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How to scale Unity-based VR Training

If you asked me when I had first tried a VR headset a few years ago how this will impact the world (Fun fact: is was a Zeiss VR ONE), I would have replied “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”

Well today I know. I know VR Training is dramatically transforming industries and empowering companies big and small. How? By shortening time-to-market of new products and facilities. It improves workplace safety while reducing the stress level of staff. In short, it is a powerful tool to transform how to ramp up operations faster than ever. Gartner explains only 1 percent of companies are using immersive technologies – even through this technology is “transformational” for many industries. Gartner recommends “CIOs to experiment with in the next year.”

Why is this happening? Because on-the-job training is painful. It is stressful, expensive, slow, dangerous at times and dependent on the physical workplace. Sometimes it is even impossible. However it is also necessary. It is the only effective way of learning how to operate in a complex industrial working environments. You can’t learn this stuff from paper or video.

Virtual Reality cuts training time in half

Volkswagen Group is part of the brave 1 percent. They are pioneers, deploying VR training at scale. In doing so, they found that VR can potentially reduce training time by 50 percent. They also found virtual reality cuts training costs by one third compared to traditional on-the-job training. Additionally, trainees love using VR. 97 percent of trainees said they would aspire to train new assembly content in VR in the future. More info in this eBook Unity published.

After having worked with visionaries from companies like Volkswagen Group for four years, I believe it is time to unleash the power of VR training to the remaining 99 percent. We want to empower millions of people with VR training, to help them better prepare for their jobs. We want to help enterprise create safer workplaces.

Scalable creation of real-time VR training content

Nevertheless there still is a final frontier which has not been solved: Who can create this VR content, and how can we scale it? How can we maintain the VR modules if work processes change? Unity is a popular tool of choice when it comes to creating great VR content. Creating a VR training simulation with Unity is great for a proof-of-concept, or even a pilot project. There are great VR studios with even greater 3D artists and Unity developers out there creating stunning VR experiences. But how can this scale to hundreds, even thousands of workplace trainings? If you calculate the TCO, it is hard to imagine how this can scale to thousands of workplaces in your organization.

Real-time VR vs. interactive 360 video

An intuitive idea is the use of 360 video with added interactive elements. 360 Video is great for the onboarding/recruiting processes. It gives a first glimpse into the future workplace of your choice. Companies like StriVR have success with Walmart or VR Direct with Porsche. While the 360 medium is good for capturing real situations such as soft skill training, it fails to replace on-the-job training. The reason is: The manual work steps cannot be simulated in 360. Therefore the users muscle memory is not being activated. 360 video provides a better alternative than video-based training, however, it is not good enough to replace on-the-job training. 

Scalable creation of 3D assets

So, real time VR it is. But how do I get the 3D content? Luckily there are several ways to tackle this – possibly depending on your industry. If you have CAD data / use PLM systems like Siemens team centre or Dassault CATIA, you could look into the PiXYZ Plugin for Unity. This lets you import JT / CATpart files into Unity, manually or semiautomated. If no CAD data is available, there are lots of 3D artists and agencies out there like our partner companies Augmented Minds or ThreeDee who create stunning 3D assets from just a few pictures. As well as this, smartphone based 3D scanning is just around the corner. This includes both existing apps and native hardware support form new phones, e.g. the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.

Hardware which makes VR easy to adopt

The good news is: the next chapter of VR head-mounted displays will be soon upon us with Standalone VR. Vive Focus Plus from HTC and Oculus Quest are great VR devices which eliminate the need for an expensive VR-ready PC. This means that for the first time in history, users can onboard themselves without requiring a system administrator. Portability and cost are less of an issue. Both devices come with an enterprise SLA and are shipping now.

Building with Unity vs. Proprietary VR training software

So what is the final frontier? Most people think VR content can only be created by studios or specialised software vendors. They are somewhat right. Specialised VR training software vendors with proprietary technologies are an effective way to scale VR training. But beware, they are locking you into their technology.

Unity on the other hand is 100% flexible and gives you the certainty that you can use the VR content in the future independently form a third party platform. Plus, you can rely on millions of Unity developers out there, so adapting this as a standard makes sense. You can contract a XR studio who uses Unity to develop tailored VR training simulations, completely owned by yourself. However, for every small change you need to engage the VR developer again, which is not a desirable state. As well as this, how can you develop more VR training content? This becomes pretty expensive and hard to maintain, especially when the training process change.

In order to come up with a better solution, we at Innoactive developed Innoactive Creator – a Unity-based VR training authoring tool. VR developers can develop reusable conditions and behaviors. While 3D artists design and maintain training steps and process on their own. They can do all of this without high-level coding skills. Consider this our contribution to redefine how VR developers and 3D artists collaborate, in order to produce better standardised content in an efficient and maintainable way.

Facilitate sharing and reusability

Your investment in VR content and assets pays off once it is regularly used by staff to train people in various corporate locations. Sharing is the key to securing your ROI. The more people you reach with your content, the more value you generate. To facilitate this, we created Innoactive Portal. We provide a server-side web platform allowing users to upload and share VR training modules and 3D assets among developers, trainers and trainees. The software can be operated on-premise or in a private cloud. It supports any kind of VR content (Unity, Unreal, etc.) and integrates easily with applications created with our optional Unity SDK.

A very special example which demonstrates this perfectly is our recent announcement together with the operators of Munich and Frankfurt airports. They joined forces to co-invest in VR training modules, share them in use and even offer access to the content to other airports world-wide. The purpose is to democratize VR content creation with Unity and unleash the power of VR to the people at work.

We believe that Virtual Reality is not only a tool to get our staff well prepared for their ramp duties. It is also a digital medium which allows us to share our knowledge on a wider base with other airports, either to learn from each other or to adopt our best-practice processes and standards abroad.Christian Stoschek, Managing Director of AeroGround

More VR training content, less investment, better adoption, higher ROI

We empower you to create more VR content with less investment, in a maintainable way. Innoactive helps make your VR content accessible to larger audiences at various locations. This applies across corporate boundaries, allowing users to collaborate between suppliers and customers. This is the magic: in only four weeks you can build your very own VR training PoC. Our platform is free for both partners and customers. For those who want enterprise-grade service levels, we offer paid subscriptions.

Daniel Seidl, CEO & Founder, Innoactive

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