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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.

Virtual Reality, VR Training

Members of the PIXO VR team visited Concordia University’s Portland, Oregon campus recently to participate in the Emerging Technologies Symposium for Emergency Solutions. Ben Mazza and Erica Schaffel from PIXO VR were invited to join professionals from academia, technology, government, and emergency preparedness to learn and discuss the benefits of integrating virtual reality simulations into their training programs. Representatives from FEMA, the Office of Homeland Security, police and fire departments, and emergency medical teams participated in the event and many took part in the VR training demo.

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.


Virtual Reality, VR Training




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.