PIXO VR Expert Insights: Erica Schaffel, PIXO VR's VP of Sales

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.”

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