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How do you make VR training?

Hello friends and welcome back to episode number 28 of my 31 day challenge where every single day I'm answering your questions about creating a career or a business that you love and in today's episode, we're on the final stretch and we're talking about how do you make VR training?


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So how do you make VR training? Well, for the sake of this episode, I'm going to assume that what you want to do is you want to get client commission's to create VR training rather than build your own and then try and sell it into companies retrospectively or so for example, you could if you wanted to build a VR training, experience, whether that be 360 or game engine, and then sell it into a company and it becomes a product, which is a brilliant way to go if you can, but it's slightly different process to getting a commission. For the sake of this episode, I'm going to focus on how do you go about making VR training from the start, like who's the people that you need to get in touch with, and then what that process might look like, and how it fits into the bigger picture.


So firstly, though, the benefits of doing VR training. So training is one of the biggest areas that VR is seeing massive adoption. In the PwC report, seeing is believing which is all about the economic impact that the VR and AR industries are going to have on the global economy. I can't remember exactly the percentage, but a large percentage of the adoption of VR and AR technology is in the l&d sector, which is the learning and development sector and the beauty of that is that pretty much every organisation has well, full stop, I think 99.9% of companies will have some kind of training. The the whole idea of training is to save a company time and money, it's to make sure that their employees are up to speed on certain purchases, it might be getting them introduced or inducted into certain skill sets. It might also be some kind of training that helps advance their skills, it might be preventative training to safeguard the company from having to pay out for accidents and things like that there's so many different areas within training, obviously, which is why it's such a brilliant sector to kind of get into and the reason why VR is flourishing in that is because it's a new, innovative way to engage employees. It's something totally new, a bit like when kind of interactive video training became a thing like couple of decades ago, while probably not a couple of decades ago, maybe one decade ago and then that became the gold standard because it became this new way and like people were seeing their employees liking, retention rates go up and they were finding that people were enjoying training rather than being bored to tears. And so companies do really put a lot of effort into into finding training that really works. And there's some massive companies that have adopted VR training and are seeing tremendous results. The biggest one that I know of is probably Walmart. If you just Google Walmart VR training, you'll see some phenomenal studies and statistics around them rolling out I think it's something like 3000 VR headsets across their American stores. One of the most touching I think, articles I ever read about VR training was the CEO of Walmart, saying that VR training had saved lives, in Las Vegas. I think it was Las Vegas...I can't remember exactly but basically an active shooter situation where I think it was last year, 2019 someone went into a Walmart and just started shooting people and the CEO of Walmart said that thanks to a VR training simulation that they had, which was showing their their employees how to handle and what to do and how to respond in an active shooter situation. Thanks to that training, those employees were as prepared as they could have been for that particular that particular experience that tragic, horrible, you know, position that they were put in. And that training led to people who say like saving lives basically that CEO said that that training experience save lives because people were more prepared and had felt almost like they'd already been through the experience because of the fact they'd done VR training. And obviously, one of the huge benefits of VR is feeling like you've actually experienced something it goes from, you know, just watching something to actually doing something. So that's obviously just a very, very apt and amazing example of just how beneficial VR training can be. But it is an area where a lot of people are willing to take a risk on on trying something new.


So obviously, there's tonnes of other benefits for why a company might want VR training but when it comes to like practical advice, or how do you go about actually making it? Well, the first thing you need to do is to reach out to some companies and get in touch with either their head of l&d, so head of learning and development, or they might be called just head of training in some organisations, but learning and development seems to be the key title of these people, or even like head of HR human resources, because they themselves will also oversee. Or they will have influence and decision making power about the kind of training that gets rolled out in companies and if it's a smaller company, even maybe going directly to the managing director or the person that runs the CEO, the person that runs the company. And you really want to basically find out what areas of training they currently have, that could use some innovation that could use some you know...what's the word? Updating I guess, is like the simplest way to put it. So you want to look at what areas of training they're really focused on. At the moment, a huge section of the training that I'm seeing, being commissioned is around unconscious bias. So obviously, there is a lot of conversation, especially since the George Floyd murder, like there's a huge resurgence of companies looking at how do we make change from the ground up in our organisations? How do we educate our employees about unconscious bias? How do we make sure that we are making sure that the our work place reflects the values that we want the wider society to have, which is that everyone should have equal opportunity, and everyone should be respected and feel safe and feel heard in their place of work.


So unconscious bias training is a massive one and you've got things like safety and awareness training, that's like a huge as like a huge kind of subsection of training and these are, the ones I'm touching on here are ones that I specialise in, and tend to do a lot of work in. And so you've got safety and awareness, you've also got things like induction training. So you could have something as simple as like a tour of the offices pointing out fire access, that kind of thing. So you've got induction training, what else you got...your leadership training, and looking at how well you can either look at the side of like, how to promote good leadership, what some examples of that are, you could have, like a training simulation, where someone's practising, and getting training on how to how to communicate better with their juniors or team members or whatever it might be. So many different areas of training!


So the first thing you want to do reach out to those people in those positions of power, find out what kind of training they already have. Often VR training will be part of a much bigger training puzzle. So just like a training video, would be part of a wider training programme, it might be that there's a kind of an online course that they have to do afterwards to make sure that they've retained information. Or it might be that there's like a practical exam they have to do afterwards, or whatever it might be. It might even just be part of like a bigger workshop where people are discussing things like unconscious bias, whatever it might be. Find out what the bigger puzzle piece looks like, figure out what the puzzle looks like and then work out how the VR training can kind of be a puzzle piece that fits into that. Don't just go in guns blazing, and kind of think about, you know, thinking about, like just trying to push. Oh, it's like it's VR training simulation that does XYZ and it stands alone and it's, you know, tries to do everything. Often that's not what people want, they want it to be this piece where it's, it's a very important piece that engages and is something new and exciting, but then it's followed by something else and that's quite important - understanding how the VR training fits into the bigger context of the overall training strategy of the company. So once you've got a good sense of that, then you can start to look at what are the ways that you maybe want to deliver that VR training.


So it could be a linear narrative, narrative driven experience, and that's what I specialise in. In recent years, I have become a specialist in immersive storytelling. So we do that, regardless of whether it's an original drama or a piece of training, we put drama and characters at the heart of that, and I do that personally, because I believe that emotional impact, and stories stay with people way longer than just a fire safety video where someone points out, you know, these are the facts and the figures...like that's not very engaging, that's not necessarily anything new. So the power of VR is that you can put people in these situations that they wouldn't necessarily be in or they would, they would never have thought to have put themselves into someone else's shoes and actually physically see what it's like to see their worldview or be put in a position where they have to learn how to put out a fire because it's literally blazing right next to them. So you can do like very new and innovative things with VR training that you couldn't do with traditional mediums and I think you need to lean into that lean into what's different about VR compared to traditional video or interactive training. So I tend to do character driven things. So I'll put you in like a in a scenario and it will be almost like a role play, but usually on a bit of a grander scale. So I've done several one of my favourite by far that I've ever done with a company with a massive cyber security training piece where you got to experience what it was like to go through a crises where a massive company had been hacked, and you got to...you know, you got to kind of experience that firsthand is a few different characters. So that was really interesting and fun, it was a fun way of tackling what could potentially be quite a dry subject, which is cyber security. So there's loads of different ways you could go about it.


The easiest one is obviously just kind of looking at things that like practical things, like for example, hazard awareness training, if say you could approach a construction site and say - hey, I could probably save you money on accidents that happen on the construction site by replacing your current training with a VR simulation where they step onto a construction site, and they have to like spot all of the hazards or they see something play out, you know, like an accident play out, and that might kind of like, stay with them a bit more than just watching it on a video all those kinds of thing. Have a think about that. I obviously specialise mainly in 360 film and interactive narrative experiences, but you could also do like pure gami-fied VR training, that's absolutely got a place in the world. But you could also go straight linear narrative, like with a 360 camera and just kind of treating the camera as if they are an employee of the company going through a particular experience. So there's loads of different ways that you can physically go about creating VR training and that and then you just kind of go down the same rabbit hole as you would if you were doing any of the 360 production. And of course, if you're stepping up from going from purely 360 photos and virtual tours to 360 training, then you know that the difference in production is obviously quite vast. So you definitely want to get some experience in 360 video and looking at that process. How do you work with actors?


One of the biggest things I would say is make sure that you understand at the heart of the VR training, what the company wants their employees to feel when they take the headset off? What do they want them to remember? What are the key things that this VR training needs to needs to pinpoint? Because often I see people again, they run in and they're very excitable because it's it's quite creative and call to make certain VR training projects, and then they just like go - okay, I'm just going to do all of this crazy stuff just because I can have a 360 camera flying around on a drone and that would be really cool, but it actually has no place in that VR training, you know, because actually the piece is all about...I don't know, understanding where the fire exits are, for example, in a warehouse. Just make sure that you are really listening to your client, listening about what the big key pieces are that need to be factored in.


I would always, always, always work with the client to develop a storyboard first, and develop a storyboard which says in detail what is going to happen in the experience. I tend to write my storyboards as if I am the user in a headset. I can do a whole episode on the way I go about storyboarding scripting projects, but it's so important, especially when you work with clients that you really iron out all of the details of the piece before you get your camera out. Or before you start to work in unity, you have to understand, and you have to get the client to sign off everything before you start, because it's a very expensive problem to have, if you've kind of just start filming stuff, and they go - oh, hang on a sec, no, I don't like that. I want it to be from that point of view, or I want it to do that. Whereas when you do a storyboard beforehand, and you're writing it from the point of view of what the person in the headset is seeing so. So an example might be I don't know...let's say it's a leadership training. Yeah, it's a leadership training piece. So it might be that the first scene is I want to establish that we are a manager in this scene. So maybe the storyboard is, you know, scene number one and we are Sarah, a manager at a bank and we've had a problem with a couple of team members and they're not getting on. And that's causing a problem. So what we're actually so that's the context of the scene, that's what we're going to learn in that scene and then how might we learn that? So maybe we have...so maybe we sat in our office, and then we started to get into the detail, right? So that's like, where Sarah, and we can see our bod, but we are the point of view of Sarah, we're in our office, and one of our junior team members comes in a bit upset and says - is it okay, if we, if I go home early? I don't know, this is a really terrible example, but generally, you start to describe what's actually going to happen in that scene. Because then you can really quickly ascertain from the client, whether or not that is something that they want, or whether they're like, no, that's totally wrong, that wouldn't happen, or that's not the environment they would be in, they would be in somewhere like there. So you can really start to iron out those details before you start to do anything that's going to incur cost. Because again, I've seen it happen time and time, again, people running before they walk, not getting stuff signed off from the client, not talking them through all the implications of all the creative decisions they're making. That's a big one, actually, when it's like, yeah, let's have them do this and then they like run into the room, and they have to trip over a wire and stuff and then you go - okay, I mean, technically, that's possible, but if we were to do that, what we would need is we would, well, we would probably need to consider health and safety in terms of like, from an actor's standpoint, we want the actor to be safe. So we probably have to bring in someone whose whole job is to safeguard that actor and train them to fall correctly, or make sure we get an actor that is comfortable with that blah, blah, blah. We would have to have extra rehearsal time for that, we would have to have a head mounted camera if it was being filmed in 360 lights, so it wouldn't be as simple as you think and maybe they've never used VR before and you're all of a sudden having the character run in and trip over and the the post production on that is going to be a bit of a nightmare, because we'd have to film that scene with pretty much no post production needed because otherwise it can be a nightmare because it's a moving shot. So all of a sudden when you start to like look at the big implications of every single creative decision and you can get to a place with the client where they're like - okay, that makes sense. So we want to communicate that the wire was there, and they shouldn't trip on it but we want to do it in a way that is budget friendly. So how can we go about that? Okay, well, maybe, maybe we have another character come in the scene and trip over it. and we're like sat at our desks. So we're very static, that's budget, more budget friendly and more friendly to a VR user that's never used VR, before, we're still getting the point, we're still seeing something happen. But looking at those kind of things. So make sure you're make sure you're overly communicating with the client, because as soon as you work on a 360 video project versus a photo project, and as soon as you start having to work with bigger teams, or even if it's just even if in that scenario, you're using the company's employees, as the actors, there's so many things that go into it. As soon as more people start getting involved, it starts to get a bit more complicated. So just make sure that you're really, really talking through with the client, and really make sure you get that sign off every step of the way and then obviously, you create the piece. It's wonderful, yeah, yay, everyone's happy and then you have to help the client with the rollout.


Obviously, with VR training, it's not just as simple as cool, there's your mp4, off you go, you will have to kind of maybe include in your price, the idea of training them in the VR headset, so that they know how to use them and how to implement them properly, you'll maybe have to offer them a little bit of support, when they start to roll out, maybe even being there for the first session where they use it with their employees and teaching them. Maybe the training needs to be baked into an app so that they can have like a synced sync training session, or are they going to let the employees use it in their own time, in which case, maybe you need to develop like a manual that goes along with it to say - this is how you turn on the headset, choose this app, run this video. If you know if a problem occurs with this, this is how you do it because remember, as well, people generally...most people have not had a lot of experience with VR headset, so even something as simple as navigating the menu can be a real difficulty. So it's thinking about that piece as well and making sure that the client can actually implement it, okay, and can actually use it as part of their training. Because the worst is when you deliver something, but then they never use it because they don't understand or they haven't thought through the actual, the actual technical implications of having to use VR in training. So that's something to consider as well.


Okay, I think this is a good place to stop touched on quite a bit there. So hopefully, that's a good starting point for how you go about making VR training and things to consider. Again, if you'd be interested in me breaking down some of the processes behind that, even just like looking at the production process in general and tips and tricks, let me know you can you can ask me a question or let me know about those kind of subjects. Find me on social media, you can shoot me a DM or comment or whatever on Instagram and Twitter. I'm @alexmakesvr on both those platforms. If you've got a longer question or thought you can send me an email alexmakesvr@gmail.com.

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