Promises, Promises: the Prospect of VR in Training
We Were Promised Jetpacks is more than just a good name for a rock band. (Which it is.) It also makes us wonder what’s taking so long. Why are we still getting around in Toyotas and Plymouths? Shouldn’t our options be at least on the level of Blade Runner by now?
Sorry to say jetpacks are not yet as practical as robust class registration software. The way some people drive, maybe that’s for the best. However, another futuristic expectation is finally becoming common: virtual reality (VR). A quick glance at various articles on learning trends in 2017 shows, predictably, mobile and social learning continuing to strengthen their foothold in learning and development. But so is the idea of incorporating VR into learning. VR would seem to be a fascinating element to add into the mix, and it would offer another way to keep learners engaged. Imagine conducting a teachers’ workshop and, instead of using PowerPoint to introduce a new teaching method, VR would allow you to take learners into a classroom where they could look over the shoulders of students as the new method was put into practice. Or what if, during a webinar, you used VR to create a classroom where learners could interact with other? Everyone could choose an avatar that made them 20 pounds lighter and their hair a lot fuller.
VR. It sounds great, but how serious is the concept of incorporating VR for most learning programs today? The expense of VR is an obvious issue, but perhaps not in the way some might think. VR viewing devices can be pricey—the Oculus Rift headset goes for $600. And imagine buying one for everyone in a training session or classroom. However, viewers come in a wide range of prices all the way from the Rift down to the cost of a couple of large peppermint mochas. We experimented with an Oculus Rift, which was amazing (and we don’t use hyperbole often). But we also tried the Splaks AP003 Google Cardboard VR device. Price: $10. Materials: two plastic lenses, Velcro, and cardboard. It turns a smartphone into a VR viewer. We’re not claiming the Splaks is comparable to the Rift, but it was pretty decent for the money. Providing each trainee with a $10 VR viewer doesn’t seem so daunting.
The bigger challenge however, will be the availability of meaningful content. You can’t just set up any video camera in a training room, let it run, and then use your computer editing software to transform it into VR. Content producers need a 360-degree spherical camera, which can be had for a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Post production equipment and editing adds up to even more. All this means, for most educators and trainers, paying for someone else to create the content.
VR content producers will deliver content if the demand is there. There may not be a lot of it yet, but it’s coming. By 2020, we may take VR in learning and training environments as a given.
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