Date posted: 05/04/2017 3 min read

Using virtual reality for staff training

Tech expert Ritchie Djamhur explains how businesses can leverage virtual reality to inexpensively introduce complex new concepts to employees.

In brief

  • Crowdfunding platforms have spurred innovation through additional corporate funding.
  • Innovation in learning is alive and well and the necessary hardware and software is now very affordable.
  • Adopt technology to build your own classrooms for employees who are keen to learn.

In my last Acuity technology column on learning and innovation we looked at using virtual reality (VR) to learn or improve a particular skill, in this case public speaking. But sometimes learning is more about imparting a concept as opposed to a imparting single process or skill.  

“In the moment” platforms such as VR and 360 degree video can assist in delivering ideas in a way that can be more deeply absorbed than reading or watching content on a standard TV.  

First, it’s worth looking at the evolution of the different technologies that have brought us to this moment in time. The humble PC is now a machine capable of movie studio standard editing. Smartphones have themselves become handheld computers with amazing speed and screen resolution.  

Crowdfunding platforms have spurred innovation through additional corporate funding. Internet speeds allow live video streaming at high bit rates; and social media provides the reach and exposure for broad communication.  

Now that 360 videos have made their way onto YouTube and VR-based video applications, any person with a modicum of interest in video production and editing can source the hardware and tools required to shoot, produce and deploy 360 degree video content that can be viewed in virtual reality headsets.  

The immersive nature of VR

VR platforms are gaining popularity within the learning community because the immersive nature of VR provides a personal experience where the viewer is placed in another environment but has some level of control. In the case of VR video, the user can visually explore their surroundings.  

Even though a lot of 360 video content is by nature passive, a learner can still gain an understanding of a chosen topic through stepping into another person’s shoes. I recently worked with two local education providers, Western Sydney TAFE, and UTS Business School, on projects to utilise VR/360 video for unique learning purposes.  

Western Sydney TAFE wanted to use an innovative way to introduce new students into their metal workshop class so that students could gain a minimum level of understanding in the area of health and safety.  

Metal workshops are by nature filled with cutting and drilling equipment, so we produced a pre-semester tour of the workshop premises with a teacher as the guide. The teacher talked through various safety aspects and demonstrated some of the equipment.  

We produced this using a dual lens 360 camera that outputs a single image which could be easily edited using off-the-shelf software. The video (see above) was then used online (YouTube) and on smartphones with VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. Students could watch the induction video from the comfort of their home on a standard computer or a VR headset if they had one available.  

Driving disability case study

The project with the University of Technology’s Business School was part of their inaugural Driving Disability Employment forum. The idea of this content was to put the viewer in the shoes of a person with a disability to briefly experience some of the challenges they faced.  

The video (see above) showcased mindful workplace practises that made it comfortable and inviting for people with disabilities. The learning outcome here was a heightened appreciation for people from all backgrounds and sections of the community and their smooth integration into the workplace.

Experiencing these pieces of content in VR is not hard to achieve – you just need a VR headset that a smartphone can be inserted into, and use the YouTube application to split the screen into two images. These days it really is that easy.  

The surprising thing for many is that the videos both took only around half a day each to shoot, produce and edit.  

Innovation in learning is alive and well. The necessary hardware and software is now within the grasp of any business with a modest budget, so start making your own impact for your individual training needs.  

This article is part of an ongoing Technology column that takes aim at technology issues as they relate to business, economics and finance. As part of this column, Acuity will be running a series by Ritchie Djamhur specifically on learning and innovation.