VR Training: The future of workforce training

by | Jul 28, 2021

We believe VR training is the future of practical workforce learning. But don’t take our word for it, here’s a statistic – 70% of professionals believe that organisations say they will focus on adopting VR/AR in training and development in 2021. (Perkins Coie, 2020)

In fact, corporate VR training is here now, and it’s already rearing the next generation of doctors, police officers, firefighters, miners, engineers and soldiers – And that’s just a fraction of the professions benefiting from this new and revolutionary technology.

The main reason we are seeing this trend is that VR is an unrivalled learning tool. VR training has a retention rate of 75%, which is orders of magnitude better than lectures (5%), reading (10%), and audio-visual learning (20%). There’s little-to-no evidence that a person has a “learning style”. There are no visual or auditory or kinesthetic learners. That’s actually one of the biggest misconceptions in education.

What does have a large body of scientific research behind it, is a mixed media approach. By combining different media, like audio and video with diagrams and letting people interact with training material in real-time, VR leads to unrivalled retention and faster information acquisition. According to Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO at Miami Children’s Health System, the retention level a year after a VR training session can be as much as 80 percent, compared to 20 percent retention after a week with traditional training.

The workplace health & safety benefits of VR training

VR training lets you put employees in dangerous or even life-threatening situations, again and again, and again. You can rack up a virtual body count. You can set your staff on fire 🔥 throw them into machines, electrocute them and even demonstrate how loose-fitting clothing will pull them into a band-saw leading to an agonising digital demise ⚰️.

None of these are good situations, which is exactly why we need to prepare for them. With VR you can let people make mistakes and learn from them without any real-world consequences. And all the evidence suggests they will learn. And they’ll learn faster and deeper than they would have with any other medium of instruction.

By removing risks VR creates a better safer learning environment

Stress is an impediment to learning. Modern VR training solutions have incredible graphics, but you know it’s not real, and you know you’re not in any real danger. The ability to respawn is a game-changer. It’s the ultimate reassurance for a new team member who’s trying out the workshop guillotine for the first time.

It helps trainees relax which helps them learn, and speeds up the training process. Plus you’ll sleep better at night knowing your new employees are competent around potentially lethal machinery. The brain doesn’t work properly when it’s stressed. It can’t access old memories and struggles to save new ones.

The problem is a part of the brain called the amygdala. When the amygdala is in this state of stress-induced over-activation, new sensory information cannot pass through it to access the memory and association circuits.” – Edutopia. VR removes the risk – increasing confidence – while immersing you in a dangerous situation, all the while covering material that helps avoid injuries and might even save your life.

VR helps identify shortcomings in a terms whs knowledge & practices

You can also track, record and get detailed analytics on the mistakes that staff are making during a simulation.

This data can be analysed by people who specialise in WHS, or if you’re a smaller outfit you can go through it all in house. VR training analytics can inform further training or encourage a follow-up mentorship session.

VR training is affordable

Another reason why your company should be using VR for training is that it’s cheaper than running lectures and seminars.

This might not be true at first, because VR has a fairly large upfront cost, but once you’ve paid for the application it’s yours forever.

You can run it over and over again. The only costs for all subsequent training sessions are electricity ⚡ and the wages of whomever you’re training.

VR for safety training in the resources sector

Mines & refineries can be dangerous. In 2020, five people died working in mines around Australia.

Which is significantly better than in 2003, when twelve miners lost their lives. The further back you look the grimmer it gets. We’ve definitely made progress in workplace health and safety in the resource industry, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

VR provides hands-on training for disaster readiness

Miners have only limited real-life opportunities to experience and learn how to deal with a crisis. That’s a good thing – right up until it isn’t.

How else can a dump-truck driver prepare for when his off-balanced truck starts to tip over – with minimal cost and no risk?

How’s a technician supposed to see and learn from the outcome of detonating an explosive too close to another magazine and triggering an unexpected explosion – a game over event?

No seminar, guest speaker, certificate or course can measure up to an interactive VR simulation.

VR simulations can train for situational awareness and hazard identification

The majority of deaths in mining come from fall-of-ground incidents 33%.

Together falls from heights, slip and fall, and fire incidents account for 21% of the remaining fatalities. Transport accounts for another 14% of all deaths.

All the evidence suggests that the resource sector stands to benefit massively by adopting this new VR tech to train for hazard identification and response.

VR training can be done on-site or remote

Mines are far away. That’s a problem because it’s expensive getting everyone and everything you need for a training exercise to the site. VR training can be done on-site or in a comfortable air-conditioned office. It’s a significantly more advanced collaboration experience than a Zoom call too. Users can host ‘multiplayer’ conferences in VR, and simulations can be streamed online or just downloaded, run and submitted when complete.

This aids collaboration, cuts costs, and it’s topical at the moment because state borders are opening and closing like a saloon door due to Covid. Recently the military started using VR for similar reasons. Major Bone said this, “We often hear that traditional training doesn’t cost terribly much – it’s just a matter of fuel. The reality is, to get people organised and take them out into the field consumes a lot of resources. With a simulation, I can stop, repeat and do training again in seconds.”

VR simulations give decision-makes insight into problems

“One of the biggest problems in stakeholder communications is that beyond the engineer, people do not always understand a project.” – Smith at GHD Advisory. If stakeholders understand the risks, then their decision can account for them, and then your limiting risk before it exists.

By building standalone VR applications that can be picked up, set up and used in seconds you can ensure that your company gets the maximum amount of eyeballs onto the VR training simulation. Multiplayer functionality can allow stakeholders not directly involved in the training session to observe from any device, giving them an unprecedented overview that they could not get in any other way.

VR/AR training in the manufacturing sector

VR & AR provides valuable training off the factory line and can be used to introduce all kinds of problems and situations for the trainee to respond to. This is beneficial from a workplace health and safety standpoint. In our experience, the main motivations that drive manufacturing companies to turn to VR/AR is they want to lower the cost of their initial training & increase efficiencies.

A study by PWC found that employees trained with VR were:

  • 4x faster to train than in the classroom
  • 275% more confident to apply skills learned after training
  • 3.75x more emotionally connected to content than the classroom learners
  • 4x more focused than their e-learning peers

While new employees are learning the ropes, trainers can watch on and provide immediate feedback which reinforces the learning experience and increases long-term retention. Corporate VR solutions let you model the simulation after an employee’s station.

You can put all the fail-safes and emergency stops in the exact same place employees will find them once they get onto the factory floor. This will improve situational awareness and give trainers a clear view into what safety procedures aren’t understood.

VR/AR training in the healthcare industry

In 2020, the global healthcare VR market was estimated to be worth $336.9 million. A VR simulation lets doctors and nurses simulate complex medical procedures without cutting into real people. You can operate on more virtual hearts than there are beating hearts on earth

Imagine that, if every surgeon had five years of hands-on experience before performing a single surgery. Often surgeons don’t get the opportunity to ever perform certain procedures due to low levels of patients presenting with them in their area, VR training can help overcome this.

VR training isn’t just for surgeons, recently a UK based company called Virti worked with the NHS at the peak of the pandemic to “train staff in key skills required on the front line, such as how to safely use PPE, how to navigate an unfamiliar intensive care ward, how to engage with patients and their families, and how to use a ventilator,” – Dr Alex Young. Medical professionals can be trained remotely, learn new procedures faster, or learn the layout of a new facility before they are transferred.

What are the costs of implementing a VR training application?

It varies. A complex simulation can take months to build and cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you are looking for a ballpark figure, the typical VR simulation costs between $50,000 – $100,000.

Simulated virtual world’s don’t come cheap, so why have we repeatedly boasted about the cost benefits of using VR for training throughout this article? Well look at it like this:

On average Australian businesses spend

  • $530 per employee on training – in the private sector – per year
  • $735 per employee – in the public sector – per year

This all means that a company with over 100 staff is already spending $50,000 – $70,000 every single year on training, and a VR training solution would ROI in 1 – 3 years.

We think that these across the board averages underestimate the true cost of training in industries like mining, healthcare, and manufacturing as they don’t take into account the travel, equipment and logistical costs sometimes associated with these training programmes. Not to mention that VR training improves workplace health and safety, and it’s hard to put a cost on lives.

What’s next for VR/AR training? 

Computer processing power is growing exponentially and so are worldwide internet speeds.

Untethered VR/AR

This is the future of VR/AR training. It minimises the barriers to adoption massively by reducing hardware costs, it’s portable and allows for a speedy set up of the training applications, anywhere, anytime. Oculus (now owned by Facebook) is backing standalone VR in a big way through the continued development of a single VR headset – the Oculus Quest.

You can probably guess from the name but an untethered VR/AR headset is one that doesn’t need to be connected to a powerful computer to run. It’s ‘standalone. The Microsoft HoloLens is an untethered AR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 is an untethered VR headset.

The current limits of our technology have restrained VR to mostly tethered headsets up until now. Untethered headsets have limitations at present around the computer power you can pack into the headset itself. However this is improving all the time and with increased level of data connections (5G+) much of this computing will be done in the cloud in the future with content being streamed to the headsets. Batteries also limit the time standalone VR/AR headsets can be used. But in time, and as batteries continue getting better this will improve.


Have you seen (or read even better!) Ready Player One? Remember how in the beginning he had the haptic gloves and then he levelled up to a full-body haptic suit? Haptics are any technology that can create an experience of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. Many existing VR headsets already have optional haptic gloves and haptic guns often used by gamers to feel recoil and alike when they shoot in-game. Here’s another promising pair of haptic gloves from a company called Haptx. And here’s a proper, no holds barred, haptic suit from TeslaSuit

Video games are bootstrapping VR technology and its futuristic peripherals. Gamers want to feel the punches and kicks and further their immersion. In a slightly more serious context, haptics could help improve VR training in the business world by communicating important sensory information like temperature, vibration, or even give the user a friendly zap when they cut off their finger or receive an electric shock.

How game engines are used to construct real-world environments

“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?” – Morpheus

Video games are reaching new levels of realism. We can cram more pixels onto the screen than ever before, and this is all thanks to raw computing power. But hardware is only half the story. We’ve also made massive progress in developing software that makes it faster and easier to create better games.

A game engine (Unity and Unreal Engine are two of the most popular) is software that bundles together graphics, physics, networking, input, AI, etc – in a package that was designed to be used together.

This saves years worth of time. Unreal Engine, for example, was launched in 1998. And every iteration since was built on what came before – we are now up to Unreal Engine 5.

Without a game engine, the developer would need to start from scratch, and even a very experienced developer would take 3 to 6 months to create Sega Genesis level graphics.

Game engines impose a lot of assumptions. They might assume that the developer wants to use logic that mimics gravity and wants the simulation to exist in a three-dimensional universe. In exchange, game engines are an out of the box solution for developing games, or in our case, VR training games, in less time and with better results.

With the latest engines, it’s possible to emulate complex physics and logic. We can add tension to build a realistic virtual spring, or a bike chain, or a rubber band. We can tell the game engine that a blade is sharp or a wet surface is slippery. We can make objects in mirrors closer than they appear.

How VR headsets trick the brain into seeing 3D

VR headsets are better at 3D than any cinema or high-end Sony TV. The way that VR achieves such incredible 3D is by giving your left and right eye a slightly different image, a technique that nature perfected billions of years ago.

Close your left eye. Now close your right eye. Notice how everything shifts from side to side? That’s all VR is doing to achieve 3D. It’s our clever brains that combine the two images to let us see depth. When you go to the cinemas, the same thing is happening.

3D glasses polarise light in different directions, so the left and right eyes see different things. Understandably this requires a lot of processing power, and only top of the line gaming computers or more accurately their graphics cards can support it. 3D is a little like running two video games at the same time on the same computer.

Let’s wrap this up

We’ve covered a lot. Here are the highlights:

VR training improves retention and speeds up learning.
VR lets employees working in the most dangerous and stressful jobs get hands-on experience dealing with life and death situations, without risk.
A VR simulation can be an exact replica of an employee’s station to speed up and improve the quality of initial training.
The up-front costs of VR training solutions and a custom-built virtual environment are higher than running a single training exercise. However, a simulation can be run time and time again with little to no additional costs. So in the long run, VR works out more affordable than traditional training.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. If you’d like to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in virtual reality and augmented reality and learn more about the many applications of VR in business then give our team a call on 1800 418 398 or email us. We’re here and ready to brainstorm your ideas.

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