By Lorne Fade, Co-Founder and COO at VR Vision Inc an immersive technology group that is developing virtual and augmented reality solutions for the future
In an increasingly modern world, we are seeing the ways in which technology can continually improve and streamline processes to be faster, safer and smarter. We have seen advancements in AI, clean energy, food production and e-learning grow through technological advances. These leaps and bounds wouldn’t have been possible without advancements in technology, and this trend holds especially true in the information and communication technology sector.
With cloud computing, IT systems and enterprise software companies are better prepared for more efficient growth like never before. A key subsector of this involves virtual and augmented reality, both of which are still in their relative infancy — but they are also starting to make real headway to help companies scale and automate key systems and tools. One area that has had a significant impact to date lies within the virtual training realm.
Applications Of VR Training
Virtual reality allows companies to create unique scenarios in which team members can learn through virtual environments, including how to address potential mistakes on the job. This enables workers to safely make mistakes and learn the correct responses. In jobs that involve high-stress situations, students can learn corrective maneuvers and actions without risking their own lives or the lives of others. For example, pilots in training don’t have to risk crashing, while firefighters can learn how to manage blazing infernos.
Using virtual reality for training is nothing new, but in recent years, there have been considerable advancements to the technology and, more specifically, the hardware. With the advancement of the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset, for example, a full range of interactive motion became possible in what is known as 6DoF (six degrees of freedom). This enables the end user to use both hands for interactions and have a full range of motion within a 360-degree virtual world.
My company has worked to develop applications for learning in dangerous jobs, including in the energy sector. An example training program involved onboarding maintenance crews that typically work on offshore oil rigs. It was costly to fly crews all over in order to learn more effectively, but that’s what we did. Oil rig maintenance is a dangerous job because there is a high degree of difficulty and there is a high risk factor for the technicians.
In addition to developing oil rig training platforms, we have rolled out several training modules for wind turbine maintenance technicians. These workers often go hundreds of feet in the air in order to inspect the inside of wind turbines to ensure they are in proper working order. Using virtual training allows maintenance teams to learn the ins and outs of wind turbine repair without the exorbitant travel costs typically associated with training programs.
BP shows another use case on how to leverage immersive environments to train oil rig operators, chemical engineers and others holding inherently dangerous jobs. Its Igloo virtual training environment uses 360-degree projections and realistic sounds to train employees and give them “hands-on” experience with decreased risk.
Advice For Industry Leaders
Reducing incidents, increasing time to value and upskilling employees in a safe environment is a no-brainer for brands. VR industry leaders are starting to see more and more enterprise companies looking to use virtual reality as a training tool integrated into existing training infrastructures. The ability to reduce accidents that could lead to injury and death is a primary advantage to justify the cost of developing these training programs, but another selling point to focus on when marketing your technology is the cost savings associated with reduced incidents and travel expenses alone.
In order to achieve success with VR training programs, it is imperative that you work collaboratively with clients and learning professionals to ensure that the training simulations being developed are as close to the real-world situations as possible. This is even more important when learning any kind of technical skill or when working with precise interactions. A real-world example that illustrates this was developed by OSSO VR, a VR platform that trains surgeons on a variety of operating room procedures, many of which require pinpoint accuracy.
When developing learning modules in VR, it is helpful to have collaborative learning sessions with your clients to better grasp the learning outcome for the simulation. I recommend traveling to your clients’ facilities to get a hands-on feel for the task or job at hand in order to assist your virtual recreation.
As we look past Covid-19, I predict that we will start to see many brands looking to immersive technology as a training medium because it can be deployed remotely to train teams faster and with less risk.