Dan Miller, Senior Developer Advocate for XR at Unity, explores his thoughts on current and future trends in virtual reality (VR) and how they are creating more immersive training scenarios to increase knowledge retention, improve safety, and more.
Employers are shifting from traditional training methods such as PowerPoints, job shadowing, and videos to more immersive mediums like augmented, mixed, and virtual reality. A study by PwC found that employees learning in a virtual environment were up to 275% more confident to act on the skills that they had learned and were four times more focused than classroom learners.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are seeing an even more urgent need for virtual training tools to support their staff from a distance – especially training for frontline workers as health policies continue to change. However, 56% of companies feel that they have insufficient tools for staff training, according to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Unity in March 2020.
As the need for training applications increases, companies are turning towards emerging technology such as virtual reality and real-time 3D (RT3D) to fill the gap. Approximately 94% of companies using RT3D find it valuable for staff training across industries like automotive and manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, retail, and many more. Unity offers a powerful platform for creating and deploying immersive training environments, supplemented by Unity’s Verified Solution Partners like Interact and Pacelab WEAVR.
In this video, Dan Miller shares his thoughts on current and future trends in VR and how they are affecting employee engagement and training, as well as a few examples of companies that are making advancements in the field.
Continue reading to learn more, or watch the video.
Top 3 trends impacting industrial VR training today
Here are 3 trends that Miller is currently seeing in the VR space:
1. Standalone all-in-one head mounted displays (HMDs) bring mobility to VR training
Headset manufacturers are investing heavily in standalone headsets. Oculus Quest continues to lead the charge by outselling and out-performing competitors. The all-in-one device is not limited by PC specifications or location and its business platform offers utilities that streamline development and distribution of experiences.
Because it does not require a wired connection to a high-end computer, the device brings more flexibility to where VR training can happen, such as healthcare workers undergoing COVID-19 training. The next generation of the device, the Oculus Quest 2, was released on October 13, 2020.
2. Hand tracking lowers barriers for those being trained in VR
Use of hands are becoming a more important factor in the VR space. Oculus Quest also now offers full hand tracking, utilizing the already built-in cameras to visualize and digitally show the hands and their movements.
The really big win here is that users don't need to be taught about the unique controllers, how to hold them and what the different buttons do. Everyday non-technical users have shown a more intuitive and natural response – making it easier for them to get immersed in VR training due to genuine reactions from the training scenarios.
3. Computer vision and machine learning better blend real and virtual training scenarios
Computer vision plays an important role in XR for tracking controllers, hands, and more. Training machine learning models for custom object tracking and recognition allows companies to incorporate more real life objects into virtual training environments, increasing the level of familiarity and realism. As computer vision continues to advance, VR training scenarios can more easily incorporate real-world elements into the experience.
Top 4 trends shaping industrial VR training in the future
Shifting focus towards the future, improved technology and development offer a lot of exciting opportunities to what might come. Here are Miller’s top 4 trends for what’s next:
1. Multi-user advancement opens doors for collaborative VR training
Multi-user experiences continue to become more advanced and offer more larger multi-user experiences at scale. Companies like Audi are enabling collaboration and development for local and remote employees worldwide through VR. They are able to collaborate digitally for design reviews, training, and understanding parts of the vehicle development process. In general, co-training opportunities are providing more value for employees to connect globally and allow employers to conduct group collaborative training to provide a more realistic representation of scenarios such as emergency response.
2. Mixed reality brings reality into training
Typical VR training experiences take place in a completely immersed environment, but that’s changing. Industry leaders like Lockheed Martin are leveraging headsets that provide users with the ability to layer augmented content over a live video feed as it renders on the headset itself.
For standalone devices, Oculus Quest enables pass through video functionality which provides a layout for things like your boundary system. This also allows users to have a better spatial understanding of the home menu.
3. Haptics take immersion to the next level
Haptics continue to evolve and play an important role in the VR space to increase immersion within experiences. Companies like HaptX are using advanced haptic technology in combination with glove technology to incorporate different sensations into VR. Their controllers provide the ability to feel sensations such as raindrops or liquid on the hands as well as restrict hand and finger movements based on interactions within the experience.
Subpac is taking their technology even further using tactile audio systems which users wear on their bodies. This provides audible and physical feedback when the user experiences an exciting noise or moment within the experience, adding to the level of immersion. Studies have shown that multi-sensory immersion in training scenarios helps the user create a strong emotional connection to the content within the experience and, not only helps them to retain that information longer, but elicits a true response.
4. Neural interfaces could expand what’s measurable in VR training
Advancements in neural interfaces continue to be made by industry pioneers such as CTRL-Labs, which was recently acquired by Facebook. And Neurable which makes a neuro-technology tool that interprets human intent and measures emotion, providing telekinetic control of the digital world. Greater insight into intent and emotion could prove to be immensely valuable for VR training. Both these companies continue to develop exciting technologies that offer a glimpse into what the future might be as we continue to explore the brain and how it can interact with technology.
Learn more about how Unity enables VR experiences with Pacelab WEAVR and check out our resources for creating VR apps with Unity.