Where is VR training headed in 2021? One word: mobile.
Whether we’re talking about training hardware, delivery, or integration, new, lightweight mobile headsets will enable a whole new way of experiencing virtual reality – making it even more effective and cementing its role in the enterprise training curriculum.
Here are our predictions for VR training next year.
Standalone headsets will become the norm for future VR training deployments
Oculus Quest 2 (see our video review), Vive Focus Plus, and Pico Neo 2 all come with enough graphical processing power to effectively simulate realistic environments and equipment. And with 6 dof (degree of freedom) tracking, the headsets enable trainees to move around and intuitively use tools to truly learn by doing.
In terms of cost, standalone headsets are typically less than $1,000 each (including a commercial use license), whereas tethered headsets and the high-end computers needed for training easily end up costing $3,000 to $4,000.
While powerful computers and tethered headsets may still be required for some applications and AAA game experiences, the cost savings and simplicity of deploying mobile headsets will far outweigh the extra graphics in most training use cases. The difference in graphical fidelity isn’t critical for many applications, and for others, the gap is closing fast.
With standalone headsets, remote and on-demand VR training become not just a possibility, but a probability
Just as 2020 forced companies to rethink where people work, it also required them to rethink where they train. Group training classes and scheduled in-person instructor-led training (ILT) have had to wait, both for reasons of safety and practicality since it doesn’t make sense to run a training class until enough people are on-site to take it.
Many companies are turning to remote training from the get-go, requiring training at home before a new employee’s first day onsite. Previously, VR equipment was too cumbersome to support remote training, since it involved shipping an expensive laptop and headset, and a difficult setup. On the other hand, the new mobile headsets are lightweight, easy to ship, simple to operate, and far less expensive. They will enable companies to shift far more training into the VR bucket as they continue remote work.
Companies are also using training-on-demand for certain elements of onboarding and refresher curriculum, where trainees can check out equipment or book time in a VR lab. On-demand training has the advantage of allowing trainees to learn at their own pace–taking extra time with trouble areas rather than being beholden to an entire class’s pace. The ease of use and flexibility of mobile headsets will take on-demand even further.
With mobile VR joining the remote and on-demand trends, it will reduce the need for capital-intensive training rooms and equipment, allow for more flexible scheduling, and shrink the time commitment of SMEs needed for training.
VR training will become a full-fledged element of the standard curriculum
Because it’s effective, and because it has become more flexible and affordable, VR training will move beyond the experimental or pilot stage. It will become part of comprehensive training solutions that include multiple modalities such as ILT, CBT (computer-based training), and OJT (on-the-job training), and be tracked in the same learning management systems (LMSs).
Learners might begin training with a video within CBT. Then, after studying concepts and skills, they might practice in VR and finish with a short OJT session. This mature curriculum integration offers a more complete learning experience, with the most effective modality employed at each stage, and, even more important, trading expensive one-on-one OJT training time with VR.
As successful as VR training can be, it won’t entirely replace other types of training. All have their strengths and weaknesses, and VR training works best in conjunction with other methods. One of the best uses of VR is when training focuses on hard skills – anything involving processes and procedures that must be applied consistently and accurately for an organization to succeed.
It’s also well-suited for training where safety might be a concern – situations and places that could be dangerous for trainees (and potentially others) if they make a mistake. VR training allows learners to fail in a safe environment, receive feedback, and correct problems. Improvements in hard skills gained during VR training are easily measurable, both during and after training.
Ready for Takeoff
With VR training going mobile and becoming more affordable and accessible, a wider range of companies will be able to add it to their training curriculums. The ROI will make sense for organizations with thousands of employees, not just tens of thousands – the kind of scale that VR training demanded in the past.
When we look back at 2021, we’ll remember it as the year VR training took off – not just because of a pandemic, or even mobile. It will be embraced as an integral part of learning and development because it works – the most important measure of any training program.