Most industry experts agree that we’re at the end of Web 2.0 and mobile apps. The twin forces of augmented and virtual reality and work-from-home habits are ushering in a new era of Web 3.0 (or Web 3D). The metaverse is upon us, and it has profoundly affected the learning industry. Accenture, for example, paid $18 million to equip 60,000 employees with their own consumer Quest headsets for training and collaboration (and probably some play because work and play is converging).
The real-time, spatial, 3D, immersive, and embodied internet can be deployed on high-quality VR headsets that cost less than an airline flight. The workplace is moving to workspace, and VR training is evolving from one-off, single-user simulations on shared headsets to ongoing, programmatic social learning on personal headsets.
Forward-thinking companies are creating shared VR learning spaces where students and instructors are interacting with each other as lifelike human avatars. Navigating hyper-realistic performance simulators via VR headsets, phones, iPads, and PCs, they learn with and from each other in hands-on simulations. A few recent client projects illustrate how these early stage building blocks of the metaverse are already transforming learning:
- Pfizer, Novartis, and Bristol Myers Squibb harness VR learning to practice crucial life-saving skills in our safe, virtual reality pharma labs. Instructors can demonstrate how to transfer liquid and hand the pipette to a student standing to their right, who can grab it and rehearse the same task, just like in real life.
- HVAC giant Daikin offers the ultimate customer experience of X-ray vision. Customers don the Quest headset and peer inside a giant chiller to watch how water and refrigerant work together to keep building temperatures comfortable. A sales rep can walk around the digital twin with customers and point out features and benefits.
- Alarm.com installers use their hands in VR to route cables and connect wires and test whether they’ve secured two doors with a card reader. A ticking time-bomb is counting down time. If the installation task is not completed in time, the place explodes. If they get it done sooner, they get to add their names to a leaderboard.
You only have one chance at a good first impression of VR with your students and decision makers. Don’t blow it on a cheap static 360-video and e-learning in a VR headset. This is not the time to shoehorn VR technology into existing learning programs. At best, your users and decision makers will wonder why you didn’t just do it on a PC screen. At worst, they will get nauseous. Instead, partner with a professional developer and invest in the potential of real-time game engines and experiential learning theories. A professionally developed simulation in a game engine might be more expensive up front, but it’s a malleable and scalable investment that can be amortized over many years and numerous applications. The same VR sim can overlay the real world in augmented reality (AR) or be featured in “pancake mode” on mobile and PC screens.
While we’re still years away from the long-term metaverse vision of interoperable networks with thousands of people through VR and AR headsets, today’s multiuser VR technology still represents a significant step in that direction and a seismic shift in training.
For a deeper dive into the VR metaverse, join me February 7-10, 2022 at ATD TechKnowledge. During my session, Virtual Reality Learning at Novartis, we’ll explore how pharma-leader Novartis is scaling virtual reality enterprise-wide from a single pilot to additional use cases, supercharging an immersive learning transformation.