April 24, 2024

Makeshift reality

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Photo by Samuel Seller on unsplash

Virtual Reality (VR), some might argue, has yet to live up to the hype. Often vaunted as the ‘next big thing’ in training and education, critics suggest that VR has proven to be expensive, difficult to deploy and may present health issues. However, the concept behind VR – simulation – is a sound and successfully used method of training in many fields of work.

In an interview recently I was asked why I thought that simulation was important for learning and development. My reply was that it prepares us for what will eventually come and for future eventualities. It gets us ready to respond and interact with environments, problems and challenges we have yet to encounter. Simulation orients us and enables us to navigate future scenarios. I can give three examples:

In the UK, Royal Navy recruits new to the topography of nuclear submarines can experience a virtual reality version on their laptops. They can navigate around as if they were in a FPS (First Person Shooter) game, and explore every inch of the internal environment of the submarine. When they eventually join the crew of the submarine, they are better informed and more familiar with the general layout of the entire boat.

National Health Service (NHS) training back in the 1980s was conducted using video simulation. I remember capturing several hours of footage of a large scale emergency simulation which was used for future training purposes. Several hundred emergency staff, including ambulance and paramedic crews, the fire and rescue service and the police force were invited to take part during their off duty time, along with dozens of members of the Casualty Union (a group of volunteers who pretend to be injured, complete with fake fractures and blood).

Flight simulators are regularly used by pilots in commercial and military contexts so their skills, decision making and reaction times can be continually honed. Flight simulators can be programmed to present just about any challenge (emergencies are a particular speciality) to the pilots and their performances are analysed and feedback given at the end of each simulation.

This kind of ‘makeshift reality’ will continue to grow in importance and as the price of VR systems reduces and we begin to understand more about the effects on learning, so we can expect see new and exciting emergent applications for these tools in learning and development.

Creative Commons License
Makeshift reality by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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