VR training – virtual reality in technical / workplace health and safety trainings

Training future or present employees is the greatest challenge of the employer. Apart from investing time, one has to take into consideration a series of problems and hidden costs – especially in the case of complex technical trainings. How can virtual reality facilitate and speed up such trainings and, above all, lower their cost?

We all know what standard training looks like: for hours on end, the trainer explains a process, the trainees take notes and then it’s time to practice. When it comes to workplace health and safety procedures or handling of specialist machinery/vehicles, the practical part of the training is essential for the employees to learn correct responses in given situations. This usually means costly staging of possible scenarios, where one repetition may prove insufficient for the employee to memorize all the necessary steps.

Virtual reality (VR) can transport us into any chosen setting: the site of a fire, an airplane cockpit or a vehicle. It allows us to visualize any situation and lets our employees learn by practising all the necessary procedures. With state-of-the-art VR goggles, our body movements are recreated in virtual reality. Sensors, controllers, haptic gloves and other accessories make it possible to interact with the virtual world in a natural, intutive manner. It’s as if we were training in the real world. What are the advantages of introducing VR into technical trainings?

Lower costs

It’s all about the money. Recreating conditions in which an employee is to take certain steps in accordance with workplace health and safety regulations can be extremely costly. Let’s consider trainings in heavy industry. Equipment is expensive and even the smallest damage can halt production. When a factory runs round the clock, machinery cannot be stopped for the time of training. Moving trainings into virtual reality means showing all possible scenarios and teaching adequate procedures without generating huge costs. Once a scenario is created, it can be used to train any numer of employees.

Higher involvement

When the British Army introduced VR into their trainings for potential employees, numer of applicants rose by 66 percent! They were given a first-hand experience of what it’s like to ride a tank or jump with a parachute. VR technology is still an exciting novelty: trainees are more eager to participate and prove more involved in the trainings.

Recreating the conditions

The majority of workplace health and safety trainings in industry aim at teaching employees to react fast and in accordance with procedures when in the face of danger. Virtual reality helps create conditions that perfectly convey the threat without actually endangering anyone. Through VR, we can expose trainees to very stressful factors, which in reality would pose a threat to their health or even life, and follow scenarios in safe conditions. It is the most effective form of training and the only one allowing employees to learn correct responses they will apply in case of actual stress and danger.

Case study: VR simulator of a fire engine

Before the introduction of virtual reality into trainings, our client, world leader in the production of fire engines, would rent a runway where he placed a burning mock-up of an airplane. Twice a year, all of the company’s customers (from over 60 countries) had to undergo training in fire engine operation.

We can only guess how great was the cost of such an enterprise. By combining state-of-the-art solutions – Oculus Rift headset, a Leap Motion controller and several inventions of our own – we were able to recreate the driver’s cabin in its original size and functionality. Customers could enter a virtually created situation which was identical to real conditions, while our client saved millions of dollars.

Is it worthwhile to use VR in trainings?

Solutions based on virtual reality are new and exciting, therefore more engaging for the trainees. VR lets us enact any chosen training scenario without generating high costs. Moreover, we can deliver precise statistics from each training, which will tell us what proves most problematic for the participants, what they focus on and what needs to be improved. We can effectively train employees in emergency procedures without actually putting their health or life at risk. Virtual reality allows us to create the most practical, safe and cost-effective training scenarios of today.