As VR becomes more popular and companies strive to find compelling ways to use it and make money, more and more applications of VR seem to come out of the woodwork. Lately new applications such as 360 live streaming of sports events, search and rescue drones used to find victims and of course, porn, has popped up. However, there is one application of VR that industries “discover” that should never be considered groundbreaking: Training. Think of it: the purpose of training is to teach someone a skill or gain knowledge in a controlled and simulated environment. Training is virtual reality in its basic form.
For all the efforts and marketing surrounding VR as an evolutionary step for entertainment, the real genesis of VR has been in the area of training. The best example of an industry pushing all of its chips into VR is the military who has been using Virtual Reality for years…like over 100! Granted, the flight simulators of World War I where a pilot was sitting in a barrel cut down the middle and controlled by wires isn’t exactly high-tech by today’s standards, but it was an indication of the true value of augmenting reality that still is fundamental today. Practice what you do in a safe and (relatively) cheap environment repeatedly until you are skilled enough to do it in the real world. The thousands of pilots and other military members whose lives have been protected in a virtual environment during training (not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel not being burned) cannot be overstated. As advancements in technology continues to grow, more military applications are in use; practicing parachute landings, soldiers practicing the art of walking through hostile terrain, sailors in submarine simulators and virtual ship bridges. All of these applications save time, resources and overall produce better trained military members.
With the investment of a few key companies, this focus on VR training has grown the last few years in the commercial world. Commercial airlines have been doing it since the 1960s, but recently a new company called STRIVR Labs has made headlines. This Stanford based company that focuses on sports training has reignited the discussion on the use of VR and specifically 360 video for training. When major sports stars’ brag about how using VR helps give them an edge in studying their craft, people sit up and listen. It is only a matter of time before every football quarterback will be studying defensive formations with a VR headset and every baseball team will be spending the majority of batting practice hitting against a simulation of the real pitcher they will face that night. For those with access to sports teams (professional or college), this can mean lots of business.
Similarly, many of the discussions bThere had with pilots at the 2015 International Council of Airshows was focused on deliberate training applications. With aviation fuel prices greater than $5 a gallon and the requirement for airplanes to be recertified for every 100 hours in the air, any cost savings would be welcome. Pilots would also have unlimited access to see their routine over and over again making the maneuvers automatic. This technology bring not only efficiency but safety as well.
If any virtual reality company is looking for a profitable venue to start making headway, they should not overlook the opportunities in the use of VR for training. Certainly, a very basic business strategy is to find an industry where they might have access and industry knowledge, go in with a camera and an expert in a particular skill and shoot footage of any process that requires skill or repetitive knowledge for the purposes of training.
Obviously the footage may not be as cool as watching a base jumper leap off a bridge or killing endless hordes of aliens, but it pays…it has for over a century.