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Virtual Worlds and VR in Training: Part II

Oct 24, 2018 3:09:13 PM

What to Look for When Adopting Technology

VR Part II

Experiential learning in 3D worlds is an exciting, highly effective way for learners to practice skills through virtual experience. As described in Part I, your learning goals should determine which technology you choose in order to create those virtual experiences.

If immersion in a physical space is critical, using a VR headset is a great fit. If the focus is on navigating conversations and decision making, practicing with virtual humans via game technology is a great fit – and since VR adds little value here, learners can participate on any screen without a headset.

An unvarnished view of these technology options is explored below to help you make an investment decision your learners will love.

Considerations in Adopting VR Technology

VR technology is a compelling, emerging technology that has great promise for many aspects of training. However, the technology is far from mature, so there are several considerations to keep in mind.

VR headsets. The technology is moving rapidly with better screen resolutions and decreased prices. The Oculus Go is about $200 and a newer, better headset has already been announced, 6 months later. The speed of improvements means that purchased devices may not support compelling new features.

VR Content Options and Cost.
  • Video. A 360-degree video of locations or situations is the least expensive option. The user feels like they’re there and the addition of branching or other in-world interactions increases engagement.
  • 3D Environments. Building a simple 3D environment such as interacting with a virtual piece of equipment is the next level of content complexity for VR.
  • Game-like Worlds. Creating custom virtual worlds with human characters is the most expensive and time intensive option.

Editing and Analytics. Because all of these content options are custom projects, modifying content over time will be difficult, once published. In addition, obtaining analytics on the learner’s progress will require a custom analytics system to be built and maintained.

VR Sickness. About 25 to 40% of VR users experience motion sickness symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea. The specific causes of VR sickness are not yet known, nor is there any way today to predict who may be intolerant to VR1. While there are some claims to solutions in specific circumstances, this research is in its infancy. At a minimum, limit movement to teleporting from one place to another to lessen impact on susceptible users.

Virtual Technology for Conversations and Decisions-making (without VR)

Here, the realism of the situation and conversation is paramount, and the investment in VR for a 360-degree view of the environment does not make much sense. Without the need for headsets, learners can participate in these virtual experiences on any device.

Three Technology Options

  1. Build Your Own with Off-the-Shelf Tools: Tools such as Articulate, Captivate, and iSpring do have limited functionality to build “simulations”. These contain 2D images, text, and sometimes voices. If you need to build something quick, these are great tools.

Studies from medicine and the military have shown that more realistic simulations lead to more effective behavior change. You probably intuitively already knew this. If you want to build something more immersive, compelling, and effective, then keep reading…

  1. Custom Build: Another option is to hire a team to use a game engine like Unity to build these interactive conversations with human characters. The same game engines are used to build the game-like VR experiences above, and it’s an expensive, time intensive project.

If you go this route, each training module will have to be built from scratch. And like the VR custom project, it will be difficult to modify the program after its published to your organization. An analytics system to measure your learner’s progress will need to be custom built as well. Plus, game engines like Unity will not work on mobile web browsers due to memory limitations.

  1. Platform Approach: The third option is to use a platform. Because of all of the challenges with custom built solutions, dozens of L&D leaders we’ve spoken with have expressed interest in a platform solution.

Our platform, AliveSim, is the first of its kind platform that combines game engine technology and cognitive science to create interactive experiences with virtual humans that even works on mobile devices. With this option, cost-effective modules can be delivered to your team at scale, modified over time, and you receive built in analytics. In time, we plan to allow customers to edit and build their own content.

Comparison of Virtual Technology Options

Custom vs platform Table

* Platform attributes based on AliveSim capabilities.

Virtual Practice Technology is Essential to the Future of Training

Exciting new technologies allow training organizations to create compelling virtual experiences that will enable employees to improve performance. As we have shown in this series, your learning goals can guide you to choose what’s best for you:  the new frontier with evolving VR technology, or game-based technology with virtual humans built for learning that doesn’t require a headset. Both are great options your learners will thank you for.

Weech S, Parokaran Varghese J, Barnett-Cowan M. Estimating the sensorimotor components of cybersickness. J Neurophysiol. 2018 Jul 25.

About Syandus: Virtual immersive learning technology that transforms knowledge into real-world performance. We immerse participants in realistic virtual situations with one-on-one expert coaching that gives them experience making optimal decisions. Syandus Learning Modules combine cognitive science principles, the realism of game technology, and our customer’s proprietary content, to deliver rapid skill acquisition. Modules are cloud-based for easy deployment, fully trackable with embedded analytics, and can be used on any web-enabled device.

Douglas Seifert, PhD

Written by Douglas Seifert, PhD

Doug leads a team at Syandus that combines cognitive science with virtual game technology to create rapid skill acquisition. The company has won several awards from the National Science Foundation’s Education Division.