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customers’ growing interest in virtual reality. For many it’s an irresistible sales tool, with the likes of Nike giving football fans the chance to step into the VR boots of superstar players. For others, virtual reality is a marketing medium and trendy new service in one. Marriott Hotels, for example, has been checking out the technology through its Teleporter, VRoom Service and VR Postcards, allowing guests to experience other travellers’ journeys while they’re on one of their own. It’s not only marketing that is

now utilising VR, but manufacturing too. Ford, for instance, has been using Oculus Rift technology to enable their engineers and designers to carefully assess new cars, inside and out, ahead of production. Tat has real benefits and cost savings in the workplace and within R&D. Virtual reality today is not all

technological advancement, thrills and delights – as, more recently, we have seen it being used to immerse the user in darker scenarios. Te New York Times used the technology to make a film from the perspective of three children in dif- ferent parts of the world who have been uprooted by war in their homelands. On this side of the pond, Te Guardian created a solitary confinement experience

Every new starter at Google Inc. could have a VR one-to-one employee engagement session with the CEO, Sundar Pichai

that aimed to provide a small insight into the trauma that an extended period of isolation can inflict on a person. Te technology can clearly offer

valuable new experiences that increase empathy with others and understanding of important issues. Achieving these aims is a daily battle in the workplace and that’s why we should be giving our employees the chance to put themselves in someone else’s digital shoes.

VR training at work

For industries that have technology in their DNA, or where it’s a matter of life and death, virtual reality is being

22 | august 2016 |

widely used to train staff. Similarly to the dress rehearsals for NASA’s astronauts, healthcare professionals are gaining insights into what they’ll ex- perience before working on a real body by using realistic virtual environments or virtual models of human anatomy. Meanwhile, the use of the Oculus

Rift headset by the military has been widely reported. It aims to train and test soldiers for the most challenging combat scenarios, within a safe – yet challenging and shocking – virtual world. Tere are, of course, costs associated

with the software and hardware. But these will certainly decrease with time. As the market matures, we are likely to see more producers creating content and a new range of organisations making VR a core part of their training programme. As with any form of training,

there is a danger that the learning objectives might get lost within the virtual reality experiences and fail to impart the knowledge and hone the skills that the L&D teams intended. Buyers beware and look out for

an onslaught of companies offering a VR world that looks amazing. Does it really do what your organisation may need it to do? It’s a hot topic but suitability must be the watchword. If you need to train large numbers

of people across different destinations, and deliver an immersive experience that face-to-face training can’t offer, then VR-learning will soon be the most powerful and cost-effective way of doing this – especially when compared to the budget needed to gather everyone together in the same location. E-learning is still a relatively new

idea and, unfortunately, much of it is remembered (or, worse, completely for- gotten) for being uninspiring. Te last

recession saw training budgets slashed so it is only in the last couple of years that we have seen online training start to fulfil its potential, with a growing number of organisations bringing it to life and making it more compelling. It is most successful when it’s visual-

ly engaging, breaks down complicated information into bite-sized chunks and enables trainers and managers to use data intuitively to assess their learners. Imagine how a blended learning

approach could mix up VR training with digital learning and bite-size engagement all delivered after you’ve been placed on the shop floor, trading floor, oil rig platform or aircraft hangar, from the safety of your own desk. VR can take things up a notch – or

ten – because of its ability to help us learn critical skills in a realistic but safe environment. Te fact that it can be so enjoyable and memorable means that learners usually love every second of the session and, crucially, retain the knowledge. Tere will, of course, be subject matter that is not taught best through virtual reality. It’s also important to ensure that it’s not an isolating experience, with the software offering an opportunity for learners to connect with one another or trainers. Tere is no reason why it can’t be used in the recruitment process in the future as well – from the interview stage to the induction days for successful candidates. For instance, every new starter at Google Inc. could have a VR one-to-one employee engagement session with the CEO, Sundar Pichai, before they’ve even sat at their desk for the first time. Virtual reality training is akin

to time travel. It has the power to take learners to career-defining moments in their work life before they happen. It can give them the chance to make mistakes, without significant consequence or regret. We might look silly with that

awe-inspired VR-look on our faces but that’s precisely how we should look in those moments when we find ourselves enjoying and benefiting from learning again.

Mark Lyon is the co-founder of the Remote Group – find out more at


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