People learn in lots of different ways. Many of us have our ‘preferred ways’ to gain new knowledge and skills. Some people get the best results from experiential learning, for example, while others do better from classic didactic instruction, or using self-directed written learning programs.
An exciting new possibility today is the use of Virtual reality (VR) training. VR training is rapidly gaining attention for its ability to combine experiential learning with an enhanced data-rich training program. In this article, we’re looking at how VR training offers unique value, and in which situations it has the most impact.
What is virtual reality (VR) training?
VR training can be defined as a training program that uses virtual spaces, objects, and situations to elicit real-life learning outcomes from simulated scenarios in virtual reality. In VR training, a participant becomes totally immersed in a virtual world that’s equipped with all the tools and elements needed to learn.
In many ways, you could imagine that VR training is a substitute for real-life experiential learning, but it actually has unique benefits that makes it even better than traditional learning methods, in certain situations.
How VR training works
VR training works by simulating a scenario in a virtual environment, and enabling trainees to use this scenario in the same way as a real-life training situation. To use the VR environment, the trainee must wear all the same equipment as any other VR experience, and maybe some specialist peripherals as well.
Gloves or props might be used, for example, to simulate the sensation of holding real objects in VR, which enhances the training experience. Alternatively, the experience might use movement sensors or gesture control to create the optimal results.
When is VR training best used?
The value of training in virtual reality is it can be deployed at distance and scale. VR training is also particularly useful when physical training resources are scarce. It’s also particularly handy in situations where it is either dangerous to train in the actual situation, or difficult to do so.
Safety training is one area where VR and other extended reality training can have special value. You can make mistakes in the VR environment that would be deadly in the real world, and see negative impacts without anyone needing to really experience them.
There are also situations where VR training is not the best way. Considering the time it takes to create a VR training scheme, it is best used for long-term deployments where frequent updates won’t be needed, and where the number of trainees is large. The scalability and uniformity of training in a virtual environment is one of the biggest advantages – so small-scale training situations are not the best use, unless the costs of doing it ‘the old-fashioned way’ are much greater (e.g., aerospace sector).
Let’s look at some real-world examples where VR training is used with fantastic results.
5 great examples of training with VR
Training surgeons using VR
King’s College, London, has become a vocal proponent of training surgeons using VR, especially for enhancing the results of cancer surgery training. Likewise, one study at UCLA showed that the Osso VR training platform for surgeons increased their performance by 230%, and Manchester Metropolitan University is testing the effectiveness of CPR training for medical students using VR.
As well as the procedural aspects, there’s the ‘bedside manner’ to consider, too. In one example, a VR experience is being used to give caregivers a helping hand with understanding the patient’s perspective with realistic simulations of living with conditions like macular degeneration or Alzheimer’s disease.
Astronaut training with VR
NASA has been using virtual reality for training astronauts for some time, but recently announced a competition to crowdsource new solutions for their VR Mars exploration training. This will be essential for the first humans to land on Mars, as they probably will be too weak to walk after the long journey across space, so will need to control remote robots to begin with.
Astronaut training is also being used to help to train for space missions closer to home, including practice with things like mass handling in low-G, performing maintenance on equipment, and controlling robotics.
International airline Lufthansa has trained more than 20,000 flight attendants using their VR training program. For Lufthansa, the value is the low cost of training (no aircraft required), and the uniformity of the training results across the whole organization. This consistency has high value for any international company, and Airbus uses its own VR program to train mechanical engineers.
Of course, VR has been used for flight simulators for decades. Training pilots with VR is still a popular area of application, and it has many benefits. These include the consistency mentioned above, plus the fact that no real aircraft are required. This makes the training process much safer and more cost effective. In addition, a single instructor can be shared by many thousands of trainee pilots (minimizing instruction costs), and the risks are minimized.
Emergency services training
The emergency services deal with some of the most challenging situations, with incredible stress and pressure placed upon them at critical moments. The decisions they make can save or cost lives.
For this reason, VR is being used to train emergency workers to deal with acutely difficult situations like these. Police officers in Sacramento, California, use a special VR training scheme for this purpose, and the Fort Myers, Florida, police force uses a similar program.
VR in logistics training
Logistics specialist DB Schenker has created a unique training program for forklift truck drivers. This makes it easier to train new drivers in a cost-effective way, with minimum risk. It ensures that before a driver gets into the seat, they have already received all the training they need to operate it safely.
Global logistics provider DHL also uses its own training experience in VR for cargo loading. It’s easy to overlook, but the way goods are loaded into a truck has a huge impact on how many packages will fit – and this has a direct bearing on the bottom line.
What do you need to get started with VR training?
There’s no doubt that creating a VR training program takes work, just like any other educational course. However, there are special considerations with creating your own training program, such as how to make it as realistic as possible with first-class 3D content, and how to integrate sensors properly to enable smooth interaction.
The first step in getting started is to design your overall concept, and how interactive it needs to be. Getting expert advice about creating VR spaces at an early stage can also save a lot of time (and avoid potential pitfalls).
Many organizations don’t even get this far however, as they are dissuaded by the formidable task of creating the 3D content itself and integrating it into the experience. However, using the Fectar Studio software you can create engaging extended reality experiences that can be used for VR or AR. Being able to extend your training to participants using augmented reality can increase the reach of your training programs, which are otherwise limited to the specialized equipment needed for virtual reality.
Equipment needed for VR training
The equipment you need for a VR training session will partly depend on the requirements of the experience, for instance if realistic haptic experiences are needed. However, in all cases you will need to use VR goggles as an absolute minimum.
You may additionally require sensors such as gesture control or VR gloves to interact properly with the VR experience. This is an important consideration for the design phase as well, as you need to create an experience that fits the budget and equipment it can afford.
Start with VR training the easy way
Just like your company website, your VR training experiences are something that can (and should) be optimized over time. This means it’s best to start with a proof-of-concept, which you can use to evaluate and detect potential bugs or conflicts.
Creating 3D environments is getting easier than ever, and simple 3D objects and other content can be created using NeRF technology or even inferred from a single image. There are also apps that you can use in conjunction with your LiDAR-equipped smartphone to create 3D content just by ‘scanning’ it with your phone. This massively cuts down the time needed to create functional virtual elements for your VR training experience.
Once you have the 3D virtual objects available you can use the intuitive Fectar Studio to turn this into a cohesive training environment for both VR and AR. VR experiences created with Fectar Studio can be experienced with the major VR headsets like Meta and Pico, and they can be used for AR too.
Curious to see what might be possible? Download the Fectar App to see virtual experiences that other organizations have already made using the Fectar Studio software.