Welcome to Walmart: Training Staff with VR

If you’ve never had to work in a retail job, count yourself lucky. The hours are long, the customers irate and the work itself pretty boring. For many people retail work is their first entry into the job market and more often than not they are woefully unprepared for the times when things go wrong.

Customer conflict resolution, dealing with huge sales and any of the other numerous problems that can ruin a store employee’s day (clean up in aisle 3: sick child).

So it’s not too much of a shock to learn that one of the largest retail business in the world is bringing in VR technology to train their employees to handle things like Black Friday sales. Along with pilots, surgeons and military personnel, Walmart workers will now get to experience their worst case nightmare scenarios in the safety of VR.

Be All You Can Be

There are 200 “Walmart Academy) centers across the USA and by the end of 2017 they are set to be equipped with VR training solutions.

Just as with medicine or military simulations, the point of VR training is to expose trainees to situations that are either too expensive or too difficult to replicate in real life.

The technology behind this training comes from a company by the name of STRIVR. They specialize in recreating work scenarios in VR so that trainees can experience them first hand. When they happen in real life it’s presumably easier to just act on your training rather than deal with the shock of a new experience you’ve only read about before.

More Than Meets the Eye

The STRIVR platform is more than just a way to put people in the shoes of their future selves, staring down a stampede of overweight people looking for a cheap TV. It also provides a way for trainees to be evaluated and data that they can use to make the training better in future.

STRIVR uses machine vision technology to create maps that indicate where attention is being focused or in what order people look at things.

At the moment, given how expensive high-end VR is, one person trains in VR while the rest watch, taking turns. While this may not be ideal in terms of giving everyone first-hand experience, it does mean there’s a lot of vicarious learning going on too. Each person learns from the mistakes and successes of those that went through the training before them.

Now all we need is VR training for people to get in and out of a Wal-Mart alive on Black Friday.

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