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VR Training

Skills training is far more effective when participants are actively engaged in the learning process. We know this intuitively from our own exper

ience: hands-on practice and collaborative exercises and other “active learning” techniques are far more stimulating than powerpoint slides and training manuals. And research has proven that such stimulation and engagement result in higher proficiency and longer knowledge retention.

Training professionals are using a spectrum of reality technologies to put these active learning principles into practice. Let’s take a look at three modalities that are employed in skills training — 360° Video, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality — to see how effectively they each engage participants.

360° Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then moving pictures are that much more engaging and informative. 360° video goes a step further by allowing the user to control the point of view of a prerecorded scene.

In the 360° video example shown here, police trainees can control the viewing angle as they learn how to perform a Pursuit Intervention Technique to safely stop a fleeing car.

360° video is limited as a training tool. The available experience remains the same every time. To make a change, the video needs to be re-recorded. And critically important for our purposes — the active learning experience of 360° video is constrained by the user’s inability to interact with the environment and encounter a response by the environment

Augmented Reality

AR is similar to 360° video in allowing observers to control the viewing angle, but AR does so in real time, as the viewer observes their actual physical surroundings. As the name indicates, augmented reality layers additional content to enrich the user’s perception of the real-world scene.

This additional content can appear on the surface, annotating real objects with relevant text or images. And AR can also allow users to visualize objects below the surface — like Superman’s x-ray vision. For example, in the video below, augmented reality reveals the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components hidden behind the walls and ceilings of a construction site.

Augmented reality offers an information-rich experience. Users can not only look up and down and all around as they can with 360° video, but AR also allows them to see more than what is visible on the surface and to follow what interests them in order to gain deeper understanding.

However, augmented reality, like 360° video, cannot fully engage users in active learning: the realism of the user viewing the actual physical world does not afford the dynamic interactive experience that makes virtual reality especially effective at multimodal learning.

Virtual Reality

Because it is not limited by the constraints of the physical world, virtual reality can deliver a more interactive learning experience than 360° video and AR. As a simulated environment, VR can often provide a more authentic training experience, with trainees encountering various random challenges, under differing lifelike conditions, as they would in actual work situations.

VR allows trainees to repeatedly practice skills to develop proficiency and confidence, thereby gaining the equivalent of on-the-job experience. And they can practice dangerous operations without risking safety or equipment.

Trainees develop proficiency by perceiving the situation, taking action and receiving immediate realistic feedback on the consequences of their actions. This process of learning by trial and error has been proven to result in better understanding and longer knowledge retention. Neuroscientists call this type of of active learning “the perception-action cycle.”  And let’s not overlook another important benefit of virtual reality: like gaming, it can be fun.  Trainees are cognitively engaged in an immersive experience, while interactively practicing skills.  They are motivated to concentrate their mental energies to gain proficiency and succeed at tasks.  That’s active learning at its best.


Expert Insights

As someone on the front line of PIXO VR’s team, Erica Schaffel, Vice President of Sales, spends a lot of time with training directors demonstrating how virtual reality training works and educating people about it’s benefits for businesses and employees. We sat down with her to learn more about how the industry is responding to this new technology.

“The thing that strikes people first when they try one of our virtual reality modules is how real it feels,” says Schaffel, “People are blown away. They’re so immersed in the environment they’ll try to place the controller on a virtual table or lean against a virtual wall.”

Schaffel notices after the initial excitement melts away, people make a real effort to master the tasks they’re learning. “They have fun with it,” she says. “They’re fully engaged in the process. In some cases, they get competitive with each other; each new person trying to outdo the last.”

In the beginning, people are excited to try a virtual reality module, but can’t see how it will fit in the day-to-day running of their business. As soon as they try it, they have a million ideas about how to use it.

“The practicality of training in virtual reality surprises people,” Schaffel explains. “VR can help them deliver training they can’t now for reasons of safety, cost, or simple logistics. It’s a great way to augment an existing training program.”

Peoples Gas, a large natural gas company, serves as a great example of a company using virtual reality training to augment its existing program. As it stands, newly hired utility workers spend their orientation in a room with a single gas meter and a handbook. They learn how to inspect that one meter. Out in the real world, gas meters vary greatly in configuration, location in the home, and repair methods, so there’s a significant gap in understanding that only on-the-job experience can fill. The Gas Meter Safety Inspection module built by PIXO VR provides over a million combinations of gas meter locations, configurations, and maintenance procedures, enabling new workers to gain years of experience in a fraction of the time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.  

“Randomization makes each module we build even more useful for employers, and more engaging for employees,” says Schaffel. “Participants can have a different experience every time they train or repeat a specific variation if they need more practice.”

PIXO VR can also vary the environment in a module to change up the training. For instance, in an exercise for emergency professionals responding to an accident, trainers can set the scene on a rural road or a busy city street. They can add bystanders or other fires to the mix. First responders can establish a virtual command center from which they oversee multiple participants from different jurisdictions—all without leaving the comfort of an office or putting themselves in danger. Supervisors can even conduct employee evaluations in realistic scenarios, remotely, allowing them to see trainees’ reactions to complex and stressful situations.

Schaffel says people often express some trepidation about putting on virtual reality goggles. “The main thing people are nervous about is dizziness. They’re afraid it’ll make them queasy. Honestly, I was worried about that before I tried it, but PIXO has several techniques, including maximum frame rates, to ensure this is not a factor.”

Schaffel enjoys traveling around the country spreading the word about PIXO VR and the value of virtual reality for training. “I feel like we’re pioneers, paving the way for the future of training,” says Schaffel. “In our own way, we’re protecting the ones who protect us. It’s great to belong to a company that cares about that.”



Gas Meter Safety Inspection VR training module is the first commercially available release from PIXO’s library of enterprise VR training applications for utilities, energy, manufacturers, construction and first responders

DETROIT, Jan. 31, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Virtual reality safety training company PIXO VR™ has released Gas Meter Safety Inspection VR Training, the first commercially available release from PIXO’s library of licensable enterprise VR training programs. The company’s VR application platform, comprised of pre-built components, will enable PIXO to rapidly develop additional enterprise VR training modules for those working in utilities, nuclear facilities, manufacturers, construction, first responders, and others with complex procedures. This is the first time enterprise VR training is being made commercially available, for a small monthly fee, without the cost of custom development.

“PIXO is committed to developing and deploying the most immersive, collaborative and engaging enterprise VR training modules, and providing a uniquely effective training alternative for industries where real-world training conditions are complex, dangerous, expensive or otherwise hard to simulate,” said Sean Hurwitz, CEO of PIXO VR. Our proprietary platform improves efficiency in developing training lessons. It’s accessible through a cloud based content distribution system, making this a powerful and cost effective option for training providers. We’re excited to offer the Gas Meter Safety Inspection Training module to natural gas companies now, and to expand our training offerings across industries as we grow our content library.”

Gas Meter Safety Inspection is one of the first, and most critical, trainings provided to new hires working in natural gas companies. Traditional training methods can’t reliably expose new workers to all the possible meter configurations and defects, which creates a significant experience gap between new and seasoned workers. PIXO’s Gas Meter Safety Inspection training module provides an effective way to expose new hires to millions of scenarios in a fraction of the time. Trainees embark on a virtual route where they locate and report on common and uncommon defects, in a highly realistic 3D environment. The randomized scenarios presented in the module provide a unique experience for each user, every time they train, and the trainers have access to user management, reporting, and analytics to monitor  trainees’ performance, accuracy, and progress over time.

PIXO’s Gas Meter Safety Inspection VR training module is already being used by Chicago-based Peoples Gas, which provides training to 1,600 utility workers and fire officials, and vocational training to students in Chicago Public Schools.

“The Peoples Gas training team was looking for innovative, engaging, effective ways to train new team members, especially as we prepare for a large portion of our workforce to retire and a new generation of workers to begin their careers,” said Ray Deatherage, Manager, Technical Training, Peoples Gas & North Shore Gas Company. “PIXO’s VR training enables us to train workers on natural gas leak investigation, emergency response, pipeline locating, pipeline installation, meter installation, corrosion activities and safety inspections. It is the right solution to help us build for the future, increase retention, decrease errors and maintain our excellent record of reliability and safety.”

Passionate about improving safety and performance in organizations, PIXO VR designs AAA game-quality, licensable virtual reality training modules. Utilities, nuclear facilities, manufacturers, construction, first responders, and others with complex procedures rely on PIXO VR’s expertise to create immersive, realistic, and cost-effective learning programs. Teams collaborate easily using software that supports participants from multiple locations, on any VR or non-VR hardware. The proprietary technology significantly reduces creation time and cost, optimizes performance, and reduces sickness-causing lag.


The folks at M2TechCast invited PIXO VR’s CEO, Sean Hurwitz to their podcast to talk about virtual reality training for first responders and others in hazardous jobs. Sean and hosts Matt Roush, Mike Brennan, along with Greg Doyle of MITechNews discussed the value of training in a safe environment and VR’s ability to create realistic situations, enabling supervisors to ensure their personnel are ready when crises arise. 

Listen here for the show and read more about the podcast on the MITechNews site.