Let’s imagine that you are a caveman or a cavewoman. Your entire life is filled with activities that are critical to your survival such as hunting, gathering, building weapons, preparing food, and looking after children. Learning how to do these activities requires lots of “hands on” training and practice. The stakes are always high for cave people, and mistakes can easily lead to unpleasant encounters with sabre toothed tigers.
The National Training Laboratories Institute has conducted extensive research on this topic and created the “Learning Pyramid” (shown below) that shows the direct correlation between passive and participatory teaching methods. In other words, the more involved you are with an activity, the higher your retention will be (the ability to remember). For people working on oil rigs, in hospitals, construction sites, mines, chemical factories, and nuclear plants, the stakes are also quite high and a worker’s retention of safety procedures can be the difference between life and death.
While “hands on” training has been used since the days of Fred Flintstone, one of its key limitations has always been that it requires the physical presence of two or more people at a particular location at the optimal time. What if it were possible to provide “hands on” training without having to be in the same place with a person(s) at the same time? Due to the emergence of virtual reality, real life situations can now be properly simulated to replicate real world conditions and retention rates can be significantly enhanced.
Firefighters Training Virtually
The Deakin University in Victoria, Australia spent the past two years developing the Flaim Trainer, an immersive virtual reality platform that uses a haptics feedback system and actual equipment to simulate the real firefighting. The inspiration for the Flaim Trainer came from the fact that the training ground in Victoria was shut down due to chemical contamination.
Firefighters are taken through a series of challenges that include a petrol station on fire, a kitchen blaze, and a aircraft engine that has burst into flames. While they believe this system cannot replace real life experience, it is very useful for helping firefighters to develop new skill sets and maintain existing ones. For a better look at the Flaim Trainer and how it offers “virtual hands on” training, check out CES 2017.
Bouygues Construction Uses VR
Bouygues is a Paris based, industrial group that operates in 90 different countries and employs over 118,000 employees. To create better conditions for its workers, Bouygues is partnering with HTC Vive to develop a series of VR trainings that will help prevent accidents on construction sites. This means virtually exposing them to dangerous situations such as falling and colliding heavy objects. Workers will also be able to recognize and hold real life objects to facilitate muscle memory.
In a video about their VR training platform, Bouygues mentions that a worker will remember 20% of what they have listened to after a dozen days, but recall 90% of material delivered in active VR trainings. While Bouygues is an innovator, other international construction companies, like Hong Kong-based Gammon Construction Ltd. and San Francisco-based Bechtel, have also recognized the value of VR and are currently using it to train their employees. This trend is highly consistent with the Learning Pyramid that we have previously discussed and a strong indicator that VR is disrupting how training is being done in nearly every industry.
United Parcel Service (UPS) Launches Virtual Driving School
Is it your dream to wear the sexy brown uniform and drive a UPS truck? If it is, then you will need to pass a virtual reality test first. The idea, of course, is to allow trainees to experience real world problems minus the risk. What is significant here is not where UPS is starting, but their roadmap for the future. UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company that delivered 4.9 billion packages and documents globally in 2006. Literally driving their business is a delivery fleet of more than 108,000 cars, vans, tractors, and motorcycles. This means they must train and maintain a boat load of drivers on a yearly basis.
What if virtual reality could effectively train drivers and significantly reduce the cost of these trainings? UPS has already answered this question and it is only the beginning. In the future, VR training will also include instructing mechanics on how to service an engine. Who knows, maybe in the future these trainings will be for operating the drones that will launch from the top of their delivery trucks.
Littoral Combat Ship VR Training
The littoral combat ship (LCS) is a class of stealthy, agile, surface vessels designed for operations close to shore. According to U.S. Senator John McCain, the LCS resulted in $12.4 billion in wasted spending driven by repeated engineering meltdowns that sidelined these vessels for months at a time. In addition to the problems with the construction quality and design of the LCS, the crews were poorly trained. It was even reported that the $700 million mine detector could not detect mines. Not good.
Clearly, the U.S. Congress and the Navy brass were not pleased with the LCS program, so they devised a rescue plan. In order to cut back on costs, the crew size of these ships were dramatically reduced. The crew members that were left, however, needed to be trained to perform multiple jobs. Their solution was to leverage the LCS Training Facility to virtually train shipmates and entire crews ashore. In this situation, Navy leaders wanted to replace actual “hands on” instruction with virtual training that does not carry costly, real world consequences.
The Top Ten VR Training Advantages
As we have seen from these use cases, the list of advantages of virtual reality training is substantial and is now motivating businesses of all sizes to rethink how they train their employees:
- Safely simulate dangerous and risky situations in a controlled environment
- Create accurate and photo-realistic simulations
- Include people from all over the world in the same training
- Highly visible and immersive approach results in higher retention
- Incorporate peer review, feedback, and ongoing assessment
- Capture useful data from VR activity (Visual Attention Analysis)
- Visualize complex concepts and theories
- Create virtual experiences as preparation for real world scenarios
- Enjoyable and active learning environment
- Highly cost effective
In this blog, we have covered a range of real world, VR applications that facilitate high levels of retention through immersive experiences. While we fully recognize that VR trainings can ever fully replace the personal connection inherent in face-to-face interactions, the advantages of VR training speak loud and clear. The good news is that creating VR training modules no longer requires expensive, proprietary hardware and software. As we have in our previous blog, “5 Great Ways to Design in Virtual Space”, they are powerful tools available to help businesses to harness the power of virtual reality at a very affordable price.
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