Virtual Reality Training and Education Seeing Resurgence as Enterprise Success Translates to Other Markets

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By Eric Abbruzzese | 2Q 2022 | IN-6579

After years of quiet but successful use, Virtual Reality (VR) training and educational content is seeing a resurgence. Some significant benefits inherent with VR are being better recognized and understood, and adoption is following in kind. New hardware and software efforts from big tech names over the next two years will further spur usage.

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Background Success Coming to the Forefront


Over the past few years, enterprises have been investing in Virtual Reality (VR) headsets for a number of use cases, predominantly for training and simulation. In a similar vein, educational content has been building momentum, promising similar benefits to enterprise training for users including improved content retention and recall, easy content updates and adjustments, and positive user sentiment versus existing content types. A few examples of training at large scale have been seen, especially with Walmart using VR for retail training, but there have not been many other examples at a scale of tens of thousands of users.

The tides are beginning to shift here, with more companies and content houses turning to VR as a valuable tool and end user device to target. Sports training has been showcased at scale in the English Premier League, where reportedly over half of the teams are using VR training. Police training is growing in footprint as well, with forces from Washington and Arizona in the United States adopting VR for training. South Dakota State University is building out metaverse experiences as an educational tie in with VR at the center. zSpace, an Augmented Reality (AR)/VR education company, is working to go public through a SPAC agreement. Many more examples can be seen today, and while most are smaller scale than the likes of Walmart, results are promising and, combined with market momentum, VR will be move out of the niche tool category to something much more ubiquitous.

Outright Improvements and Novel Uses


It is important to highlight the benefits of VR over other content types, whether for training or education, as well as entirely novel approaches to content interaction not at all possible without VR.

Firstly, VR improves retention and recall over traditional content engagement methods. Most people learn best with visual content, which VR excels at. Add in interaction capabilities, and another learning method is introduced again improving learning efficacy. For K-12 education, VR content can offer an experience similar to a video game, improving not only learning efficacy but also student sentiment towards learning. VR can achieve levels of immersion and realism not possible with other methods, outside of “live”, in-situation training which is not always feasible. For situations where first-exposure can be dangerous and/or mission-critical, VR can offer a digital first exposure to scenarios not previously possible before

Relatedly, VR content can be “infinitely” variable as well, with the right development and hardware support. Again showing similarities to video games, developing training content in an object-based development environment allows incredible flexibility and control over variables. Not only can environments be switched and adjusted, so too can objects, situations, and other relevant factors (think weather, lighting, sounds, etc.) on the fly. This has either not been possible at all with other methods, or was not feasible with time and expense factored in.

Only the Beginning


Even though there have been some large-scale examples of VR training and education, the market is far from VR ubiquity. The hardware market has been relatively scarce, with Meta Quest being the only real content for mass-market adoption so far. Other VR hardware either has been too costly, and/or too complex to setup and use for mass market appeal. As standalone VR devices continue to grow in popularity and crucial new competition comes in alongside Meta, more companies and institutions will begin to pursue VR initiatives.

On a similar front, new software and content development capabilities will come along with more hardware competition. The major tech players are either already active across the VR value chain of hardware, software, and services (like Meta), or will be very soon (like Apple). This activity will spur further adoption, especially for those that are less familiar with VR capabilities and requirements—an Apple VR headset has a better chance of broad adoption than a lesser-known vendor, or even Meta, as Apple is an established hardware brand.

As this momentum builds, companies have time to identify value as well. So much of VR boils down to a “you have to try it” scenario, which is difficult to market without hands on opportunities. However, case studies around VR efficacy continue to publish, and are growing in both operations scale and breadth of content types. Small scale pilot phases are given room to prove value and grow afterwards. Greater scientific basis for VR efficacy can also be expected as the market matures—while some scientific evidence is already available, larger scale and more varied experimentation will deliver more robust results for companies to lean on for investment decisions.

The barriers that have kept VR training and education from moving mainstream are dissolving steadily, as understanding of capability is growing, average hardware sale price is declining, development and software support is growing, and the competitive marketplace will expand dramatically over the next few years. There is also shared momentum with the augmented reality space, which has been moving more horizontal and will naturally bring interest across to VR as well, as even the most capable mixed reality smart glasses product is not as immersive or interactive as a standard VR Head Mounted Display (HMD) setup, so there is a gap to be filled for those who started with AR. As the only truly immersive option, VR will maintain and grow a footprint in this quickly growing immersive ecosystem with training and educational content a core use case.



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