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NASA used an augmented reality dashboard for navigation of X-38. Astronaut, Scott Kelly, used this dashboard to report back to mission control from space.
Medium
IT Production

DOES VR TRAINING REALLY WORK?

In the modern world of rapidly developing technologies and growing complexity, efficient education became essential for both employers and employees.

It’s a hard, sometimes nearly impossible to reach proper goals in employee training using conventional methods — it requires a lot of time and money with actually uncertain results.

Maybe you have already heard of the professional training in VR. Major businesses all over the world from KLM and Ford to Verizon and Wallmart are generously investing in VR training. 

Does it really reduce costs? And is there any proof of efficiency?

The answer is yes. And now you’ll learn why.

Theory of VR training

For our brain VR simulation is almost indistinguishable from reality. This means that everything you learn and experience in VR is far more likely to elicit change in your brain.

VR training is not about reading texts or watching slides — it’s actually experiencing reality. From the brain’s point of view, of course. The more different senses are involved in the learning process the more parts of the brain work. So it’s possible to construct multisensory learning experiences in VR simulation. 

This isn’t just far more engaging and memorable, but it also creates many more opportunities for experimentation, for contextualizing dry information, and for being guided by tutorials, arrows, highlighted elements in the environment and more. Using VR, the average person can experience situations and challenges that they would never encounter in the real world and they can learn from that experience.

This feature of virtual reality quickly spread across different industries and is now implemented into a variety of cases from engine maintenance for engineers to Mars landing tutorials for astronauts.

History of VR training

Since the 1960s, electrical engineer Thomas Furness had been working on visual displays and instrumentation in cockpits for the U.S. Air Force. From 1986 to 1989, Furness directed the air force’s Super Cockpit program.

The helmet’s tracking system, voice-actuated controls, and sensors enabled the pilot to control the aircraft with gestures, utterances, and eye movements, translating immersion in a data-filled virtual space into control modalities. 

The story of NASA’s VR training started in the 1990s, when Hubble Telescope needed to be repaired in space. Astronauts had to capture the telescope, bring it down to the bay of the shuttle, and then repair it. So it seemed too difficult for convenient NASA pool-training techniques to resolve this task. In fact, astronauts had to train separately to handle the shuttle arm and make the repairs, and also to do those tasks while weightless, by training in the pool. It was a point when NASA started thinking about a better training experience.

There are four main areas where NASA uses virtual reality. The Extra-Vehicular Activities training prepares astronauts for spacewalks. Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue, or SAFER, simulates a situation where astronauts become detached from the shuttle and have to use a backpack to navigate their way back.

At the same time NASA uses VR for robotics operations, relating to the shuttle and space station arm. Finally, zero-g mass handling training helps astronauts get a feel for doing things like manipulating payloads in zero gravity.

Everything from the many iterations of headsets to NASA’s own graphics engine is produced in-house.

Applying VR training

The global oil company Schlumberger replaces classical training classes with virtual ones, where you can simulate working with equipment in various situations.

The platform provides a variety of features and scenarios from choosing the appropriate personal protective equipment and studying heavy equipment to practice in cementing of oil wells without stopping the workflow and without risking the lives of employees. First newcomers have a theory training and then practice in VR.

Schlumberger has about 2,000 employees undergo monthly training. So each VR course is used repeatedly and quickly pays off

Aircraft and automotive industries also rapidly implement VR into their training process. According to Ford’s data, using VR training simulation reduces excessive movements and dangerous hand positions during installations of complex parts up to 90%! This leads to 75% fewer medical insurance cases due to injuries. the company has designed a set of instructions for employees in virtual reality as a result of the digitalization worker’s behavior by analyzing actions associated with life-threatening movements 

At the same time, Ford uses VR to speed up the design of new cars. 3D virtual reality simulation enables designers to create a more human-centric vehicle design. Ford’s spokesperson said that this solution allows designers to speed the process “from weeks to hours”, skipping the 2D stage and working with a 3D model from the beginning.

Designers can anchor a driver at the center of the car, rotating their 3D design to view it from any angle to create a scalable vehicle around their driver. They can even step inside the vehicle sketch to quickly adjust design attributes.

After achieved success, Ford decided that VR technology is promising enough to create its own VR lab

Major Netherlands air carrier KLM uses VR to train it’s employees on how to behave in case of fire on the plane and at hangars. Cost-effective training is essential for KLM that employes almost 35 000 people. For example for one particular engineer team of 300 people, this project saved half a day’s training, which is an equivalent to €50,000 to €75,000. And, as KLM reported it would take a year to find gaps in the schedule of more experienced experts to train all 300 engineers with conventional training techniques while VR training can be done anytime. 

Engineers can request the virtual reality headsets and spend 10 minutes going through the simulation when they have spare time, such as when a plane is delayed on the way to the hangar. This allows them to keep their skills constantly up to date.

Scenario tree of this simulation contains 1,200 different choices with various consequences

Big retailers in the USA widely take advantage of virtual reality. Walmart created an immersive learning program for its employees called NextGen. The company recreated several different training scenarios in VR and deployed the platform across 200 of Walmart Academies to train over 150,000 employees a year. One such scenario was stress simulation of Black Friday sales to teach employees how to behave properly in critical situations. 

As Wallmart reported —  70% of employees who used VR training did better on their learning evaluation exams versus the group that did not use VR. The overall training satisfaction score reported by these employees was also 30% higher than those who did the standard training.

Another stress simulation was developed by USA telecom provider and retailer Verizon for its shop workers. With 16 hundred stores throughout the United States filled with the advanced devices, Verizon knows their commercial locations are viable targets for criminals. In case of robbery one wrong move could end with someone getting seriously hurt, whether it be a store employee or customer. So training program has a couple of different scenarios like simulations of an armed robbery at store opening and closing.

Each VR scenario is designed to be emotional, traumatic, raw, and hopefully teaching, what more you can do if you find yourself in this situation

 

The future of education is here and it actually works

No wonder that large enterprises are the first ones to implement this technology in their educational processes at such a scale. They simply have the means to allocate funds and create labs dedicated to research and analysis of the results and various influences this new approach forces upon both people and process optimization.

So employee training is really a place for virtual reality and impact of the immersive learning will grow next years. VR brings a lower costs, better efficiency, better trainee’s tracking and skills evaluation and as result — better performance of employees. Which is sometimes literaly priceless.

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