The Role of Virtual Reality in Modern Workplace Learning

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Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality solutions commonly known as Mixed Reality solutions have been in vogue for nearly a decade now. The last few years have seen increasing commercial use of AR and VR solutions as the cost of VR and AR headsets has come down significantly. Creating AR and VR based videos and learning solutions continues to be an expensive and niche area. More industries are waking up to the possibilities of using AR and VR-enabled learning solutions despite the high initial costs. Over the years, we have published several blog posts on using AR and VR in eLearning.  In this blog post, we integrate and update those posts to offer a comprehensive reading resource on AR and VR-based eLearning solutions and their importance in modern workplace learning.


Using Virtual Reality to Create Experiential Learning

Mere men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 20th, 1969. We came in peace for all mankind.”

Those are words etched in the annals of history that symbolize and revive a space odyssey. Now, thanks to technology, you can even hear the first expressions made by Neil Armstrong, the flag-bearer to man’s quest into space, an element that is still under exploration. A locational dimension that only astronauts can hope to enter! But then, the ground reality is different. The emergence of newer and immersive technologies is not only facilitating individuals but also empowering them to “dare” to go there. Well, physically, it may not be possible unless one has the means to get a seat on a space voyage!

The good thing is technology and the hunger to explore newer frontiers have led to advancements by those in the simulation space or those possessing a futuristic vision. This is a group of people who can be classified in many ways – right from innovators to technologists, scientists to dreamers to entrepreneurs to researchers. They have been working on technologies, materials, and domains that are bringing experiential learning into focus. This is what the smart gears, gadgets and applications are capable of with the help of the virtual reality (VR) technology.

A testimonial to how the VR technology is gaining popularity can be seen and heard from none other than the former NASA astronaut Charles Moss ‘Charlie’ Duke. The lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, who had the privilege of being the tenth and the youngest person to walk on the Moon, got the same “live and immersive” experience, when he tried out the Oculus Rift. This time, through a virtual ‘playful’ tour experience of the Apollo spacecraft 47 years after! The VR experience through Oculus Rift VR gadget was surreal and Charlie (as he is fondly called) gave a ‘Rogers’ to get that immersive experience. “The moon surface looks very good… similar to what when we went… I am really impressed!” is how he described the “fantastic and really wonderful” ground experience of getting onboard the Apollo spacecraft, barring a few technology glitches. It is so complete and fulfilling that in the video, you cannot miss the reference to the 360-degree view of the VR gear made by a lady. “You can even see behind you”, she says, suggesting that Charlie can tilt or move his head around to get an all-round view! Now, the thumbs up from the former NASA astronaut measure the progressive path that VR technology offers.

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Using VR to Make Learning Easy

What you think and what you learn matters! When it comes to learner engagement, posts, visuals and videos are the ones that tend to click and resonate. To make learning ‘sticky’, the use of these mediums seem to lure learners by choice not force! At least, that’s what the current trends are indicating with the appeal quotient of the courses and content piquing the interest of learners.

Sounds simple? Well, when it comes to technical content, the challenges appear to be multi-fold. It is as if the technology wave that we are witnessing is what is determining the learning path. For instance, who would have envisioned a scenario where big screens would be replaced with small, wide, smart, and handy screens, and co-exist in a device flooded the market?

While technology obsolescence is not within control, some factors that are perceptibly constant are the following: agility, the ability to change or to be nimble, the willingness to adapt, and of course, the pace and quest for learning and growing.

Serious and formal learning content can attract a learner if it is presented in an informal, exciting, immersive, and engaging manner. Technology is used to convey reality through the virtual medium and simulated environments. Face time is in! Face-to-face communication is passé? Skype and video-conferencing tools that are helping to buck the trend.

How do emerging technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), beef up technology-based learning? It is the possibility of getting an immersive experience with images, graphics, and videos coming to life that enhances learning engagement. So, it is the digital layer on the physical layer and the opportunity to use multiple operating systems – Android and iOS – which is taking learning to a new level. Employees of certain industries, particularly in engineering processes, military, complex operations, healthcare, and aviation have a pressing need for hands-on training. When hands-on training may be too risky to be delivered, such as flight control to a trainee pilot or surgery for students of medicine, simulated environments can do the needful. Of course, they come at a cost, and a huge one at that, but the main advantage they provide is being a one-time investment to deliver the most effective form of training in a completely secure manner.

For other organizations, where VR is not that big a necessity, AR does the trick. Businesses that are into process engineering or engineering design processes, healthcare, IT, and others can benefit from AR programs. Cutting-edge graphics and animations using 3D and special effects tools have made it possible to deliver high-quality training.

Listed below are some of the AR applications:

  • Visual recognition of real-life objects or print patterns
  • Streaming of 3D objects from a live server through multiple HD display screens within the organization, which is particularly helpful in providing on-the-job support to medical professionals or for demonstrating engineering processes.
  • Video see-through animations on top of the real feed. For example, assisting engineers at work through their mobile devices, so that they can immediately access a process stage or manufacturing part in case they need support.
  • Audio guidance and visual displays for complex tasks.
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Citing an example would throw light on how dynamic learning environments can be!

Engineers that work in high-end automobile manufacturing and design businesses must have a keen understanding of the functioning of automobile parts. And here, we aren’t just talking about relatively simple machines like cars. These are huge locomotives such as trains and moving generators wherein a substantial level of training is required to understand the various components and their functioning to carry on everyday tasks such as operations and maintenance. Augmented reality makes it possible to create high-quality videos by superimposing digital 3D content onto real-life objects so that each component and the process therein is clearly visible. Providing employees with a video library using AR techniques improves their retention by reiterating the processes that they might have witnessed during the actual training. The natural result is a workforce which is more confident, reliable, and productive and always equipped with practical knowledge.

Finding the right skill set is a challenge that organizations globally are facing or having to grapple with. Shortage of human resources and the limited ability of workers to come up to speed are leading organizations to look at supporting performance, instead of driving it. That approach is what delights learners who are eager to test or embrace newer and innovative modes of learning today. They, therefore, operate in their comfort zones by using the critical resource of time and leverage the power and prowess of technology from time to time. It is this aspect leading to productivity and efficiency that has influenced organizations to enable ease of access to people when it comes to tools and technology.

Experience is the New Learning

Butter-knife, scissors, and sticky tape are all you need to join the conversation around virtual reality (VR) – is Kellogg’s take. Puzzled? Curious? Need more cues on the buzz around VR? ‘Wear and watch’ the VR view. Check out the diverse use it offers. From music to media to FMCG to retail to engineering to automobiles to hospitality or sports, the scope of using this technology for effective outcomes is expanding like wildfire! Research by leading technology operators is focused on making VR solutions cost-effective.

In this era of instant reviews and social media scrutiny, technology, and product adoption happen in a focused manner. Experience is the new medium of connecting and learning!

Google Glass, Cardboard, Oculus Rift DK2 headset, Samsung Gear, Zig Zag and many more gadgets are shaking up the VR space with ground-breaking solutions that have rekindled the interest in this technology world-over. Given below are some of the fascinating and experiential implications of the VR technology at work!

Virtual Reality in the Automobile Industry

Does knowing the pulse of the customer makes predicting the future of technology a tad easy? Well, that is the experience of Elizabeth Baron who spotted the potential of VR for the auto industry more than a decade ago. Baron heads Ford’s Immersive Vehicle Environment (FiVE) lab, which uses VR technology to enable designers, engineers, and others involved in product development to experience a pre-built vehicle. “It’s a holistic view that brings together people looking at vehicles from different mindsets. I wanted what you would expect in the real world, in real-time, and with the highest level of visual quality, and then I just worked at it using all the ways I could find to create that,” she said.

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Virtual Reality in the Food Industry 

Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC is an iconic fast-food brand with a global presence. KFC has come up with an innovative VR-based training solution for its staff. The solution simulates a regular KFC outlet and helps employees learn and practice their skills at making popular dishes, managing the billing counter, and interacting with customers. Designed like a game, the brand’s icon Colonel Sanders makes an appearance in the VR game giving instructions to the learners. KFC is deploying this VR learning solution across its locations to train employees. See this video to experience how the VR game looks like:

Virtual Reality in Retail

Walmart is a leading US retailer with its dedicated Walmart Academies to train its employees distributed across the US. Walmart is using VR to train its employees across its outlets. Here’s a paragraph from their official blog post:

“Walmart plans to use VR to train associates in three main areas: new technology, soft skills like empathy and customer service, and compliance. VR training is particularly helpful for learning new tech. In a pilot test this summer, 10 stores used VR for training on new Pickup Tower units in their stores. VR is allowing associates to be trained before the towers are even installed – no teachers required.”

See this video where a Walmart associate wears the VR headset and participates in the VR-training.

Virtual Reality in the Petrochemical Industry

Drilling for oil is a high-risk and niche skill that requires a lot of coordination and technical support. No wonder that working on an oil rig or offshore exploration ship needs a lot of dedication, courage, and training. British Petroleum (BP) one of the key producers of petrochemical products is using VR to train its employees. Here’s a paragraph from their official blog post:

“Using state-of-the-art facilities in Svenborg, Denmark, and Houston, Texas, BP staff and contractors can simulate the specific conditions of a drilling operation, including the same rocks, temperatures, and pressures – even the same physical impact of the ocean currents – in order to replicate critical jobs on the rig. This training in the virtual world is helping BP to drill more safely and efficiently in the real world. The hands-on, scenario-based approach goes well beyond traditional classroom training and allows drilling teams to practice events and joint procedures together as an integrated unit.”

These were just some examples with real case studies. The proliferation of VR is on the rise when it comes to data visualization, networking, military technology, education, and training. VR in healthcare is reported to be 30% while in the field of education and training it is 35%. How to operate cranes, handling hazardous wastes, how to weld, teaching surgical procedures, and rehabilitation are the diverse range of VR courses available in the market.

We have now reached a stage where organizations are consciously looking to integrate VR and AR-based solutions in their training content. From modules with a VR-element to a full-scale course built to function as an immersive mixed reality experience, the possibilities are numerous. Many organizations are using VR for employee onboarding and training. Over the years Origin Learning has demonstrated proven capabilities in designing and deploying VR and AR-based learning solutions for globally renowned brands.

Are you interested in adding an edge to your eLearning content with VR?

Get in touch with us today for a demo and let us craft your next eLearning story powered by Virtual Reality.


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