VR at work: Virtual training is leading to real-world results with Oculus for Business
May 22, 2019
A note from Maria Fernandez Guajardo, Head of Enterprise AR/VR, Facebook: At F8 last month, we announced a major update to Oculus for Business, with a new suite designed to help companies deploy VR at work. To read up on that announcement, you can head over to the Oculus Blog. Today, I wanted to share a bit more about how our technologies are changing the way we communicate, learn, and collaborate across industries of all kinds.
Business applications have been a key area of interest throughout my career, and it inspired me to take this opportunity to drive the Oculus for Business initiative within Facebook’s AR/VR organization. I left my home in Spain right after college to complete my engineering degree, and my career has taken me to locations across Europe and the U.S. Along the way, I wouldn’t have changed a thing—except for staying closer to my family back home. I miss them terribly, along with my friends and culture. I long for the day when people can use technology such as virtual reality to access boundless career opportunities without breaking that social fabric.
Even today, distance takes me away from my loved ones, like when I travel for business and deal with the ever-expanding commute in the Bay Area. We’re still a ways off from the Holodeck-like workplace of the future, when physical distance isn’t a barrier to economic opportunity and productivity. But with advancements across Oculus and Facebook, and the applications of VR we see today, this future is inching ever closer to reality. In speaking with our customers and partners, we see how they’ve taken advantage of immersive technologies to improve their businesses today. These pioneers are showing us how to move business forward in real and tangible ways...
When the Johnson & Johnson Institute began looking to improve medical training for surgeons, it turned to Osso VR, a developer of immersive training software, to see what kind of difference VR could make on the operating table. The results — a 230% increase in surgical performance during training simulations — were enough to persuade them to collaborate with Osso VR and Oculus on a new Quest pilot program to educate and train surgeons.
“We quickly demonstrated that bringing surgeons into virtual reality sped up their ability to learn important procedures,” says Sandra Humbles, the Head of Education at the Johnson & Johnson Institute. “If you think about what a surgeon does, it all happens with their hands. With Touch controller tracking on Quest, you get performance feedback and metrics, helping surgeons understand how well they’re doing a particular procedure. That’s game-changing.”
Today, there’s a problem in global health care: There simply aren’t enough surgeons to meet the rising demand of a growing population. “Roughly 5 billion patients don’t have access to safe surgery,” Humbles explains. “On a yearly basis, some 140 million procedures can’t be done because we don’t have trained surgeons. VR tools and training can help solve this global crisis.”
Changing how people work
Using VR on the job isn’t an entirely new concept. In the ’90s, the first time anyone saw “VR at work” might have been at the movies watching Jurassic Park, in a scene in which scientists use it to tinker with DNA. Although no one is cloning dinosaurs just yet, some people have spent the past several years using VR to make things better on the job. And the improved Oculus for Business — an enterprise platform that includes everything a company needs to set up, support, and scale VR at work — aims to help them do just that. It’s launching in the fall, and we hope it changes the status quo for good.
It’s been amazing to see the impact this technology has already made. Over the past few years, we’ve worked with dozens of companies across many industries, such as automotive, health care, and retail. They're changing how they do business every day by collaborating across distance, demonstrating products, and training employees like never before.
Businesses and organizations from Walmart to the NFL already use VR to train their teams. Working with Strivr, these organizations have developed immersive learning modules to simulate expensive and otherwise out-of-reach scenarios in a way that’s repeatable and accessible. "People learn best by doing, and as we’ve seen with customers like Walmart, Verizon, and Fidelity, broad-scale adoption of VR-based learning is happening today and can make a significant impact on employee engagement, retention, and performance," says Derek Belch, CEO of Strivr. The benefits of VR at work are increasingly clear — so for many, it’s simply a question of getting started.
Working better with VR
“How do we, from a learning point of view, use it to increase the skills and knowledge of people in the industry?” asks DHL Express Senior Vice President Rick Jackson. To help find the answer, DHL Express worked with Immerse, a VR training platform, on an innovative program to boost productivity. DHL Express tested the new method at 12 locations around the world and found 99% of participants felt it helped them work better and more efficiently. “The anecdotal stories so far have been second to none,” Jackson says. “We’re giving people an experience they’ve never really had before.”
“I can do things I can’t do in real life,” agrees Ford Motor Company Designer Michael Smith. “I can be sitting in a virtual model and have my head sticking through the surface to gunsight a line.” Working with Gravity Sketch, Ford has been using VR to produce car mockups with impressive results. “The ability to start in 3D and stay in 3D has been the most transformative aspect of my workflow,” Smith says. “VR and Gravity Sketch allow me to create a 3D ‘napkin sketch’ straight from my brain.”
One of the more promising areas in VR training is helping people with soft skills, like negotiating a sale or handling a difficult customer. Talespin, an enterprise VR developer whose client list includes Farmers Insurance, makes immersive training software for potentially tricky situations when keeping a cool head is a matter of intuition and tact. “Our platform exposes employees to difficult conversations in areas like sales, insurance claims, and human resources,” explains Talespin Chief Experience Officer Jeroen de Cloe. “These training scenarios can be practiced and replayed in the safety of VR as much as needed, helping workers communicate with confidence in a range of tough situations.”
Bridging the distance
VR doesn’t just help companies improve performance and their bottom lines. It also brings people closer together, even when they’re far apart.
“In the past, when developers wanted to show me their products, they’d fly to California from all over the world,” says Facebook Ecosystem Strategist of AR/VR Isabel Tewes. “We’d meet once or twice, and they’d show me their app. Today, when a developer wants to show me their app or a new feature, we put on headsets and meet virtually. They walk me around, pointing things out and handing me virtual objects. This new way of collaborating expands the possibilities of how we connect with others from thousands of miles away.”
It’s not only about working better and faster; VR is also about having the tools necessary to do your best from anywhere, letting workers spend more time at home and, in some cases, avoid moving away from friends, loved ones, and culture.
For Andrew Mo, Product Manager at Facebook, it’s not hard to see the long-term potential for VR’s distance-defying capabilities. “My parents grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and made huge sacrifices in order to immigrate to Canada and provide for their family,” Mo says. “To me, they’re a testament to the fact that geography is a big driver of economic opportunity. Our vision for the future of work will help people find the work they want to do, and it’ll help them do it from anywhere in the world.”