training

Delicate Subjects at the Office... In VR

As a manager, you’ve got quite a few daily responsibilities. From time to time, you’ve got to deal with delicate subjects like company re-orgs, complicated dynamics between individuals, employee personal issues, and how (and when) to best deliver news to your work group.

We’ve built a VR simulation to help those thinking about pursuing manager roles see what all the job really entails. Here are a couple of shots from one of those modules.



8 Myths about Virtual Reality

 

Myth: VR is just for gaming

The truth is, many industries are seeing very useful, practical applications for virtual reality in training, education, marketing, and visualization. Surgeons are being trained using it, the travel industry is using it to entice would-be vacationers amazing locations, and architects are using it to walk through building ideas without even a foundation being poured in real life! These are just a few of the super cool things being done in VR now, and the industry is just getting off the ground. It’s very exciting to think about what we’ll be doing with this technology in the years to come. 

 

Myth: VR is just another passing fad

This just isn’t so. While the growth of this industry is a bit slower than predicted, it is indeed growing.Major game companies are putting serious effort into creating games and hardware specifically for VR. Additionally, various industries are seeing the great potential in what VR can offer, and are deeply investing in R&D as well as full-blown implementation.

 

Myth: VR is expensive and unobtainable

On the consumer side, just about everyone who would be interested in VR has a smartphone. For less than $20, anyone can pick up a quality Google Cardboard headset and slide their iPhone or Android device right in, download any of the great apps available, and be in VR. 

On the enterprise side, Google Cardboard can also be used. Additionally, fully immersive setups with beefier graphics and control options can be implemented for as little as $2,000-$3,000 per workstation.  This includes VR-ready PC, controllers, and the HMD (head-mounted display).  Software will be an additional cost, but when compared to traditional simulators and other methods of content delivery, there can be significant savings when going with VR. 

 

Myth: VR will turn us all into couch potato zombies

This is far from the truth.  The best VR experiences, both in gaming and in enterprise applications are the ones that take advantage of full body immersion- Cycling applications that use actual stationary bikes, training simulations that let you actually walk through environments and perform tasks with your hands, or games that let you become sword-swinging hero battling your enemies. 

 

Myth: VR has major motion sickness-causing issues

While it’s true that there are a small group of people that are hyper-sensitive to immersive environments, the hardware technology and software techniques have come a long way in the last couple of years.  Quality head-tracking, higher frame rates for content, and various development techniques are why we’re seeing very little queasiness now. If you’d had a bad experience with VR in the earlier development days, it might be worth giving the newest technology another look. 

 

Myth: 360 video is VR

The difference between the 2 is the level of immersion.  In a true virtual reality experience, you are fully immersed in the experience using an HMD (head-mounted display), and not viewing the experience on a screen (as you are with a 360 video). 

 

Myth: AR and VR are the same thing

AR (augmented reality) is not fully immersive. With AR, you are enhancing or augmenting your real life environment.  Digital content is layered over real life. An example of this would be you looking at your car engine with digital directions for how to change the oil is layered on top of it. 

Virtual reality replaces your real life environment. In real life, you may be sitting in your living room, but when you put on the HMD (head-mounted display) you are suddenly on a space ship or in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. 

 

Myth: VR is a recently developed technology

In actuality, the concept of VR has been around for decades.  The actual term “virtual reality” was coined by Jaron Lanier in 1987, but there are cases of the technology being used as early as the 1960s. Ivan Sutherland has been credited by many as the first person to develop a virtual reality head-mounted display system. It was called The Sword of Damocles and was created in 1968. Another VR pioneer, Morton Heilig, created one of the earliest-known multi-sensory machines, known as the Sensorama, in 1962. 

 

Myth: VR is only for tech-savvy people

VR is for anyone!  It’s useful in job skills training, classroom education, experiencing new places, gaming, and so many other great applications. To use VR software, (in most cases) you just need to be able to follow simple instructions for setting up the hardware. You also need to be able to perform simple tasks on a computer or smartphone (as simple as checking email or navigating a webpage). To experience great content that developers have already produced, you don’t need any special technology or coding skills at all!  There’s nothing to be nervous about!

 

What Are My First Steps for Introducing VR into my Training Programs?

I've been getting so many questions lately along the lines of "What's the best hardware?" and "Where should I focus my attention when it comes to VR training?" and "Is it worth the hype?"  I totally get all of the concerns and confusion. There are tons of hardware options out there and so many software development solutions popping up. 

It's a daunting, high-stakes task.  You're facing higher-ups who simply say "We need to implement the latest and greatest technology" without much more direction. It's up to you to decide between a mobile platform or desktop solution. It's up to you to decide what area of your training should be the home for your VR testing. It's up to you to figure out how to gain the metrics you need to prove the validity of the new training program. 

To help, I put together a guide with lots of great information about virtual reality in enterprise, useful terminology, and a basic outline for getting your started.  At the end of it, you'll feel much more knowledgable about the technology and will be ready to start making a plan!

If this sounds like a resource you need, just head over here to get started!

 

Setting Up Virtual Reality in the Classroom (Part 2)

Choosing Computer Hardware and Optional Hardware

As we mentioned before in Part 1, the hardware requirements for virtual reality are pretty steep. Most classrooms in both schools and corporate environments are not outfitted with adequate hardware to run VR.

As of right now, the cheapest options retail for around $800 per PC. There are a handful of laptops that are ready for VR, and the starting prices for those are at around $1150 per machine.

Desktops

These are just a fraction of the options for PCs that are on the market now. They’re labeled as “Vive ready” or Oculus ready” but in reality, these machines will (in most cases) work for either headset.

Oculus Ready PCs

Vive PCs

You also have the option of building your own. Here are links to a couple of guides.

Less than $900

Moderately Priced DIY Option

Laptops

While there aren’t many laptops out there that can handle virtual reality right now, this article does provide some good suggestions.

Optional Hardware

Kinect+Adaptor

The Kinect is a full body motion tracker.  It’s perfect for fitness applications and other real world scenarios where physical tasks are a large part of the training experience.

Virtuix Omni

The Virtuix Omni is a 360 rotational treadmill.  This piece of hardware is exceptionally useful when moving through areas is a significant part of the training process.

Leap Motion

The Leap Motion is a small device that can be mounted to a head-mounted display.  The device tracks hand motions, and can be used for more realistic training when physical tasks are performed.

Setting Up Virtual Reality in the Classroom (Part 1)

Boy using a virtual reality device
Boy using a virtual reality device

With so many different VR options hitting the market these days, it may seem like a daunting task to even get started outfitting your classroom(s) with this new technology. In this series, we’re going to walk through the all the steps you’ll need to take from choosing the right headset for your environment to setting up your VR station!

The first decision to make is “which head-mounted display do I want to invest in?” In this article, I’m only going to touch on the major 2 desktop options out there- the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Both are excellent choices, but do vary in some significant ways.

While this is definitely not a comprehensive list, it does highlight key features and drawbacks for each option.

Oculus Rift

The first consumer version of the Oculus Rift hit the market in Q1 of 2016, and has been wildly popular.

Pros

-Positional Tracking is done using sensors on the headgear+a base station that is typically placed on a desk.

-Each Rift comes with an Xbox One controller.

-Oculus Touch, motion tracking hand controllers with buttons, will also be available to purchase sometime in 2016.

-Starting price of $600, making it $200 cheaper than the Vive.

Cons

-At the time of writing this article, Oculus Touch is not available yet, leaving users with less options for user input controls.

-Built to be more of a seated VR experience. Because of the way the positional tracking works, you’re not really meant to get up and move around without some extra hardware.

HTC Vive

Pros

-Because of the included handheld controllers and positional tracking system, the Vive is a truly immersive VR system out of the box. You have the ability to stand and move through VR environments.

-Slightly more flexible graphics card options than the Rift.

Cons

-$800 price point, making it $200 more expensive than the Rift

-While standing to play is super immersive, the headset is still wired, making it somewhat hazardous to play.

Final Thoughts

From an education and training perspective, the biggest deciding factor is probably going to be one of space. The Vive requires a bit more space, with more specific location requirements for its positional tracking. This also means that in smaller spaces, you’ll have less flexibility for multiple VR stations within the same classroom. You’ll need to consider how important full, standing immersion is compared to the need for multiple stations in your space as you’re making your decision.

At the time of publishing this article, neither the Rift or the Vive support Macs. Both headsets also have fairly beefy computer requirements. For a comprehensive hardware spec comparison, here’s a great article. Our next post will talk a little more in depth about computer options.

 

Continue to Part 2...

How to Inspire and Engage Millennials in your Training Programs

 

There is a new generation taking over the workforce at large. The Millennial, or Generation Y, group has become one of the predominant groups of working adults today. This group of individuals was born between 1980 and 1999. As such, the environment and technology available when they were “growing up” was far different than the previous generations.

Understanding that Millennials respond differently to training modules is the key to successfully engaging them and completing their training. Gone are the days when you could supply your trainees with long lectures and bookwork. This generation of employees needs a far more tech-savvy and interactive experience to stay stimulated and inspired.

The Most Effective Ways to Reach a Millennial

Take advantage of Mobile learning

You will be hard pressed to find a Millennial today that does not have a mobile device. Many of these individuals travel around with more than one, in their daily lives. This is an entire generation who has grown up with laptops, cell phones, smart phones, and tablets. They are incredibly comfortable with these types of mobile devices. In fact, many feel naked without them. If you create training programs that utilize mobile devices, you will automatically increase the level of comfort and interest in this generation.

It's all just a game

Many people have heard the term “Gamification”, though few truly understands what it entails. If you think of Millennials and games in the same context, then you often think of popular gaming systems. Gamification however has nothing to do with Halo or Fallout. The process of Gamification is that of turning an ordinary circumstance into a game or competition. In reality, the Millennial's love of gaming systems has created a highly competitive culture who enjoys a true competition. In a training or educational setting, it is highly beneficial to create a game or competition environment from the lecture material. When a Millennial tries to “win the game”, they are learning your information as a by-product. Their intense desire to succeed evolves into a more thorough grasp of the knowledge.

Go to the Movies

Studies around the world have proven that Millennials are far more accepting of information they receive in a video or movie, then that of a book. If your training can include short succinct movies, your millennial trainees will be far more inspired to learn the material. Visually, a video or movie is going to draw the Millennial in, while long written text is going to dissuade them from interacting. Many people think this is a result of Millennials being the “lazy” generation. However, in truth Millennials are very inquisitive, and don’t want to waste any time. If they can witness a subject, they are more stimulated, and their questions are answered more thoroughly.  DOING is an even better option if training budgets allow…

Try any number of these techniques in your next training session, and you will be amazed at how well you inspire and engage with your burgeoning millennial workforce. Also, allow your Generation Y employees to participate in how the training is delivered. You will be amazed at the creative and inventive ideas they can produce.

How Much Does DOING Really Enhance Retention Rates?

Think back to when you were a very young child. Now imagine if instead of allowing you to crawl or walk, your parents told you about the principles and expected you to be able to do it just from hearing their instructions. This would have been impossible. Now picture yourself watching a video about riding a bicycle. Do you think that watching that video would have taught you how to get onto your bike and ride without ever falling?

The human brain learns by doing things. Practical application of learned knowledge is the basis of how we memorize new information. While it is altogether possible to learn a new topic through rote memorization, or by book learning, it is not nearly as effective as trying out this new idea ourselves.

How does a hands-on activity enhance retention rates?

  • Studies have shown that a student (whether child or adult) will learn a new material three times faster through practical application versus a traditional lecture environment.
  • Having access to the materials that will be used in a real world circumstance creates a concrete link in the brain between the idea and the action. It also prepares the student more thoroughly for the tasks that lie ahead.
  • Lessons taught from a book or lecture are only conceptual and abstract. Imagining what a porcupine looks and feels like is nothing like actually touching a porcupine. Our imaginations can only take us so far.
  • Hands-on training builds muscle memory. A lecture on how to type on a keyboard quickly will have little effect on the mind and the body. Giving a student a keyboard to use will not only help them remember the key locations, but also build their muscle memory for typing accurately and quickly.
  • Practice makes perfect. This old saying will always be applicable in the real world. To become well versed in any idea, topic, or labor; one must practice as often as possible.
  • Studies through the National Training Laboratory Institute show that “practice by doing” has a 75% retention rate outcome. The study also shows that being able to immediately apply the learned knowledge in a real world situation increases retention rates by 90%. Measure this against the traditional method of hearing a lecture that only has a 5% retention rate.
  • When we learn by doing, we have the opportunity to learn from our failures. While most people strive to avoid failures, they are one of the best teaching tools available. A chef in training will always remember the mess that was made when they burnt their first gourmet French dish. Having the experience of dealing with that headache will stick with the individual, they are more like to remember what not to do in the future.

If you want your employees or trainees to have the highest retention rates possible, you must create a practical environment for them to learn. Simply supplying lectures or written information will not be effective on the whole. Increase their level of “doing” and you will automatically increase their levels of retention.