Virtual Reality (VR) combines 3D headsets with computer modelling to give the person wearing the headset the impression that they have entered a completely different reality. Uses include games in which the user encounters mythical beasts and alien fighters – but they also include real-life situations, and it is in real life situations that they are useful for safety training. They make it possible for staff to be trained in the safe use of equipment so that they learn in safe conditions what to do and how to do it before they encounter the same equipment in conditions that could be dangerous. VR works – but there are drawbacks as well as advantages.
This fancy expression describes something very simple – the body’s ability to “feel” something more fully when it has experienced it in a practical way. It’s possible to teach the use of, for example, a power saw by showing trainee operators a video of the saw being used by an experienced sawyer. Usually, a voice overhead will describe what is happening on the screen. And that’s fine, to a certain extent – if the trainee has been paying attention, s/he “knows” how to use the equipment. But that is not the same level of knowledge as someone possesses after they have used the equipment live. VR produces better results than training films because the body learns how it feels to do the work. That learning process comes from immersion in a virtual world that seems exactly like the physical world.
Whether it’s being used to eliminate risk, increase information retention, or support safety behavior change, it is critical that the technology is mapped out wisely before being implemented. Involvement and support of seasoned health and safety practitioners in the initial scripting and design process is often key.
It is likely that we will see future adoption as more and more groups look to use immersive technologies in meaningful ways to improve learning outcomes. It will be interesting to see which groups develop the most useful case studies that will transform the way we train our workforces in the future.
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