are popular options.
The Oculus Go costs about AU$450, but its value comes from the fact that, overall, this minimal upfront outlay more than pays for itself in terms of offset training costs. One headset can deliver training to a huge number of people, making it economical and scalable for future needs.
The HTC Vive offers the same benefits – with improved battery life, resolution and degrees of freedom for the user, but it also costs more, weighing in at AU$879. Google Cardboard, on the other hand, which uses a DIY construction that works with a VR-capable mobile device, only costs around AU$5-20 each.
With the VR market expanding rapidly in so many directions, the technology is out there to meet the needs of every type of business. Bespoke, tailored training that reduces costs and improves outcomes is within reach of any industry, and that’s why VR training is the future.
As we’ve seen, VR training is seeing increasing use and benefits across various industries, from architecture to construction to healthcare, among others.
Use cases show that VR training provides real, measurable outcomes when it comes to retention, desire to learn, improving safety and making site inductions more efficient. The research also shows that businesses can reduce their spending on training and realise superior learning outcomes.
As the technology advances and more industries reach for VR training solutions and learn about what it can achieve, the impact and capabilities of immersing viewers to better retain learning, virtual realm of training will only increase.
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