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Is The VR Cycle Dead?

At the moment, the current VR (Virtual Reality) cycle is essentially the buzz of the industry. Sadly, this game-changing tech is not launching off as successfully as we thought. TechCrunch tells us that HTC is having to dramatically slash the prices of their VR headsets due to lack of user adoption and ROI. Let’s briefly discuss why we at ILX think the VR cycle is not ready for implementation… and what can be changed to fix it.

Why We Think It’s Not Working

When you break down the required elements of technology adoption (accessibility, budget, and flexibility), you begin to see where the problem lies within this new VR Cycle.

Inflated Expectations

This is the problem with early adoption, this new cycle has been put on a lofty pedestal and it just does not have enough room to grow. As a best practice, interactivity for the sake of interactivity should never be done. Expectations of VR training courses have simply not been met yet, it is more of a novelty than a reality. With so many logistical technicalities, the VR cycle has not been allowed to break through the mold of being “gimmicky”.

Hardware Acquisition Costs

The hardware needed for VR is the primary barrier to user adoption. VR can require a large amount of tech, which in turn, requires quite a large budget. You need a powerful computer, headsets, smart-phones, etc. just to get a VR courseware up and running.

Development Costs

Historically, creating VR content has been costly and laborious. Taking many skilled people months to create even a short amount of VR content. Thankfully, all of that is changing. Industry leading companies such as NAWMAL and Uptale are making it possible to create SCORM compliant 360 3-D content in hours, instead of weeks or months.

The Need for Updates

With all of the tech that you need, you’re also going to need updates. All of the time. In our fast paced, high-speed society the technology that works at present can be obsolete in a mere 6 months. When you factor in all of the hardware and development that goes into VR creation, you are looking at a constant need for upgrading. This simply cannot take precedence over user learning.

How to Make the VR Cycle Work

First things first, we need to level our expectations. VR is not dead as a training technology, far from it, but it’s different than we thought. If you are wanting to utilize the season’s VR Cycle at present, then you need to use it where it will actually contribute to user learning experience. Introduce it as a supplemental activity for learning. For example, your user just sat through a 30 minute online training program. Add in a VR scenario as a set up at the beginning, or a game as a reward at the end. “Gamification” has proven to be a trend that has stuck around, for good reason. This will give your user positive re-enforcement as well as guarantee their positive feedback.

You can also use VR to take eLearning to the next level. Let’s pretend that you own several large factories or even oil rigs that are open 24 hours. You can’t afford to shut down a factory to take every new group of trainees on a walking tour of their new place of employment. This is where VR comes in. You can utilize this tech to take these new employees on simulated walk-throughs of the factories in order to better prepare them for a variety of situations. This is a safe way to introduce trainees to a new workplace without having to halt production.

Looking Ahead…

Looking to the future, ILX’s Christopher Goodsell states, “We as an industry need to work harder to implement courseware into devices that users already use. We must maintain a learner first approach.” Even putting a headset on has proven to be too much of a hurdle for many users. In our high-tech society, accessibility is a number one priority. We need to be focusing our energy into developing VR software that does not require hardware and to provide more accessible ways of using it.

The exception to this rule is what we’ll call “super users.” These are high-tech use cases when the barriers or hurdles to VR implementation are simply worth overcoming. For instance, the Department of Defence being able to simultaneously train up to 50 remote techs on how to set up a million dollar mobile satellite receiver (in a virtual world of their making) is absolutely worth the time and trouble. UK company Immerse has developed a highly cost effective method of producing exactly this type of training for exactly this type of market.

As of now, utilizing this season’s VR Cycle is proving to be mostly unsuccessful. It is, however, game-changing technology that holds a multitude of possibilities for our industry. We need to do what we do best: take notes, make edits, and try again until a system is found that works for the user… and for the future of eLearning.

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