The Future of Safety Training Enhanced by Virtual Reality

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.

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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.
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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 yo
ur 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.  

Save Money

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.

Are you considering introducing virtual reality into your safety training program? Contact one of our VR training specialists today to discuss your specific needs.
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