Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
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.”
0

Expert Insights, Virtual Reality, VR Training

A recent article published on Futurism.com 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.

0

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.”

0