While virtual reality is not new technology, the way in which virtual reality is being adopted and utilized by enterprise organizations is evolving rapidly. What was once a medium primarily used for teenagers to slash fruits and swipe boxes that approached in rapid succession has now become a medium in which brands can eliminate risk for dangerous professions and avoid injury overall by using digital twins.
Simply put, VR is changing the workplace in countless ways, and today I'm going to dive into all the aspects in which VR is proving beneficial in the workplace.
The benefits of virtual reality for training
As previously mentioned, the ability to generate a zero-risk and harm-free environment has countless benefits for workers, especially if there is an inherent risk to their profession. By using virtual worlds, employers can now onboard employees for jobs that pose a high degree of risk and eliminate on-the-job injury altogether. By simulating a hazardous environment, enterprises can now have employees that may not have the experience of a senior role learn through a digital double of a real-world job process that in the past could pose a critical risk.
A real-world example of this can be seen in the utility sector where workers deal with all kinds of dangerous situations. Consider for a second a damaged or downed wire situation where a utility worker has to deal with live electricity, and where one wrong move can have them electrocuted causing drastic injury or even worse. By creating a digital double of this scenario, utility companies can simulate the hazardous job without any risk whatsoever. This leads to employees being better prepared for the real world when they have to respond to an emergency situation that is inherently dangerous.
Another area that is paramount to the adoption of VR for training has been the ability to standardize workflows. Having a set course where no instructor is needed allows employers to optimize learning outcomes in a way that just wasn't possible before. This allows for faster compliance and the ability to surpass audits with ease—which then leads to the ability to train more people faster and at scale. This foundation for training allows for integration across multiple functions in the enterprise, which will lead to much more technical training success as users can replay scenarios without fail as many times as needed to master the material.
Shorter time to competence
VR has the potential to take many industries to the next level by changing the way employers onboard new employees for technical training roles, where senior instructors may not be readily available. Overall this creates increased retention and allows for faster learning through exposure than ever before. The ability to replay recorded sessions at length gives learners a new way to learn- by-doing, as many times as necessary to become confident before leaving the proverbial metaverse. These immersive 1-to-1 environments will many times mimic the real world, so the dilution from the virtual world to the real one becomes less of an issue.
This leads to a dramatic cut in costs for training and onboarding employees. Not only does this save time and money for employers, but it also saves time for the employee, giving them a unique way to learn material that has previously never been available.
This increases not only ROI but also cuts back on space requirements that were previously required for training dojos. While ROI increases, insurance premiums get lowered and the savings start to add up tremendously. This not only impacts the bottom line but is also helping with overall travel expenses for corporations as many times learners can have a VR headset sent to them wherever they are located, which leads to not only savings but less of an impact on their environmental footprint.
Challenges and progress
While the benefits are seemingly endless, VR training still does have its challenges. With true VR adoptions there are definitely costs of software development and hardware to be considered, especially at scale. One of the biggest hurdles to VR adoption is the lack of understanding of the technology in the market today. The use cases are scarce and it's hard for brands to envision the benefits without seeing what someone else has already done in their sector. Let's not forget that just over a decade ago this technology didn't exist—or was extremely bulky and hard to manage. The way the hardware is evolving it will only be a matter of time for adoption to hit the mainstream.
I expect to see more adoption in our post-pandemic world, as any tools that can make learning more enjoyable and make travel less of a requirement will increase user acceptance.