It’s 2018 and VR/AR technology is more accessible than ever before. Virtual reality hardware giant HTC Vive is offering headsets at lower prices than ever, enabling companies to take advantage of new developments in the technology. VR is not a new concept, but, quite frankly, it’s never looked this good.
Currently, many retail businesses use the technology for marketing and advertising, and as a part of their e-commerce platforms, but a newer trend is to use VR/AR to train employees—particularly for dangerous jobs. As we look ahead to 2018, many industries will incorporate virtual reality into their training repertoire.
People who work with electricity, gas, and nuclear power have inherently dangerous jobs. Employees follow established protocols to remain safe during regular maintenance, but even a scheduled check can become dangerous and require the worker to react quickly to prevent the situation from escalating. Training in virtual reality enables workers to practice procedures and participate in modules that anticipate system failures, from the safety of an office.
The industry has begun to see the advantage in exposing construction professionals to jobsites in advance. Before iron workers climb twenty stories and step out onto a girder, they walk on a virtual one, feeling the sensation of height and dealing with other workers walking around them the way they do in real life—all from the ground. VR training will enable electricians to practice lock out/tag out procedures. Carpenters, roofers, and framers will perform fall protection exercises not on scaffolding, but in an office. Construction workers will be better prepared, making job sites safer.
Police officers and firefighters face new and dangerous situations every day. Without previous exposure, it’s difficult to know how they’ll react to stressful and hazardous situations. VR training enables them to feel the adrenaline rush of entering an active crime scene or a building fire without the potential danger. Repeated training allows muscle memory to kick in, so when a real crisis arises, emergency personnel’s reactions are second nature. The potential hazards of live training coupled with its expense and labor-intensive quality will motivate training managers to integrate more VR into their programs.
In 2018 and into the future, better and cheaper virtual reality hardware will help convince training managers to go all in on the technology. Less expensive headsets will inspire businesses to purchase a larger quantity, allowing more workers to train in VR at the same time. Higher frame rates make virtual reality users less likely to succumb to motion sickness, which will encourage increased adoption.
Until recently, training meant a bland room full of uncomfortable chairs, tiny desks, fluorescent lighting, and a trainer at the head of the class describing a series of power point slides. In 2018, Virtual reality’s realistic scenarios, heightened sensations, and exciting nature will create a more engaging atmosphere and even foster a sense of camaraderie and competition among trainees, making them better trained and safer. They might even look forward to it.
Intel Corporation’s Mike Premi and Grant Tietje from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory were the keynote speakers at the event, which combined presentations, panel discussions, and interactive demonstrations.
PIXO VR’s demonstration allowed emergency professionals to work in teams to contain a virtual fire caused by an overturned oil truck. The firefighters coordinated their efforts, reacting to the oil spill and ensuing blaze in real time. Since the platform allows emergency personnel to follow established protocols as they work to control crises, responders were able to react realistically to fire, heat, and smoke. The fire also reacted as it would when doused with foam or water, creating a lifelike situation.
Trainers and emergency managers attending the symposium quickly realized the value of virtual reality’s realistic, immersive experience as a low-risk teaching method for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders. The dangerous nature of those professions makes it difficult to teach new skills in the field. Virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality simulate crisis conditions without placing emergency responders in jeopardy.
Reactions to the VR training demo were overwhelmingly positive. Emergency personnel were impressed with how real it felt and looked. They praised the attention to detail and visual fidelity. Many noted the importance of realism, especially in exercises trainees would have to perform seventeen or eighteen times to get exactly right.
Firefighters and fire chiefs from all over the country participated in PIXO’s three-minute immersive simulation. Tony Fletcher, Division Chief of Training of the Vancouver, WA fire department said, “While invaluable, traditional hands-on training exposes participants to injury, and is often too expensive to repeat. The value of virtual reality training like PIXO’s is that it exposes participants to realistic experiences without putting them in danger, and it’s extremely easy and cost effective to repeat.”
PIXO VR’s Erica Schaffel preps a first responder for the VR training demo. (Photo courtesy PIXO VR)
The challenge, danger, and cost in recreating realistic emergency situations in the field make virtual reality training even more valuable. First responders are constantly learning new skills and striving to maintain their current ones to certify or recertify in their positions. The ability to practice newly-learned procedures without danger and expense will maintain proficiency and build muscle memory. That means when a firefighter faces a real burning building or overturned oil truck, their response will be second nature.
Concordia University’s symposium brought together representatives from different emergency management agencies to discover new technologies that will ultimately make their jobs safer and easier.
It was a great opportunity to meet the people who perform these dangerous, life-saving jobs and show them a safer way to train.
If you’ve ever seen Ron Howard’s 1995 film, Apollo 13, you’ll recognize the phrase “failure is not an option.” In the film, Ed Harris plays NASA flight director, Gene Kranz, and the quote refers to the accident in the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission and NASA’s efforts to get the men home safely. Taken in context, the statement makes sense. Of course, Kranz does not want to fail. What flight director wants to lose his men?
Taken in the context of training personnel for dangerous situations; however, the phrase should be, “failure IS an option.” Mistakes, misjudgment, and failure are teaching tools. Getting things wrong while practicing helps people get things right when real problems arise. It’s the reason troops drill over and over before heading out to the field. It’s also the reason schools conduct fire drills. When kids know the procedure ahead of time, they don’t panic when faced with an actual emergency.
Training is positive and making errors while training is natural, but people are still injured and killed in training accidents. What if there were a way to train for dangerous situations without risking injury or death? Many consider virtual reality solely as a platform for gaming. It is used in games, but virtual reality training is also a risk-free way for firefighters to practice their approach to a wildfire. It’s also a safe method for nuclear engineers to perform emergency or even everyday procedures without entering the reactor.
PIXO VR has devised safe, multi-platform virtual reality software that enables people in dangerous jobs to train safely. Our AAA gaming quality visuals place each user IN the appropriate environment. This immersion training allows the trainee to be there—in the fire, the gas leak, or the battle—without leaving headquarters. Trainees in these lifelike scenarios act and react in real time, learning what works and what doesn’t. Squads drill together, often performing different tasks, to practice working as a team. Preparation like this builds muscle memory and confidence without danger.
What does PIXO’s virtual reality software mean for first responders? It means they get the training they need to deal with life-threatening conditions and they get to go home at the end of the day.
In 1982, TRON sparked our imaginations when a computer hacker was sucked into a “virtual reality” that lay within the very software that was just beginning to permeate our real world.
For a lot of folks, this was the first time they had heard of virtual reality. And although TRON was groundbreaking in many ways, it probably didn’t convince anyone that virtual reality was ever going to be more than an interesting way to play digital games.
Yet decades before TRON put virtual reality into the popular culture there were scientists, researchers, programmers, and studios trying to figure out how to create virtual worlds and experiences.
In the 1960s, pockets of innovators were using 360-degree video, soundscapes, and mechanical contraptions to create moving simulations of flights, rides, and games. By the 1990s, VR games had reached a cost and quality that finally made them increasingly attractive to the broader public.
Some 50 years later, the promise of creating an alternative universe in virtual reality is actually becoming a reality. This incredible bit of seeming science fiction is now more accessible than ever via a relatively inexpensive screen and some awesome imagery courtesy of some highly talented software engineers and one a handful of hardware devices, like Oculus, Samsung, Google, and HTC.
So, here we are in 2018 and the question, as it should be with any great invention, is how can we use virtual reality to make the world a better place?
We at PIXO VR believe the idea of virtual reality safety training is truly one of those “making the world better” applications. Our VR training modules and environments are helping to create a better, safer tomorrow for a variety of industries like construction, manufacturing, and utilities.
Companies can now train their employees in photorealistic environments with VR headsets that mimic real-life work situations, provide immediate feedback as well as long-term data, lower training costs, overcome logistical hurdles, and avoid the inherent dangers often posed by a real-world training environment.
Every day, VR training is making the learning of new skills, tasks, and job sites more safe, effective, and inexpensive.
Employers worldwide are increasingly adding virtual reality to their training programs, training thousands of employees faster and more effectively. The benefits of this powerful and, yes, undeniably fun medium are becoming too numerous and compelling to overlook. Here are just a few of the benefits our customers are telling us they get from VR training.
Increased Scale and Efficiency
Getting everyone through required training can be challenging, but it’s often critical to enroll and transition-out fully trained and equipped employees as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the more typical solutions — creating bigger classes, publishing more (frankly boring) training manuals, and assembling hours’ worth of wordy PowerPoint slides for employees to sit or click through — often degrade the overall effectiveness of training, even if the content itself is sound.
When companies attempt to boost both interest and realism by sending trainees through physical training simulations, (say an elevated platform for a heights training course off-site), these simulations are costly to use, logistically difficult to travel to, hard if not impossible to repeat, and with increased numbers of trainees comes a bottleneck that produces downtime as only one or two trainees progress through the course at a time.
The other way they attempt to boost realism and interest is by actually shutting down an otherwise active worksite to conduct training simulations — a “solution” that carries with it a major price tag in terms of raw expense and lost productivity.
In contrast, PIXO VR’s interactive VR Training experiences allow employees to work together on a task in the same virtual environment — even if they are physically separated by thousands of miles. Adding to the efficiency, when we say “employees”, we’re not talking about one or two — PIXO’s proprietary, first-to-market technology allows up to dozens of users to participate at once.
All of these training sessions, incidentally, can also be viewed live or recorded for later review, producing even more training opportunities.
Active Learning and (Virtual) Practice Make Perfect
It’s taken a while, but as the science has matured, companies are coming to realize their training activities would be enhanced if students had the opportunity to more freely and actively engage, especially with regard to physical activities; practicing and refining a manual task or interacting with other workers on their team or shift.
Practice makes perfect, as they say.
While it’s tough to create (or re-create) an environment where physical interaction or activity can be safely simulated, the benefits of doing so are becoming more apparent every day.
A steady stream of research is proving the superiority of VR as an active learning tool, particularly in the area of knowledge retention. Practicing a skill in VR rather than simply reading about it has shown increases in retention as much as 80%.
In effect, this means virtual practice makes perfect, too.
Gathering and Evaluating Data for Improvement
Data is always critical for improving processes and outcomes. Unfortunately, actually gathering the data can be difficult, and processing it into useful information is even more challenging.
Not so with VR. Virtual reality software can make gathering and analyzing your training data much more manageable, providing employers with unprecedented visibility into the capabilities (and shortcomings) of their workforce.
In a virtual reality training environment, employees can be actively learning and receiving immediate feedback while trainers and employers gain insight into trends. This data can quickly inform both trainees and trainers as to what practices and procedures are valid and which ones might need to be refined for the future.
As the science suggests, VR Training delivers value to both users and organizations on Day One. But it is on Day One Hundred, or Day One Thousand — after weeks, months, or years of data on an organization’s training program is gathered and reviewed — that the ultimate value can be realized, as the business learns increasingly more, not just about its employees but about itself.
Unexpectedly Easy to Use
To some who are unfamiliar with the latest advances in the technology and its adoption, virtual reality can still seem a bit like science fiction. Add to this the fact that many people have yet to experience premium virtual reality and sometimes it still feels like a fanciful solution; a novelty.
But the fact of the matter is that VR training is a highly practical and immediately accessible solution for solving many common training challenges — and it’s getting more practical and accessible by the day.
The latest generation of VR hardware and software is nearly as easily learned and deployed as your current iPhone or Android smartphone. What’s more, the technical proficiency of students or instructors is hardly a factor. No matter their relative level of gaming experience, most who try a PIXO VR Training module for the very first time master the essential skills within a couple of minutes.
Most every company is spending thousands on training, and much of these dollars are being spent on non-learning costs — travel, meals, lodging, etc. — to facilitate the actual training. In other situations, the company has to shut down or suspend production to allow time or access to equipment to support necessary training. All wasted dollars.
Once again, VR training can solve many of these challenges.
A simple VR training setup facilitated by a few VR headsets and relevant software modules and you’ll be saving money while taking your training program up a notch in quality and effectiveness.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Where will virtual reality technologies take us next? If it’s like most technical innovation, we will always be marvelously surprised. For now, what we know for sure is that it’s creating vast opportunities and improvements in training, taking us further and further from the days of passive, hands-off learning, expensive on-boarding of new employees, and a myriad of other drags on productivity.
Artificial Reality could be the one device to disrupt the world of technology. It is opening new opportunities that will transform business, lifestyle and reality itself. Our AR research can help you understand this power, and explore the impact to almost every industry.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have the potential to become the next big computing platform, according to Goldman Sachs Research.
In the first report from a new Profiles in Innovation series, Goldman Sachs Research examines how VR—which immerses the user in a virtual world—and AR—which overlays digital information onto the physical world—can reshape existing ways of doing things, from buying a new home to interacting with a doctor or watching a concert.