Virtual Reality (VR) allows a clashing of what is real and what is perceived to be real, to be combined. With this being possible, a world of opportunities and uses has now opened up to us. This is all thanks to a man by the name of Ivan Sutherland who developed the first advanced virtual reality system almost 25 years ago (Crandell). According to Patrice Weiss and Adam Jessel in their report titled Virtual Reality Applications to Work, virtual reality uses advanced technology to make an environment that seems like it’s the real world. Virtual reality can therefore, be useful in the workplace as a learning and training tool.
There have been numerous occasions when the public has been exposed to virtual reality such as ride and flight simulators, like those at Universal Studios, CAD systems, video games, and in movies, like Total Recall. Furthermore, there are several functions that employers may use virtual reality for, such as: visualization and depiction of the job and its duties, distance interaction and instruction with other employees, hands-on training, orientation and tours off the work site, portrayal of how employees would act in given situations
All of this entitles the user to a 3-D world, which seems quite realistic. It is as if you are really in this simulated world. This is accomplished through several techniques. Often the user wears a helmet with a visual display unit (like goggles) placed closely to the eyes along with there being speakers embedded into it. With sensors attached to various parts of the body, every movement is mimicked and projected onto the screen. Other receptors that help in the virtual realism are hand-held controllers (kind of like joysticks), gloves and body suits (Weiss and Jessel). With each changing movement of the body being detected, it looks and feels as if you are actually interacting with what is going on in the virtual environment. You can interact with avatars and other objects that are in the virtual world. Now that we know how VR functions, we can move on to how it can help in the workplace.
Moreover, the visualization and depiction of the workplace would allow employees to be able to visualize a product design before it has to be actually manufactured. This in turn would save money on wasted materials and expose any problems that may arise with the product.
Distance interaction and instruction with other employees would allow the employer to present information in locations other than where the employees are located. This is done by a networked VR system allowing each participant to see the images of all the other participants represented as an avatar sitting around a table. Each of the participant’s spoken words, body movements and gestures and able to be seen by the others involved (Weiss). This allows teamwork to be less difficult. As the user becomes more comfortable with the virtual stimulation of the job, hopefully the skills learned can and will be carried on into the real world situations that the employee will come upon.
Likewise, hands-on training is also an important aspect of virtual reality in the workplace. It can be used to train employees on the operations of new machinery and how to react in given situations. The levels at which the difficulty is set can be modified as the user gets more aquatinted with the virtual situations (Crandall). Often training at a new job can be stressful, both physically and mentally. With the use of this technology, the strain and anxiety can be greatly reduced. Workers can learn new jobs and tasks at a more responsive rate.
Furthermore, orientation and touring of a new workplace can be done without the help of an actual person using up his/her time to do it. A simulated tour can be done with Virtual Reality and the user would be able to learn where everything in the facility is located such as the break room, restrooms, exits, and other important areas. This will at least familiarize the employee with the building until a more official tour could be given at a later time.
Also, by showing how an employee would act in a given situation, you can tell the kind of person they are. Ethics and honesty, as well as common sense could be put to the test to see how employees react to different circumstances.
By supplementing traditional training with VR simulation, the cognitive and motor demands of a task can be gradually increased and the trainee’s interest and confidence can be enhanced by means of competitive or entertainment elements.
This helps not only the employee, but also the employer as well to decide if the job is appropriate for the person. Therefore, it helps to screen the prospective employees before they actually work on the job making it more economical for the company.
As with anything there are drawbacks with the use of virtual reality. These include: causing nausea, causing fatigue and headaches, it’s complicated to figure out at first, not accommodating all body sizes, requiring long period of adaptation, eyestrain, disorientation, flashbacks, and disruption in hand-eye coordination.
Researchers are still in the process of researching how to alleviate these problems. Some foreseeable solutions are the development of speedier computer units and altering or getting rid of the helmets. This proves that VR can not and is not to be used by everyone.
In conclusion, Virtual Reality is a great tool for aiding with many concepts in the workplace. It can be used as a learning tool as well as a test-taking device. Virtual Reality is, in spite of everything it has already brought us, in the process of constantly being improved. Some of the drawbacks listed above are being worked on to be eliminated or at least minimized. Virtual Reality is becoming more prominent all the time in businesses everywhere as a instrument to help with the improvement and training of workers. This trend will continue into the future as more and more technology is developed.
Crandall, N. Fredric and Marc Wallace. Work and Rewards in the Virtual Workplace. Amacom, New York, 1998.
Vince, John. Essential Virtual Reality Fast. Springer, New York, 1998.
Weiss, Patrice and Adam Jessel. “Virtual Reality Applications to Work,” 1998. www.utorontoca/artc/rd/library/weiss/htn
 A graphical icon that represents a real person in a virtual reality system.
 Weiss, Patrice and Adam Jessel. “Virtual Reality Applications to Work,” 1998. www.utorontoca/artc/rd/library/weiss/htn.