Let’s face it, not much can hold a candle to a dynamic speaker or great workshop facilitator. Organizations have tried CD-ROMs, video, communities of practice, interactive websites, and webinars, but all fall short in both engaging learners and creating meaningful learning experiences. But virtual reality, or VR, is coming, and it not only offers more robust and engaging professional development experiences but also can deliver learning that isn’t possible without direct access to expensive hardware, harsh weather or actual enemy combatants.
At its core, virtual reality tricks the brain into believing it is experiencing something very real. That virtually real situation comes from fast processors and graphics chips that display two images through wide-angle optics, producing stereo vision and immersion. The images are typically rendered in 360-degrees, which means wherever the head moves, there is something to look at. Computers serve up the visuals so fast brains find it hard to distinguish VR from the real world. Add-in sound, and VR delivers compelling environments that facilitate learning in a natural and intuitive way. The malleability of software allows developers to create rare and dangerous situations, circumstances that would prove too expensive to stage.
Learning by doing is the most effective means of knowledge transfer. But for pilots operating multimillion-dollar aircraft, flight time is often at a premium. So air forces around the world turn to simulation. But for most organizations, building full simulators isn’t going to be cost effective. However, equipment, products and even our bodies are available in 3-D models; it will be increasingly easy to create VR experiences.
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