In this article, we’re going to talk about how virtual reality and specifically VR training is making training for potentially dangerous or hazardous situations and workplaces safer.
But first, I want to open with a little consumer review of VR headsets and accessories. I thought this might be helpful since many training managers still assume that VR training is a prohibitively expensive proposition. The price points of virtual reality technology are quickly mainstreaming these devices into the consumer market, making them an increasingly compelling and low-risk possible addition to your training budget.
The Incredible Shrinking Cost of VR Technology
Virtual reality and augmented reality are everywhere. As we’ve now safely exited the holiday buying season, there’s a good chance your kids, grandkids, or nieces and nephews will have some kind of VR/AR technology or software on their wish lists the next time around if they didn’t already.
This technology is becoming so pervasive, you might not even recognize it as VR. To help you up your ‘cool factor’ with your kids — and to give you a sense of just how far the price points have fallen — here are just a few of the hottest VR headsets and supporting items on the market now:
- HTC Vive Pro or Pro bundle – On Amazon, these top of line VR headsets have dipped below $700 and the Pro bundle, which will give you a legitimately professional quality VR environment, is right at $1,000.
- Oculus Rift or Go – In our opinion, this a number two headset, but it will get you in the VR game and give you an idea of what’s possible for under $500.
- PlayStation VR – If you have to do VR on a really tight budget, this is a sub-$300 option, but I would recommend just saving up for an HTC Vive, HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset, or Oculus Rift rig. (Seriously. There’s a difference.)
- High-performance graphics cards, like NVIDIA GTX1050Ti or AMD Radeon RX 470 – These high-end GPUs are essential to avoid juddering and screen tearing at the hands of inferior GPUs slow refresh rates.
- Sensor mount stands for HTC Vive or Oculus Rift sensors – These are the light stands, (not the trackers, just the stands. The trackers a just a little farther down our list), used by professional photographers and videographers. But, they are essential accessories for creating a mobile VR studio or just getting those sensors in the perfect spots.
- Vive tracker or Vive wireless adapter – In short order, you’re going to want more freedom and flexibility in your VR set up. These two accessories allow you to add triangulated trackers and room scale to your experience — both essential for the full-on holodeck experience.
- Steam gift cards, lots of Steam gift cards — Steam VR is the place to get the latest VR games and experiences. Your VR enthusiast is going to need some credits to get all of the new titles rolling out in the VR space. My current favorites are Climbey and Pavlov.
OK, back to business. What does this mean for your company’s VR training?
As I said in the introduction, the cost of VR technology is dropping fast. Investing in VR technology is down to a rounding error in most corporate training budgets.
So, you almost have to give it a try.
The VR gaming enthusiast wish list above is essentially the same list you need to submit with your budget request to launch your corporate VR training program.
More importantly, it’s your wish list to make your most dangerous training safer.
Making Hazardous Training Nearly Risk-free
Virtual reality and augmented reality are rapidly being incorporated into retail training and e-commerce platforms. Walmart is using VR to train new employees, and Amazon is using AR to let customers see how things look in their homes before buying.
The next logical step — which is happening rapidly — is to move this technology into more critical and hazardous corporate training programs. If VR training makes sense to train retail workers, how much more compelling is it for workers that put their lives on the line doing their jobs, and even training for their jobs? Really, it just makes sense.
Let’s take a look at four powerful examples of how VR training can make a difference in your company’s safety record.
VR Training for Utility Workers
People who work with electricity, gas, and nuclear power have inherently hazardous jobs. Utility workers are accustomed to following carefully established protocols to remain safe, but even routine maintenance can quickly turn dangerous. Then there are the inevitable scenarios when utility workers encounter the unexpected, forcing them to react rapidly and accurately to avoid a crisis.
Training in virtual reality enables workers to practice not only their standard procedures but also to work through the unpredictable. VR training modules can be designed to randomize in less predictable scenarios, preparing workers for when things go wrong in the field.
VR Training for Construction Workers
Construction is one of those jobs that’s a little different every time you put on the hard hat. Every job site comes with its unique hazards — site-specific equipment, materials, layout, and even safety equipment.
For this reason, construction companies realize it’s essential to familiarize construction professionals to job sites in advance. Unfortunately, this often requires supervisors, workers, and often the job site itself to shut down to train. VR training can be the answer to providing essential training without interrupting or delaying the project’s schedule.
With a VR construction training module, before any ironworker climbs twenty stories into the sky and steps out onto a scaffold or girder, they’ll have walked a virtual one.
They’ll get a realistic sensation of height and deal with, more or less, the exact environment — layout, equipment, and other workers — that will complicate their job on this specific project.
Electricians can practice lockout and tag-out procedures. Carpenters, roofers, and framers will perform fall protection exercises without having to train on the job site or travel to an expensive, far-away fall protection training center.
Critically, all of these dangerous jobs can be trained over and over until both workers and employers feel confident they are ready to operate safely on the actual job site — all from the safety of an office or in a trailer on-site. (Or potentially, any other endpoint on the planet.)
VR Training for First Responders
Law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs face new and dangerous situations every day. These situations are made even more hazardous by the fact that most of them are nearly impossible to prepare for with traditional or on-the-job training formats.
Without putting these professionals in real-world, unpredictable, and escalating scenarios it’s impossible to see how they will react in moments of high stress and danger. This unknown can put themselves and the communities they serve in danger.
Running through a VR training module for first responders can give these responders realistic responses to stressors.
A police officer can focus through the adrenaline rush and uncertainty of entering an active shooter scenario. A firefighter can push through that momentary panic and claustrophobia as they enter a burning building. All of these training scenarios have the real-world sense of danger without the actual consequences of making the wrong decision under stress.
Virtual reality allows first responders to train over and over again, in the most dangerous scenarios, quickly building up the muscle memory necessary to handle a real crisis. VR training also minimizes the inherent hazards, big budgets, and highly skilled training personnel required to provide high-quality, live, real-world training.
VR Training for Defense
When you think of risky training, many immediately think of our men and women in uniform. These heroes go into harm’s way, not only on the battlefield but also in their daily readiness and training. VR training modules for defense can significantly reduce training accidents, injuries, and even fatalities while increasing the effectiveness of the exercises themselves.
Some of the most interesting VR research and training for defense is being done in the area of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). These professionals train for scenarios that involve identifying hidden Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and then rendering these wholly unique and hacked-together devices safe. Every situation is unique, and even the training can be hazardous or possibly fatal.
In the area of defense, there are unlimited possibilities for using VR training. Here are just a few that are becoming more common practice:
- Training units in coordinated tactics and close quarter operations
- Exposing units to new operating environments before deploying
- Training soldiers to use new tactics and rules of engagement
- Training soldiers to use new weapons and equipment
VR training is an ideal way to get soldiers up to speed and to operate safely with minimal risk during necessarily intense and hazardous training.
Get Your VR Training Program Started
Better and cheaper virtual reality hardware is making it harder to ignore the benefits of bringing VR training into your hazardous duty training programs. Plus, these less expensive headsets are making it easier to justify purchasing larger quantities of devices to enable workers to train together in virtual reality environments.
As a huge value-add and incentive to purchase, major VR hardware providers are planning to add biometric sensors to their product offerings, along with the ability to interpret the data, which will give employers a much better sense of what their trainees are physically as well as mentally experiencing in the headset, as well as cognitive load — the amount of material they’re learning.
This year is the perfect time to include VR training in your budget. Endeavor to retire those sterile training rooms full of trainees sitting in uncomfortable chairs, at tiny desks, lulled into boredom by flickering fluorescent lights and an equally bored trainer flipping mindlessly through an out of date PowerPoint deck.
Make your goal to replace old training styles with virtual reality’s safer and more diverse scenarios, heightened by realistic sensations, and invigorated with the intensity of these real-world environments. Introduce a more engaging training atmosphere, fostering a sense of camaraderie and even friendly competition between trainees, helping them become more confident, better equipped, and safer in the field.
I guarantee you they will start looking forward to their next training sessions.
How Can PIXO VR Help?
As you begin evaluating your training, you’re sure to have questions. If you’re considering VR training for the first time or trying to get more from your VR training, don’t hesitate to contact one of our VR training specialists.