How VR is being applied to training and development

August 15, 2018

How VR is being applied to training and development

By now, most of you will have heard of virtual-reality, and will have an intimate understanding of what it is. Films like the Matrix and Avatar have demonstrated what it could be like to be in a virtual world. Of course, these are movies and real Virtual Reality is not that sophisticated or believable. Still, using technologies such as Occulus Rift’s VR Goggles you can experience a pretty entertaining and compelling version of virtual reality in your own home, or even the work-place.

The training and development sphere is proving to be an early-adopter of VR-based learning, particularly in high risk professions where there is much to be gained from practising and honing your skill in a safe virtual world.

Safer training and development for the construction industry

One of the most obvious areas for exploiting VR training is in the high-risk area of construction, where companies such as Gammon Construction are using VR technology to improve safety on construction sites. The VR tool developed by the wearable technology firm, Human Condition Safety, contains four VR training modules, (accessible by trainees via goggles), covering areas such as:

  • Hazard identification
  • Fork-lift training
  • Scaffolding training
  • Iron worker training

Users claim that the VR goggles create a more immersive and engaging environment for trainees, and is especially useful at enabling builders to acclimatise to heights before going up on a high beam.

Challenging discrimination to promote diversity

Stanford University and NFL have taken VR based training in a different direction altogether, and have begun to apply it to diversity training in a very innovative way. The university developed a VR technology that enables a user to feel prejudice by walking a mile in some else’s shoes and the NFL have been one of the first to trial it.

In one of the admittedly unsettling diversity training scenarios a user is represented by an African-American female who is angrily harassed by a white avatar. As the user reflexively raises their arms in defence the hands show black skin. It’s in its early stages but this has massive applications in diversity and corporate behavioural training.

In fact, Stanford University’s VR diversity training programme is free to any interested company and so you could start using it today, providing you have a set of VR goggles. However, it’s likely that you would need to customize the video to suit your organization.

Benefits for the medical sector

VR training has huge benefits for the medical sector too, as it can make training more realistic and create a greater sense of contextualization and immersion which should improve real-world performance.

HumanSim offers a whole suite of virtual-game based training products that are now being deployed in medical training covering areas such as sedation and airways, team training and anaesthesia.

Users participate in realistic, challenging, immersive and responsive VR simulations, and can train up to proficiency level in rare, complicated or error-prone tasks and processes.

More cost-effective for the retail industry

The retail sector also stands to benefit greatly from VR training. Walmart developed a new staff VR trainer with a company called STRIVR.

Via their Occulus Rift Goggle headset, in the simulated real-world scenarios, staff will be presented with scenarios where they will need to make decisions by selecting specific options. They particularly use it for situations where it’s not that practical or cost effective to recreate in reality, such as finding and dealing with spills, preparing for a Black Friday shopping crush.

When staff face each scenario they will be asked awareness-building multiple choice-questions such as to explain what impact the spill could have on the store.

VR potential is virtually limitless

There really is no limit to the scenarios that VR training can be applied. has published a report, dedicated to L&D and VR, that has a broad scope and contains plenty of insight into learning and training best practices.

It’s very likely that in the early days much of the activity around VR based-training will be in the area of hard skills particularly in areas where it is impractical or not safe to practise in reality.

But, following hot on the heels will be plenty of training in soft skills because it’s clear that VR training can be used to encourage behaviour change and to develop enhanced levels of situation readiness.

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