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VR Training

There’s no question that VR is the biggest thing to happen to training since PowerPoint, (All hail Mighty PowerPoi–zzzzz. Sorry. Nodded off there.)

But like any training technique — even PowerPoint — it’s important to always evaluate whether or not it will actually achieve our specific training goals.

In this article, I want to give you a simple framework to evaluate whether virtual reality fits into your current or future workforce training program.

Are the Learning Objectives Still Relevant?

There’s a tendency to retrofit our learning objectives into our favorite teaching technique. If we feel comfortable lecturing, building PowerPoint presentations, giving webinars, or recording training videos, there is a real possibility that our syllabus is going to be full of that preferred medium.

Virtual reality training is a hot training tool, but it might not be ideal for every learning objective.

If I’m trying to ensure that my job site supervisor can adequately prepare a project status report, it might make sense to simply show him or her a couple of sample forms and then hand them a blank one along with a pencil to practice.

By contrast, if I need to make sure my workers know how to properly inspect a safety harness, hook up to a safety line, and appropriately move around and work from scaffolding thirteen stories up, I might want to consider a VR training aide to meet my fall protection learning objective.

Different tools are appropriate for different tasks.

Is the Medium Effective?

Every student learns in a slightly different way. When we’re designing our training programs, it’s important to consider these various learning styles and adapt accordingly. Keeping learning styles top-of-mind enables us to make sure the mediums we choose will teach as many people and across as many styles, as possible.

One of the models we like to use in developing new training modules is Neil Fleming’s VARK model of learning styles. In this model, Fleming breaks learning styles into the following categories: Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetics.

Virtual reality training environments, by design, must include a combination of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic responsive feedback. Therefore, in most cases, virtual reality is going to be a highly effective approach for any and all kinds of learners.

Are Expectations Clear?

Before entering into any learning scenario, the student must understand what the expectations are. They must ask questions like, “What am I trying to accomplish?”. “How do I know when I am successful?” “How will I know if I am failing?”

Because virtual reality is a simulation of the real world, VR training can be as messy and ambiguous as an actual workplace. In a lot of ways, that’s one of the significant advantages of VR training. But, to create a successful training program, it’s imperative to make sure that the expectations of the student are clear before they enter the virtual training scenario.

Two easy-to-make mistakes when hiring a VR Training company is to expect that virtual reality training should embrace all of the complexity that is possible on a job site, or conversely, leaving things excessively open-ended and general.

Virtual worlds can very closely replicate all of the possibilities of the real world. But to create impactful training, it’s important to work first from the most basic, straightforward scenarios to build individual employee knowledge and skills, and then progress onto the full complexity of job or skill training.

Is the Learner Engaged?

The most common point of failure in any kind of training is an unengaged learner. If a student simply isn’t paying attention or isn’t actively engaged in absorbing the material, the best content and trainer in the world can’t produce a well-trained and fully-equipped employee.

Engaging each student is another one of those areas where VR training excels.

Right from the beginning, you have to pick up the VR goggles, grab the controllers, and get to it. There’s no opportunity to rock back on your chair and slyly play Candy Crush while the instructor drones and mindlessly advances PowerPoint slides. What’s more, the power of precision data collection within virtual reality software can help you determine exactly how engaged each student is in your learning scenarios.

For example, if they are supposed to inspect a piece of equipment or device for safety: Are they spending enough time focused on and examining the device? (And here we mean “focused” literally — are they actually looking at the right parts of the device? Are they using their inspection equipment correctly?) With our gaze-tracking feature, PIXO VR Training can determine where an employee is physically looking within the scenario, and for how long.

Another way we keep trainees engaged is by going beyond simple “pass/fail”, “right/wrong” answers and testing. The real world, as we know, contains a lot of nuance and gray areas. PIXO VR’s real-time scoring and analytics can provide a much more exacting view into how trainees actually train — did they get everything correct in a given lesson or were certain aspects only partially correct? Did they “get lucky” on anything or do they really know their stuff?

Virtual reality training can keep trainees more engaged — and in more ways — than any other kind of training out there.   

Is the Environment Realistic and Relevant?

Depending on how you plan to, or are currently, using virtual reality in your training program, how you establish the virtual reality environment can make a difference. One common mistake is to overgeneralize the virtual environment, often by trying to hack together a do-it-yourself solution or save a few dollars.

The overarching goal with virtual reality training is realism without risk; dissolving the mental barrier between virtual and actual reality in a way that ensures everyone goes home safe and sound…and skilled.

Training in a virtual environment that is too removed, general, or unrelated to the actual operating environment can negate any benefit to VR training, (or indeed any training technique).

If you’re going to leverage the benefits of virtual reality it’s important to, as strictly as possible, simulate your actual environment or task. If the student has to do too much extrapolation to make the training fit their day-to-day activities, or do mental gymnastics to imagine themselves in the environment, less of that training will transfer into the workplace or job site.

It’s here that the quality of the art and realism of the environment really matters, and why PIXO VR ensures all our VR Training experiences are designed to be of a superior, AAA-game quality visual fidelity.

If a student learning in VR encounters vague, imprecise shapes that look more like a drawing or model and less like ‘the real thing’, that environment will only convey “the idea” of a given machine or place. In that circumstance, they’re less apt to take the training seriously. Whether they’re engaged or not, an internal barrier will be put up that says, “this is just a game, this isn’t real”, and the training will suffer due to a lack of immersion.

If a company is considering a VR Training solution, they would do well to insist on a premium VR experience, complete with fully immersive and interactive photorealistic simulations that communicate a message in the minds of their employees that “I am really here, this is just like the job site.”

The good news is that virtual reality environments are built with software. Therefore, the incremental cost of creating a realistic and relevant environment, especially versus the physical alternative, has become much more affordable.

Will it Achieve Better Outcomes?

Ultimately, this is the question that should always be playing in the back of your mind.

Is what I’m doing, the techniques I’m using, and the content I’m presenting developing more competent, better equipped, and safer employees? Is my training delivering better results for the people and the company?

If you’re in charge of designing and delivering training in your organization, the question of effectiveness goes beyond just hitting the learning targets. For most training managers, this question needs to extend into other areas: “Are my training methodologies more cost-effective? Do they provide greater long-term knowledge retention, and fewer mistakes and accidents in the field? Will they allow me to more efficiently train a larger workforce without degrading the quality of that training?”

Many of these questions have been addressed throughout this assessment framework, and VR training evaluates out as a highly compelling solution to level-up most training programs.

As you begin evaluating your training, there are sure to be questions. If you’re considering VR training for the first time or trying to get more from your current VR training, don’t hesitate to contact one of our VR training specialists.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


Expert Insights, News, VR Training
One of the early hurdles to widespread adoption of virtual reality has been a problem of perception. For many, their only experience with, or awareness of, VR has been through games, and the last thing most VC firms or major corporations want to invest in is a novelty—something fun but mostly impractical.

For those who follow VR more closely, however—and particularly the rise of Virtual Reality Training—the notion that VR is just another high tech game is quickly fading as results and peer-reviewed studies start to pour in which continue to validate the effectiveness of the technology as a learning tool.

With that said, we have something to confess: some of PIXO VR’s best and brightest hail from the world of — gasp! — AAA-video games. (We know, it’s shocking. But bear with us.)

Now, you might think we would try to hide or downplay that fact so as not to reinforce the “VR is a game” narrative, (in fact, our gaming pedigree was hinted at in this recent piece about us by influential VR industry blogger Alice Bonasio appearing in The Next Web), but the truth is, our success as a VR Training company is owed in no small measure to our roots, and those of our team, in entertainment and gaming.

And when you think about it, the connection makes a lot of sense.

After all, it’s hard to discount the importance—arguably the primacy—of video games to pop culture; they’ve become a bedrock feature of modern life, with some analyses suggesting they’ve outpaced sales of more traditional entertainment such as film and music.

As an illustration, data released a few years ago showed video games brought in $83.6 billion in global revenue, more than double the movie industry’s $36.4 billion. In 2017, gaming brought in $108.9 billion.

The practical effect of this phenomenon is that whole generations (including this author’s) have grown up in a world saturated by video games. Those games, of course, continue to improve in visual fidelity and sophistication, enabling Average Joes and Janes the world over to hone their virtualized skills as athletes, warriors, hunters—learners and absorbers of all manner of digital content.

Perhaps you see what we’re getting at.

Put simply, many who are now entering their productive years in the labor market were raised on video games. They’ve been immersed in gaming culture, literally reshaping their brains in the process, and it’s become an important tool for learning new things.

Ben Mazza knows that because that’s the world he and several other PIXO VR graphic artists, engineers, and designers had a hand in creating. He says he and other “reformed video game developers”, as he calls his colleagues, leverage their experience in AAA-games to inform their Virtual Reality Training experiences.

“In effect, many of us spent our early careers in training—but it was training people how to be better martial artists, soldiers, athletes, and superheroes”, says Mazza, who now serves as PIXO VR’s Head of Product Development.

Mazza says there are critical aspects of training that video games have long provided and which he and his team now consciously build into PIXO VR’s experiences, including the ability to both learn lessons and then apply those lessons to specific scenarios in order to solve problems.

“It’s the difference between storytelling and what’s been called storyliving”, Mazza says. “In VR, we can demonstrate cause-and-effect far better than can be done with a book, classroom lecture, or traditional computer-based training. We’re not ‘talking at’ trainees with them passively listening, they’re engaged. They’re present in the experience and the choices they make will affect their outcomes.”

If that’s how young people are learning, he asks, doesn’t it make sense to teach them marketable workplace skills the same way?

Mazza’s not the only one who sees the value in exploiting lessons learned from gaming to more serious training pursuits. PIXO VR’s Technical Director, Todd Kuehnl, has also worked extensively in AAA-games and says they can get a bad rap.

“Some think kids are just wasting time on games, and sure, some do. But you can’t say they’re not learning. You may not like what they’re learning, or think they should be learning something else, but they’re definitely learning”, Kuehnl says. “Once you figure out what it is about the experience that keeps them coming back again and again, what motivates them to get better, you can teach them anything. They’ll absorb it better than they would in a three-ring binder or on a desktop .”

Between them, Mazza and Kuehnl boast an impressive gaming lineage, with both spending time designing and innovating with industry leaders such as EA Games, (Madden NFL series, FIFA series, NHL series, Command & Conquer series), THQ, (Destroy All Humans!, Red Faction), Zynga, (FarmVille, Words With Friends 2), Midway Games, (Galaga, Mortal Kombat series, NFL Blitz), and Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar, Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, NBA series, Civilization, etc.)

They say that while they’re proud of their time in gaming, they recognize that the application for AAA-game-style graphics and engaging narratives goes well beyond entertainment, and in the form of advanced Virtual Reality Training, can help numerous industries dealing with a serious skilled labor shortage.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’re still gamers,” Mazza says, adding, “I guess you could just say we’re using our powers for good now. Everybody wants to make the world better. We think you make it better by making it smarter.”

Expert Insights, Virtual Reality, VR Training

A recent article published on declared, essentially, that virtual reality has finally become reality-reality: it’s here to stay. But the article was quick to point out that, despite the progress VR technology has made in recent years — better, more cost-effective hardware, streamlined user experience, radical advances in animation, etc. — one key problem has annoyingly persisted: nausea.

Motion sickness. Vertigo. Sea-sickness. Car-sickness. Butterflies. Queasiness — whatever you call it, we all hate it, and as a Virtual Reality Training company, it’s one of the most common questions we’re asked at conferences and expos: “will it make me sick?” While our answer to that question is a confident “No”, (more on that in a minute), not all VR companies can say the same, despite the evolution of our industry. 

The simple fact is: not all virtual reality is created equal.

So we thought it made some sense to briefly explore why some virtual reality experiences can cause motion sickness and why, in the three years we’ve been designing and engineering VR Training modules for enterprise, we’ve never seen or heard anyone complain of getting that awful, upset feeling.

How and Why Does Motion Sickness Happen?

Let’s start by understanding the phenomenon of motion sickness and nausea a little better from a scientific perspective.

Reason One: Battle Of The Senses

In a nutshell, the primary reason we feel motion sickness comes down to our ‘perception of reality’, so to speak.

Most of us are born with a central nervous system that helpfully provides us with five essential senses that allow us to move through physical reality with at least a basic idea of what the heck’s going on around us, (not counting what we experience while driving on the freeway, which is anyone’s guess). Those senses are: sight (vision), hearing (audition), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction), and touch (somatosensation).

When there’s “argument” between these five senses, our brain gets confused.

For instance, think of the sensation in the pit of your stomach one gets on an elevator. Though your body is in rapid motion on an elevator car, you, yourself, are not really moving. The effect it produces is typically slight, but definitely noticeable. (The same thing goes with car sickness while riding, or reading, in an automobile.)

Essentially, you’re experiencing a sensory mismatch and your brain — always gamely trying to make sense of the world it’s in — doesn’t like it.

There’s more complex science behind all this, of course, but at root, what we feel is a tug-of-war between groups of senses to determine “who’s right”: the vestibular inputs (concerned with balance and located in your inner ear), the visual inputs (associated with your eyes), or the kinaesthetic inputs (which assist in movement).

Reason Two: When Seeing Isn’t Believing

Beyond the issue of multiple senses battling it out to determine what’s real, there’s also a problem specific to our sense of vision, (and by extension, the brain’s ability to process images).

You see, in the real world, as the name suggests, things are more or less real. (We could nerd-out here about probability clouds and whatnot, or make the argument that our brains are the ultimate virtual reality machines, but for now let’s keep things simple and say boldly, Things Exist.)

When we walk to the store, or take a shower, or do anything at all, the things we’re seeing are really there, in what we consider physical reality. Our eyes may play tricks on us from time to time, but the persons, places, and things they observe occupy time and space and are mostly static and unchanging. They obey the laws of physics.

Not so in virtual reality.

In VR, the images we see have to be dynamically generated and refresh to reflect new simulated realities — constantly and incredibly rapidly.

Think of a flip-book: to create the illusion of motion, a large number of static images must rapidly pass by our eyes and convince our brain that the figures we see are moving and doing things. “Good” flipbooks have many more images, more precisely drawn, and thus appear more fluid and natural when flipped-through than “bad” flipbooks that have fewer images and produce hiccupy jumps — what we call ‘lag’ — in their attempts at motion.  

“Good” and “bad” virtual reality operates in a similar way.

How We Overcome VR Motion Sickness

PIXO VR has successfully fought motion sickness and greatly reduced any chance of it happening using two important methods.

Method One: A Frame Rate ‘Faster Than The Eye Can Think’

To combat the issue of lag, our Virtual Reality Training simulations have a refresh frame rate of 90 FPS (frames per second). That means every time you turn left or right, or look up or down, these individual, static images of the virtual world around you — the people, machines, birds, cars, etc. —are zooming by your eyes (and brain) at an almost entirely unnoticeable rate of 90 images per second, just like an ultra-fast, photo-realistic, digital flipbook.

By offering a superior, industry-best 90 FPS frame rate, we help put the brain at ease that the things it observes through the eyes are, (to the best of its ability to tell), really there.

Not all virtual reality runs and refreshes at this amazing pace, which is why some VR (not ours, but some), can make people feel physically ill.

Method Two: ‘Going Nowhere…Fast’

The second way we’ve conquered motion sickness is by addressing what we discussed earlier: the cognitive dissonance created in the brain when groups of senses compete to “explain” what’s happening to our physical bodies. While some amount of actual bodily motion is helpful and, indeed, necessary to explore and train in a fully immersive and interactive VR environment, too much motion can produce that feeling of nausea, as we’ve mentioned.

To avoid the jostling, brain-flummoxing disconnect between what our eyes see happening, and what our bodies feel happening, we use a technique we call “teleporting”.

Teleporting is a simple, elegant solution to the problem of moving — physically and virtually — through a simulated, photo-realistic world. Using your thumb to depress a button on our hand-held controllers, you simply point to your intended destination, your pathway is illuminated, and by the time you release the button — you’re there. No extra motion necessary; it can be done while sitting in a comfortable chair.

Teleporting helps in a couple of ways: first, by limiting the degree to which your brain and body feel differing sensations, and thus, greatly reducing the chances of motion sickness. Second, teleporting makes navigating a to-scale VR environment far simpler, easier, and quicker.

After all, if one were to attempt to physically explore a 20,000 square-foot photo-realistic VR workspace, it would, of course, require 20,000 square feet of empty space in the physical world, to say nothing of the requisite time needed to travel by foot from one end to the other, and so forth. If this were how VR worked, the time and space-saving advantages of Virtual Reality Training would be completely lost.

So, anyway, that’s how virtual reality can induce motion sickness — and two big reasons why PIXO VR experiences never have in the three years we’ve been pioneering Virtual Reality Training for enterprise clients.

Have you ever suffered motion sickness after using VR? We invite you to try ours and experience the difference.


News, Virtual Reality, VR Training

The results are in – and the winner is virtual reality training.

According to a recent study by the University of Maryland, virtual reality training is more effective in recall accuracy than traditional desktop CBT (computer-based training). With a median recall accuracy percentage of 90.48 percent for immersive HMDs – head-mounted (virtual reality) displays – compared to desktop display’s 78.57 percent, the long-awaited study has further validated the efficacy of virtual reality training as a learning tool over traditional e-learning methods.

As the study’s abstract reads:

“Virtual reality displays, such as head-mounted displays (HMD), afford us a superior spatial awareness by leveraging our vestibular and proprioceptive senses, as compared to traditional desktop displays.”

The study’s findings are particularly important for employers in high-stakes verticals, where skills and safety training for workers represents a critical aspect of how those businesses function.

Put in the context of a standard grade scale, at 90+ percent recall, VR training would score in the A-range, while desktop computer training, at a shade below 79 percent, would be stuck back in the C’s.

When managing operations at a construction site, manufacturing plant, oil and gas pipeline, or other heavy industrial environment, a workforce recalling their training and performing their tasks consistently at an “A-level” would mean substantial gains in productivity, efficiency and, perhaps most critically, fewer mistakes that eat away at the bottom line or in worst-case scenarios, could even open the door for potential fines and litigation.

When talking about the ability of trainees and users to retain important information, it’s easy to see how these kind of numbers – an almost 12 percent improvement in median recall and an 8.8 percent improvement in overall recall accuracy – can make a sizable positive impact for enterprise users of VR training technology.

“This data is exciting in that it suggests that immersive environments could offer new pathways for improved outcomes in education and high-proficiency training”, said Amitabh Varshney, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland (UMD) and co-author of the study.

Beyond the findings, the UMD study itself is notable as data on the effectiveness of virtual reality training has been somewhat hard to come by, due to the newness of VR training, the number of variables involved in testing, and the difficulty in arranging for true “apples-to-apples” comparisons of the two learning methodologies, VR and CBT. But the research is finally catching up with the technology and the story it’s telling is a compelling one.

“By showing that virtual reality can help improve recall, it opens the door to further studies that look at the impact of VR-based training modules at all levels – from elementary school children learning astronomy to trauma residents acquiring the latest knowledge in lifesaving procedures,” Professor Varshney continued. “We believe the future of education and innovation will greatly benefit from the use of these new visual technologies.”

It won’t surprise you to learn that we at PIXO VR agree.

Thinking about how Virtual Reality Training could transform your business’ workforce? Reach out to us for a Free Consultation.