Blog Post

7 obstacles to overcome when deploying virtual reality training

Cornerstone Editors

Since the introduction of 3D flight simulators in the 1980s and 90s, there have been frequent predictions about the widespread adoption of virtual reality training. However, while these technologies have become common in gaming, their industrial application has lagged behind. Now, there are compelling reasons to believe that the decisive moment has arrived. Companies are shifting from visionary thinking to practical implementation, systematically overcoming obstacles. When organizations focus on removing barriers, it's a clear sign they are preparing for action.

Obstacle no. 1: Definition

The term "virtual reality" refers to a variety of tools and notions, which can make approaching the subject a little confusing:

  • The digital reconstitution of a physical environment in 3 dimensions
  • Access to this environment, which can be more or less immersive via a simple screen (PC, tablet, mobile) or a virtual reality headset
  • Scripting a fictitious situation (piloting an aircraft, interacting with a customer, maintaining a machine, etc.)

In the narrowest and most common sense, virtual reality refers to immersion in a 3D environment via a VR headset. But other related technologies often spring to mind when we think of virtual reality:

  • Augmented reality involves interacting with the natural environment by accessing additional inlaid information via a screen or an augmented reality headset. Today, some headsets enable you to move from virtual reality (participant cut off from the real world) to augmented reality (participant inserted in the real world).
  • The metaverse is an open virtual reality space where several participants can interact. It's where social networking meets VR.
  • Artificial intelligence — AI technologies, particularly generative AI, allow developers to develop more flexible and natural scenarios for virtual reality interactions.

This obstacle is, in fact, one of the main reasons for believing that the time has come for large-scale development of VR training. The convergence of different technologies is multiplying the possibilities for relevant pedagogical applications. It is undoubtedly one of the major trends in training today.

Barrier no. 2: The cost of equipment

For a long time, the price of virtual reality headsets represented an insurmountable obstacle to developing large-scale training programs. The investment was too high for training organizations, and service prices were accordingly high. Therefore, training with VR headsets was a "nice to have," an occasional luxury. Virtual reality usually remained at least immersive and attractive on PC or tablet.

Over the past few years, however, VR headsets have become considerably more democratic. High-performance equipment is now available for around $200 or even less. It's now possible to acquire a fleet of headsets without increasing the price of services. For now, augmented reality headsets remain more expensive, but the virtuous spiral is underway.

According to Statista Market Insights, the global virtual headset market will be worth $10 billion by 2024, up from $1.7 billion in 2018.

Barrier no. 3: Infrastructure

The advantage of virtual reality is that it eliminates the need to travel to a physical location or to recreate learning environments. But it does require infrastructure expenditure:

  • PCs need to be sufficiently powerful
  • The network must have sufficient bandwidth if the scenarios involve several people interacting remotely

On both these points, democratization is also on the cards. Hardware and throughput are reaching performance levels that are more than sufficient for highly effective use of VR, at prices that are affordable for both training organizations and companies.

On the other hand, if the scenarios involve physical movement, participants need an equipped and isolated space to move around in the virtual universe without bumping into walls and each other. For a training organization or a company, you need to be able to dedicate a room of sufficient size to training sessions. Scenarios may require complex visual cues and other equipment to make the room difficult for any other purpose.

Obstacle no. 4: Script development

The biggest obstacle is undoubtedly the development of the educational content itself. Many development days and high-level professionals are required for ad hoc immersive training with an interactive dimension. Skills in 3D animation, digital scripting and coding must be combined with mastery of the subject and the pedagogy. It remains a complex process.

However, the investment is well worth it in terms of either off-the-shelf training or company-specific training deployed on a large scale. And tools are being developed that will enable scenarios to be developed at lower cost. For example, this is already the case if we embed augmented reality information in a pre-filmed 360° virtual course accessed via a screen. However, the most immersive training courses will continue to require cutting-edge skills and development time.

Obstacle n°5: The training offer

A consequence of the previous obstacles is that the training offer has yet to be very abundant. One reason is that many training topics do not necessarily lend themselves to virtual reality—particularly purely theoretical training covering non-manual legal or technical subjects. With the falling cost of virtual reality, however, VR will likely serve as an interface for a growing number of training services.

According to Statista Market Insights, the global virtual headset market is estimated to have grown from $1.7 billion in 2018 to a projected $10 billion by 2024. Analysis Group predicts that the metaverse if it follows a similar trajectory to that of mobile technologies in their day, could account for 2.8% of global GDP by 2032. All the economic conditions are in place for the educational uses of virtual reality technologies to take off in the months and years ahead. It's a safe bet that, before long, the problem with VR training will be one of profusion, not scarcity.

Obstacle no. 6: Learner acculturation

One obstacle long observed by training organizations is learners' need for acculturation to virtual reality technologies. Some are reluctant to immerse themselves or feel uncomfortable in the fun, role-playing dimension. Above all, one must devote ample time to the tools and dealing with user errors. This practice reduces the amount of time required to pass on knowledge.

This obstacle is rapidly disappearing. More and more people have had the opportunity to experiment with virtual reality, most often in the context of video games but also at interactive exhibitions or Tech events. The generations entering the job market today are much more accustomed to these methods and tools. Scenarios are becoming increasingly intuitive. So, this barrier is disappearing, even if some people are more difficult to acclimate than others.

Obstacle no. 7: Acculturation of decision-makers

After overcoming these obstacles, it's time to take the plunge with the help of training managers, HR directors and other leaders. As the market develops, decision-makers grapple with the fear of investing too soon versus the risk of missing out and seeming overly cautious. Many choose to wait and observe how practices evolve before committing.

The health crisis has largely overcome companies' reluctance to use e-learning. According to Insee, the proportion of people aged 25 to 59 who have taken part in an e-learning activity will rise from 15% to 24% between 2019 and 2023. One person in four may not seem like a lot, but the figure compares with 47% of French people taking a training course in 2022, according to the Dares (57% among employees).

The combination of falling costs, the emergence of an offer, the widespread use of VR techniques, and the strong potential of these modalities in certain fields should succeed in convincing training decision-makers.

Having the support of an LMS and a digital learning partner who has embraced these new approaches significantly eases the transition to operational use, reducing and managing risks. The journey into virtual reality training involves a whole ecosystem of participants, ensuring companies need help navigating this new and unfamiliar territory.

For this reason, Cornerstone has partnered with Talespin, a specialist in developing and deploying virtual reality training. The best way to understand VR's effectiveness as a teaching tool is to experience it firsthand and discover its full potential.

To explore all the possibilities of virtual reality training, book a demo.

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