Despite the hype, today’s Virtual Reality (VR) is unsuitable for online interactive training. Its high learning curve, production requirements, technology costs, and negative side effects make it a non-scalable, niche solution. However, 360 Video—a subset of VR—allows the user to be semi-immersed in an online scenario without the high overhead.
Don’t get me wrong. I am an avid lover of Virtual Reality and all it’s potential for video gaming and other, highly immersive experiences. But for mainstream training, it just doesn’t cut it.
Let’s take a look at some of the major pain points of VR that get swept under the rug. First, the cost is tremendous. Headsets alone can set you back about 100 dollars per user. Paying a VR videographer, an After Effects animator, and a designer can cost you thousands, just for one video! Also, keep in mind that immersive training of any kind involves multiple scenarios. If each scenario requires its own programming—including responses to possible user actions—the costs will mount up quickly.
VR technology is also problematic for people who get carsick or wear glasses. As someone who is four-eyed, wearing a VR headset means I would need to spend a lot of time adjusting the headset to meet my needs. Or if you get carsick easily, bad VR experiences can make you nauseated by any sudden movements in the program. The technology is cool; vomiting isn’t.
There’s another problem with using headset-based VR for training. Most instruction involves multiple sources of information and interaction. Unless that material was incorporated into the VR experience (an expensive proposition) a VR headset user would typically have to take it off to view other, related parts of an assignment. Doing so once or twice might not be a show-stopper, but too-frequent context switching will diminish the actual learning. In contrast, a 360 video (which we’ll discuss next) can be paused, and a user would simply put the phone down or tap another part of the screen to finish an assignment.
A Better Alternative
Even if you think the headset-based VR world is not worthwhile for training purposes, there is an alternative. Using a less complex 360 degree video approach is 100% worth the effort.
360 Video is more than just a subset of Virtual Reality; it is its backbone. Without 360 video technology, VR would not exist. As we discussed in a previous article, 360 video technology is not just for hardcore video gamers, coders, and high production video technologists. It has broad, popular appeal, as its adoption by YouTube and Facebook attest. It is also remarkably easy to watch, with a smartphone or tablet (moving the device), or with the right browser (clicking a motion cursor, in Firefox or Chrome):
Unlike full VR, specialized equipment is not required. If your user can click and drag, they can use 360 video.
For training, 360 degree video allows the user to see all angles of a situation or virtual world, and has control over what is seen. Unlike headset-based VR, 360 video does not immerse a user into a different world, but allows the user to be present in a “real world” while still benefitting from an existing learning or training environment.
Of course, there are costs associated with 360 video, but these are significantly lower than those associated with full VR programming.
Lastly, 360 video does not require investment in specialized, and typically proprietary technology like VR headsets. Instead, it leverages technology like smartphones and computers that trainees already have. As awesome as VR headsets are, they are expensive—both in unit cost and in time efficiency, as they can stop your user from being able to do anything else but watch the video.
Diving into new technology is always scary—and a little daunting. However, the benefits that 360 degree video will have on your business are worth the hurdles.