"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." – Aristotle
It is fairly evident to most people, through their own experience, that actually doing something is one of the most effective ways of learning. Good old trial and error is a great teacher. In the professional training world we call this active learning. Another thing we think about is consequentiality, or “how bad is it if someone gets something wrong in the real world?” This can range from catastrophic – a heart surgeon cuts the wrong artery – to inconsequential – a graphic artist uses the wrong settings and fails to achieve a certain effect.
When it comes to training, the relationship between consequentiality and active learning is important. If you want someone to learn how to perform a task that has potentially catastrophic results if done wrong, you want them to be good at it from the start. After all, no one would want a pilot learning by by trial and error in a real plane. This is where VR is making a big impact. Students can explore a realistic environment, practice, and learn in a space where it is safe to make mistakes. To add to that, immersive learning has been shown to be just as effective as real-life training simulations.
A great example of VR training is Norwegian company Connect The Dots (CTD). CTD chose to use Unity to develop a virtual world that allows medical personnel to perform extensive procedural training.
The training model in virtual reality can be used for clinical observations, risk assessments, and structured communication of several different conditions that can amount to 20 million deaths annually.
The company’s CTO, Håvard Snarby, is passionate about both technology and education. During his studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, he conducted research into learning outcomes when using VR. The results of the research showed that clinical students are more engaged and had better recall after training on VR than in traditional simulation on a medical dummy. Teaming up with his sister Siva Snarby, whose expertise lies in economics and financial management, the two founded CTD to help prepare health-care providers for real-life clinical events.
While the tool started on Oculus, CTD has since transitioned it to the Unity XR platform in order to deploy the training to a broader range of headsets. The idea is to minimize any complexity or need for technical know-how so that any student can simply put on a wireless VR headset and start training.
There are two important elements to delivering training in this way. First, is a high level of fidelity – making it feel real. The tool certainly delivers on that, with the virtual patient experiencing multiple negative events and even dying if the correct actions aren’t taken. At a simulation conference in Alta, Anne Kristin Ihle Melby from the Norwegian Directorate of Health tested a VR headset for the first time, and this is what she had to say: "My experience with CTD Helse was that the training situation was so realistic that I felt I was training on a real person in a real environment. I was surprised at how lifelike this was. I strongly believe that this will supplement today's traditional training methods, and that it can enable more people to train more often. VR technology can be an important contribution to increasing competence in the health service."
As Håvard put it, “It is better to try and fail a thousand times in VR than once in real life.”
Second is cutting the cost and resources involved in this type of training with no negative impact on the learning outcomes. Using this tool means clinicians from all over the country can train without traveling to a central point. In a country the size of Norway this can save a lot of time and resources. The potential of this to other remote and/or less developed parts of the world is huge.
CTD also simulates the shared learning experience of being in the classroom together. Not only can students do this training individually, they also have the option to work together with an instructor present to guide them. Students from all over the country can learn and communicate in real-time while never having to leave their hometown.
Håvard believes the time is now right for VR technology to take off in medical training, “Seven or eight years ago the market was not ready for it; now, everyone is interested. You still find some skeptics, but once they try the app they are converted.”
Another example in the medical world is VirtaMed LaparoS, which uses Unity’s 3D Digital Twin technology and haptic feedback to provide hyper realistic surgical training. VirtaMed’s laparoscopic training simulator breaks the mold of traditional medical training. It takes the burden of the surgical training learning curve off of the patients and places it on the simulator.
This simulated experience allows trainees to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in a training scenario. For example, if a virtual patient bleeds during training, it should look and feel sufficiently real for the trainee to become genuinely invested in seeking a quick resolution.
The LaparoS simulator also records trainee behaviors with millimeter precision, providing valuable feedback not only on the trainee’s performance during the procedure, but also on the potential outcomes for the simulated patient.
Simulated training using a digital twin of the abdomen and other body parts not only accelerates the learning curve, getting new surgeons into the operating room more quickly, but also reduces overall training costs by allowing for team training scenarios.
While there are many exciting applications of VR training in medical education, the technology is also being implemented across many industries. In the public sector, Axon has developed immersive VR training that enhances public safety officers' performance, critical thinking, and de-escalation skills. Axon VR immerses officers in complex, real-world scenarios involving mental health, trauma, and more. Through these experiences, trainees gain confidence and respond to calls in their communities with new insight, awareness, and perspective, leading to more mutually beneficial outcomes. The Axon VR training platform is used by more than 1,200 law enforcement agencies today.
In the private sector, Volkswagen is taking the bet that being an early adopter of VR training will lead to advantages in productivity over time. In 2018, the company brought VR training to 10,000 of its employees, training them in everything from vehicle assembly to customer service. They have even gone as far as to build a state-of-the-art training campus, where 3,000 employees learn e-mobility skills on a two-day course that uses VR and Virtual Assembly Training (VAT).
There are countless other examples where VR is being adopted as a training tool. In fact, training use cases top the IDC 2020 forecast commercial investments in VR for 2024 at an estimated $4.1 billion.
Here are some more interesting statistics on VR training:
If you are interested in learning how to create VR applications in Unity, check out our on-demand training platform where you will find a range of courses. For more information about the many use cases for digital twins and virtual reality solutions built in Unity, including case studies, demos, and on-demand webinars, check out our resources or speak to our expert team today.