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Virtual Reality Is Getting Real With Safety, Skills & Job Training

As enterprise VR adoption increases, so too will the possibilities to improve efficiency, safety and overall professional performance.

Have you tried virtual reality yet? If you have, it was most likely a game for the purpose of entertainment. But what if you started a new job, and your first day featured training in VR? That’s where the next big shift is taking place, in all types of industries.

Even though overall consumer adoption of VR isn’t yet as widespread as mobile phones, it’s steadily increasing. 2016 saw the launch of PlayStation VR, a more affordable option than the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Samsung gives away GEAR VR viewers with the purchase of their flagship Galaxy phones. And while there’s plenty of fun and games over at the Steam VR Store, some of the most exciting content right now is made exclusively for the enterprise market.

Virtual Reality Improves Safety for Dangerous Jobs

An area where VR training has seen a lot of adoption is the energy market. Companies like ExxonMobil and AGL Energy have already started pilot programs, with the specific goal of making employees more safe on the job through virtual training.

Jobs like extracting oil or coal are extremely high-risk. With VR, people can practice operating equipment before getting out into the field–even when that field is an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. The ability to acclimatize to a job in a safe place vastly improves outcomes. Randomization keeps people on their toes. The training will never be the same twice, so people must think quickly and critically. Participants shift and adapt to changing circumstances, exactly like they would have to in the real world.

Because VR is active learning (rather than the passive learning we do when we read or listen to a lecture), people get more out of it. In fact, studies show people retain 80% of the information up to a year later, compared to 10% for reading. So employees are safer, and overall training costs are reduced.

Virtual Reality Improves Motor Skills for Doctors and Patients

These positive outcomes are especially true in the medical industry. A study on laparoscopic surgery found that after leveraging VR training as a supplement to standard training, total operating time performed by trainees with limited laparoscopic experience, was reduced by a statistically significant amount. This is why the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery is using virtual reality to train residents and plan out surgeries, and have plans on expanding the program.

Beyond training doctors, nurses or health care staff, virtual reality can train patients as well. A lot of promise has been shown in motor skills rehabilitation, like helping paraplegics to walk again. For people with autism, VR is used to increase brain activity in areas related to soft skills like social understanding.

There are also fascinating implications with diagnostics. Researchers are using tests in VR to screen for degeneration in brain functions, which can indicate diseases like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In terms of education, imagine learning anatomy by taking apart a body in virtual reality. Knowing that VR has proven to increase retention, it makes sense to study critical medical concepts in a way that improves outcomes.

Virtual Reality Enables Machinery Repair

When it comes to learning how to work on any type of equipment, VR may not seem like the most logical fit at first. After all, why wouldn’t you just work on an engine to learn how to work on an engine?

Sometimes machinery can be so large, it’s difficult to physically cover the entire piece of equipment. And then of course, there’s the issue of entirely halting your machinery to train new employees: that type of hands-on training is extremely costly. Or maybe a company is working on designing a new piece of equipment, and wants to test the user experience during the design process. Virtual reality can help mitigate, if not solve all of these kinds of problems.

Typical machinery is created in CAD. Since CAD files aren’t automatically VR-compatible, there needs to be a way to translate the files into a VR-recognized format. Companies like PIXO Group have developed proprietary systems for moving these CAD files into VR. With such a translation, a water filtration system–a massive, complex machine–is now the size of a laptop computer and HTC Vive.

Just like those old paper diagrams of exploded car parts, PIXO Group’s development team animates the water filter to explode out and show tons of individual parts and their position relative to one another. Users can pick up each part, dismantle and reassemble the machine. Users can also digitally apply lubricants and perform other maintenance operations; companies can standardize training curriculum for global workforces; they can also collect vital analytics and data from the backend to identify key issues and track participant progress.

There are clear advantages for using virtual reality in the corporate and education settings, and as adoption increases, so too will the possibilities to improve efficiency, safety and overall professional performance.

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