What is Virtual Reality?
In technical terms, Virtual Reality (VR) is a term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person then becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
In simple terms, VR immerses the user within a virtual environment by blanking out the real environment (fully or partially) through the use of a headset and computing device – a smartphone, computer or within the headset itself. The user, through the VR application on the computing device, can visualise, experience and interact with the virtual environment.
Virtual Reality is ideal for training applications where there is a benefit in the learner being situated within the context, whether it be for entertainment, training, simulations, architectural renders or any other kind of visualisation scenarios.
What different formats does it take?
There are a number of different formats of VR. Which one is most appropriate depends on the platform and use-cases.
From a platform/hardware perspective, there are two main formats:
- Tethered: This is where the software application resides on a computer/desktop and the headset is connected to it. The advantage is that one can run high-end VR solutions on a desktop and interaction possibilities are extended. The main disadvantage is that it’s impractical if the VR needs to be distributed to a larger audience. An example of a tethered solution is the HTC Vive or Oculus system.
- Non-Tethered: In this, the VR application resides in either a standalone VR headset, such as the Oculus Go; or a SmartPhone, which can be used within a VR headset, such as the GearVR. Although the computing power is less and the interaction possibilities slightly limited, this can be deployed to a larger audience. One can extend the interaction possibilities by combining a gaze cursor within the application or with handheld controllers.
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Virtual Reality can also be implemented in a number of visual formats:
- Full 3D environments
- 360 degree photography-based environments
- 360 degree video or animation environments
An approach is selected depending on the level of immersion and interactivity required.
Typically, VR solutions are delivered as an App that resides on the SmartPhone or Desktop, however they can be deployed online as well. Online solutions are slightly restrictive in terms of what one can achieve with the bandwidth.
What are the possibilities of VR for training learning?
The saying from a Chinese philosopher is often quoted in technology-based learning/active learning:
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
In our view, Virtual Reality (VR) takes it to the next dimension:
“I immerse and I transform”
VR has huge possibilities in learning as it can place the learner within the real context, get them to focus on tasks and provide a multi-dimensional learning experience where all the senses are truly engaged. Some of the use cases can be around:
- Induction – Familiarising learners with a new environment;
- Health and Safety (H&S) – Practising H&S within a safe environment that mirrors their real environment;
- Situational simulations – Sales and other situations;
- Conceptual learning – delivering conceptual learning in a really impactful manner;
- Visualisation – Visualising a complex concept that can’t be easily demonstrated in a 2D environment or the items can’t be brought together in the real world.
Learning within VR can have tremendous benefits for learning as demonstrated by the above examples.
Although research and data are at the early stages, there are demonstrable benefits across a number of trials and research:
- Learners recall VR experiences and the content they cover within them for longer periods than other training methods;
- Being able to visualise in a multi-dimensional environment helps internalise the topic;
- VR has a high impact on the senses and therefore the ability to transform behaviour;
- Truly being able to situate the learner within the ‘Context’ has a huge impact on the learning;
- It’s a novel and innovative way of learning and generates more interest and engagement;
- Finally, the learner is less distracted by being within the VR environment and is more likely to focus on the learning.