The ever-increasing mobile technological advancements and the accessibility of groundbreaking technologies like virtual reality and mixed reality, have created unique opportunities to support training processes across industrial, educational, and corporate settings.
According to ABI Research, the enterprise immersive training market will grow to approximately US$6.3 billion by 2022.
Similarly, IDC predicted that spending on VR and AR training would grow at a CAGR of 46% between 2018 to 2023, peaking at approximately US$8 billion by 2023.
These bold predictions should serve as a testament that immersive training is bound to have profound effects on the corporate training industry.
What is immersive training?
Simply put, immersive training is essentially an experiential training approach that leverages immersive technologies like virtual and augmented reality to simulate real-world scenarios in order to train and engage employees in safe and engaging immersive environments.
In practice, immersive training amalgamates immersive technologies with data science and spatial design to enhance training effectiveness and engagement.
Furthermore, the learner and trainer are typically in separate locations, with participation, vicarious experience, physiological reinforcement and verbal persuasion being the main fulcrums of the immersive experience.
What are the main techniques used in immersive training?
- Virtual Reality (VR): This technology uses digital simulations to essentially recreate real-world scenarios, and operates via headsets to immerse users into a virtual world.
- Augmented Reality (AR): This technology basically enhances one’s real-world view, thus ‘augmenting’ real environments into a digital interface, i.e., adds digital elements to physical reality to enhance it.
- Mixed Reality (MR): This type of technology combines augmented and virtual reality to make virtual interactions appear more realistic i.e., enabling digital and physical objects to co-exist and interact in real-time.
Advantages of immersive training
- Immersive training fosters experiential learning as humans typically gain skills by doing repetitively until it’s ingrained into our mental system, and becomes second nature.
In practice, repetitive practical training in the real world may not be feasible in some settings, for example, firefighters typically have to deal with stressful and dangerous situations. Ideally, simulating fire situations in the real world is possible, but not feasible to recreate daily for training purposes.
- Immersive learning delivers tools that allow skill-based organisations to practice tasks in a safe environment, continually, with no risk. As such, it dramatically reduces the occurrence of training and workplace accidents.
- Immersive training is relatively affordable as it eliminates unnecessary travel and the need for disposable tools, e.g. like those used in medical scenarios, by replacing them with virtual equipment, virtual avatars and virtual settings.
- Immersive training provides better analytics as it allows the capture of enriched user data and metrics such as behavioural data, eye tracking, heat maps and even gesture tracking.
- Immersive training is remote, which is advantageous as trainees don’t have to go to specific physical locations to be trained.
- Training sessions can be easily gamified, with tasks set up at different levels of difficulty, points awarded and reflections given for failure.
- Immersive training motivates trainees to get invested in learning a new craft as it adds a different dimension and excitement to training sessions.
- Training can be stimulated in different forms, without time delays.
- Trainees are not tied to a particular schedule and can train as per will. For example, they can be employed in the day for night simulation. Removing time constraints.
- Can be utilised for a single individual or groups of individuals.
- Eliminates the emotional elements of training like friction, bad feelings or verbal conflicts between any other human as one is able to train alone if preferred.
Requirements for building an immersive training environment
As we have already alluded to, what makes immersive training successful is the element of “presence”.
This is basically the feeling that someone is ‘physically’ in the virtual environment.
However, building a truly immersive training environment requires a synthesis of expertise from a wide range of fields, such as:
- Instructional design
- Sound design
- UX design
- Data science
Immersive training applications
1. Leadership development training for corporate employees
Generally speaking, immersive virtual courses stimulate the neurons to activate when required during a decision-making situation in the real world. This consequently helps to accelerate self-awareness and learning for corporate leaders.
That being said, an immersive training platform can be paired with company-related or personal content to curate customised leadership development modules.
Such modules are generated in a psychological and physically safe group environment to help assess and improve team members’ leadership characteristics such as onboarding, performance improvement, across specific corporate training topics.
Furthermore, immersive training can be used to generate unique insights into human behaviour, thus subconsciously revealing trainees’ true strengths and weaknesses.
Subsequently, this data can be compiled into a comprehensive and actionable feedback report.
2. Talent development training
Immersive training can be employed to develop self-awareness and agility amongst corporate participants as they are taught to learn from failure, in safe environments while still eliminating inherent biases, assumptions, and out-of-date mindsets.
Furthermore, immersive training creates a heightened sense of awareness of change, uncertainty, and reiterates the value of continuous improvement.
In this same context, immersive training can also be leveraged for future talent development and to supplement career and technical education.
For example, with scenario-based simulations, AR/VR/MR solutions enable individuals to build skills via hands-on experience, while also minimising the cost and risk associated with field training.
For instance, trainees can practice operating or fixing 3D models of sophisticated machinery to build familiarity as well as safety awareness before handling the real machines.
Because of such attributes, immersive training tools are becoming increasingly invaluable as industries like construction and advanced manufacturing are increasingly embracing them.
3. Industrial training
Speaking of manufacturing industries, immersive training is seeing an uptake in compliance safety training.
For example, we are now seeing Construction VR/MR applications being developed for all VR and AR platforms like Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift.
Similarly, Onix offers game-like software that can be used for explaining basic behaviour and life safety fundamentals to construction workers.
Relatedly, KFC maintains a Virtual Reality based trainer for their new employees. This immersive training experience works more like a game but is enough to give the new employees a feel of how their actual kitchens work.
4. Science and Research-Based Industries
Historically, the first real success of immersive training happened in the context of NASA’s Hubble space telescope mission.
In practice, reaping from the benefits of full-scale simulation, this training exercise was designed for a 100-person team, who did not have access to a real telescope in the area of the full-scale mock-up reserved for the core team of astronauts.
Consequently, in this live situation, the entire team supporting the astronauts was trained using this virtual environment.
Immersive training is also increasingly used in the medical domain for simulated surgeons’ training. For example, the University School of Medicine in Atlanta employs VR to train surgeons.
5. The education sector
Since VR and AR are immersive and highly interactive, their possible applications in the education sector are limitless. To put the use cases in context, let’s see a few examples:
- Immersive learning can be used to help children learn how to speak and listen in their local languages.
- It can be used to improve science education by revealing things that are impossible to see with naked eyes, or limited by current technology. For instance, teachers can take their students on a tour around the solar system, or show them how the International Space Station was built, or even how cells work in the human body.
- Virtual reality is already being used to teach students with the help of 3D models, particularly in scientific areas. For instance, Second Life is essentially a 3D virtual world being used to teach autopsy in the forensic pathology field. Additionally, USC Marshall School of Business uses Second Life to also teach students to manage properties and run their own businesses. Furthermore, Second Life’s virtual world offers its own currency that lets users carry out business deals. Therefore, allowing students to explore and learn from an economy in a virtual world.
- Students can be taken on a tour of historical and archaeological sites, located in different parts of the world.
- Pilot students can use virtual reality flight simulators to practice real-world skills that are highly dangerous, expensive, or too rare for amateur students to attempt. Immersive training can also allow professionals to keep honing and extending their skills.
Conclusion: the future of immersive learning in training
As we have established, immersive training revolves around learning in a simulated or artificial environment where trainees get completely immersed in a way that feels like experiencing an actual physical learning environment.
As we have also seen, this form of experiential learning can support workflow support training for sectors like manufacturing, where factory floors can be made consistently safer and more productive.
Immersive training can also be employed to teach employees soft skills that enable them to better adapt to the dynamic and continually nuanced demands of modern workplaces, inherently driving positive results since trainees’ cognition and bodies believe the experiences to be real.
Overall, the benefits of immersive training can be summarised as efficacy, training efficiency, safety, trainee engagement, consistency, cost-savings and measurability.
The future of immersive training cannot be underestimated as it will only technologically advance its ability to allow trainees with few or no possibilities to travel abroad to acquire extra skill sets in authentic and immersive environments.
Furthermore, in the coming years, expect to see the adoption of digital twins and extended reality (XR) in different immersive training use cases, growing by leaps and bounds.
For more information, reach out to us at Growth Academy Asia.
Co-founder and Director of Learning and Development
David Simpson, originally from Northern Ireland and with a background in psychology, has significantly impacted the learning and development landscape in Asia. In 2002, he co-founded Team Building Asia, one of Asia’s most successful team building companies, and he has been stimulating innovation in corporate training ever since. Co-founder of Growth Academy Asia, David challenges teams to reach their highest potential through experiential, interactive and immersive workshops with a meaningful business outcome.