VR as a Business Training Tool

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Tudor Lodge

While all successful businesses are constantly moving forward, taking advantage of the latest technologies to promote growth, staff training is an area that has largely remained static, relying on decades old methods and equipment. The arrival of inexpensive but effective VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift, is changing all of that, with more and more companies turning to VR as a business training tool. Virtual Reality has become a disruptive technology in a number of sectors, from the training of surgeons to the entertainment industry. On this site, CasinoSmash credits VR with being "the next big thing in gambling", while on this one, PC gaming calls it "the future of video games."

In this article, we will be looking at the impact of VR on the business and staff training sectors and defining what it is that makes VR so effective as a training tool.

Training at Scale

Walmart has become a leader in the rollout of VR staff training, installing tethered VR devices in  220 Walmart Academies around the United States in 2017. These devices are used to simulate a variety of different business situations, allowing new staff members to get some experience of working in a busy retail environment before they start their in-store probationary period.

With the huge steps forward that VR tech has taken in recent years, the need for tethered devices has lessened and Walmart is now in the process of rolling out its VR training program to roughly 4,600 stores across the US - using more than 17,000 Oculus Go standalone headsets to train more than one million staff members.

UPS are using a similar method to bulk-train prospective delivery drivers. The delivery company makes use of the HTC Vive VR headset to train its drivers in the required nomenclature to use with their supervisors when out on the road, and to administer vehicles awareness tests that help drivers learn to spot potential hazards. Laura Collings, UPS’s global training manager, described their VR training program as having “unlimited possibilities.”

Training in Detail

While VR training offers significant benefits in training staff in bulk, it also offers a different set of benefits at the other end of the scale.

The traditional set up for simulators to train prospective pilots, adapted from that used by the US military, can run to millions of dollars in capital costs. The ability to replace costly simulators with cost-effective VR setups has the potential to save airlines a significant amount in their training budget. Ideal in an industry that is increasingly moving toward the budget end of the market.

The mining industry is also investing heavily in VR training. Mines make use of VR headsets to train miners without exposing them to the hazardous conditions that exist inside any working mine. Reducing the amount of potentially dangerous training on the job needed before mine staff are up to speed.

In professions where a mistake could end in a fatality, VR is being used to train staff in ways that just haven’t been possible before.

Canada’s Queens University and SimforHealth have recently opened an 8,000 square foot VR training facility for medical staff, using VR headsets provided by HTC. This new facility will allow medical and surgical staff to train on virtual “patients” in an environment that previously might have seen them making beginner mistake on real patients.

In a similar trial, the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA) is making use of consumer-grade Oculus Rift and Touch technology to allow trainee surgeons to practice intensely delicate operations on children. The system is so advanced that is can be used to scan in the faces of regular surgical nurses and assistants, so that the trainees get used to seeing them in the operations theater environment.

In New Jersey, trainee police officers are being trained with VR headsets on how to react to a number of different possible law enforcement circumstances, from the more mundane traffic stops to how to deal with an active shooter.

A New Training Paradigm

As VR has matured as a technology, it has begun to make an impact on sectors outside of the video game and entertainment industries. More and more Fortune 500 companies are taking advantage of VR’s strengths, low-cost, portability and the ability to train in hazardous environments, to increase the effectiveness of their staff training while cutting the cost.  

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