For the NFL and Walmart, professional virtual reality training is here

Tech companies dream of creating a virtual reality metaverse, but the best use of virtual reality today is something much more everyday: job training.

The big picture: Virtual Reality offers everyone from NFL quarterbacks to Walmart reps a scalable and relatively inexpensive way to practice their professional skills in a programmable virtual space.

Driving the news: On Monday, Facebook announced that it would invest $ 50 million – or about four hours of revenue – in global research and program partners to build its planned virtual metaverse in a “responsible” manner.

  • The metaverse is “a collection of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who are not in the same physical space as you,” as the Facebook post puts it.

Yes, but: For the metaverse to become a reality, VR technology would need to improve dramatically, even assuming users embrace a virtual world created by a company that appears to be losing public trust quickly.

  • Pandemic containment should have been the perfect opportunity for virtual reality, because for many people, real reality was suddenly confined to the confines of their living room.
  • But as my colleague Ina Fried wrote last year, virtual reality has missed its time, without a killer app to pilot its takeoff.

What is happening: Even though virtual reality has lagged behind wider uses, workplace training emerges as an immediate business case for the technology.

  • Global spending on augmented and virtual reality training systems topped $ 1.3 billion in 2020, nearly half of all investments in immersive technology, which also includes uses like gaming.
  • According to a survey by the software market Capterra, 1 in 3 small and medium-sized businesses in the United States plans to pilot a virtual reality training program.

What they say : “Facebook and a lot of other companies are doing some really cool things with social virtual reality and the metaverse of gaming,” says Derek Belch, CEO of industry-leading virtual reality training company, Strivr. “But I personally think that for the next five years, training will continue to be the fruit at hand.”

How it works: Belch began working on what would become Strivr as a graduate assistant to the Stanford University football team in 2013, which gave him a chance to see how virtual reality can help athletes practice their skills. sport without needing their teammates or putting themselves in danger.

  • Strivr now works with professional sports teams in multiple leagues, using 360-degree cameras to capture footage of games and practices as players – including Tom Brady, who started using Strivr ahead of his winning Super season. Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 – can later in VR.
  • “When they put the helmet on, it feels like it’s in the pocket and it’s all flying around them,” Belch explains. “They can do their movements and footwork before the snap, without throwing the ball.”

“Virtual reality is a visualization practice on steroids. “

– Derek Belch, Strivr

Details: A call from Walmart in 2016 led Strivr to expand its virtual reality offerings beyond sports, and there are now 17,000 virtual reality headsets in Walmart stores for employee training.

  • In recent months, Walmart has started using virtual reality not only to train associates in the physical details of their jobs, but to help them respond to customers stressed by a pandemic with more empathy through programs in which workers interact with a virtual reality avatar.
  • “It’s about having the experience of putting myself [someone else’s] shoes before it even happened, ”said Heather Durtschi, senior director of learning, design and content development at Walmart, in a recent webinar.

In numbers : VR training can help workers master technical and soft skills better and faster – a 2020 PwC study found VR learners four times more focused than e-learning students and 275% more confident in applying skills after training.

  • After Honeywell began using a mix of virtual and augmented reality tools to train industrial workers, training time was reduced by over 60%.

The trap : While cheaper and faster, VR training programs lack the flexibility that live lessons can offer. And up to 40% of users experience some degree of motion sickness in VR and AR environments, with women reporting more serious side effects.

The bottom line: Virtual reality is still waiting for the iPhone moment that will lead to widespread consumer adoption – and perhaps one day lead to the metaverse – but in the meantime, consider VR training a perfectly hands-on Blackberry experience.

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