Training the Workforce With VR? The Big Interview With Vishal Shah, GM of XR, Lenovo

Extended reality (XR), which incorporates augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), has yet to see the widespread use that enthusiasts have anticipated for several years. However, the availability of Apple’s Vision Pro and Meta’s Quest 3 this year is expected to drive the adoption of 3D immersive and interactive augmented reality among enterprise users.

Techopedia spoke with Vishal Shah, General Manager of XR (AR/VR) & Metaverse at Lenovo, about the opportunities and challenges of introducing AR and VR in employee training.

About Vishal Shah

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Vishal Shah is the General Manager of XR (AR/VR) & Metaverse at Lenovo.

He leads Lenovo’s XR and Metaverse practices and is responsible for building and managing strong cross-functional teams for holistic product management, operations, and sales.

Vishal has a 20-plus-year track record of successfully conceptualizing and launching consumer electronics products, software solutions, and cloud services in the mobile industry.

We talk today about whether VR will enter the workplace and the ways it can be used for staff training.

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Key Takeaways

  • Companies can provide immersive and realistic experiences to better prepare employees for tasks relevant to their jobs.
  • Employees can practice core and soft skills without fearing costly mistakes or facing real-world consequences.
  • Data shows that employees exhibit more confidence and complete virtual training faster than with e-learning or traditional classroom training.
  • Implementing XR requires upfront investment but can lower training costs over the long term.
  • Companies could adopt technologies like XR to compensate for the loss of retiring skilled workers and enhance the efficiency of distributed workforces.
  • AR/VR technology caters to the needs of the digital native Gen Z workforce, but employers should anticipate a steeper learning curve for older generations.

Training and VR in the Workplace

Q: Vishal, in what ways can organizations use AR and VR in training?

A: By leveraging the power of augmented reality and virtual reality, companies can revolutionize employee training by offering more immersive and realistic experiences to simulate various scenarios and tasks relevant to their job. This provides them with hands-on experience and the opportunity to develop practical skills in a safe virtual environment that closely mimics their workplace.

And the data backs it up — using XR training, businesses are experiencing up to four times faster training in soft skills compared to classroom training and 275% more confidence in applying skills learned in XR [via PwC]. In addition, XR training can reduce the risk of injury at the workplace by up to 43%.

Q: AR and VR technologies have been available for a while but have yet to see widespread adoption. What are the drivers for adopting the technology in 2024?

A: Historically, significant barriers to the widespread adoption of AR/VR technology have included the high cost of investment and limited hardware options that were compatible with existing enterprise software. In addition, XR software solutions have been difficult to find and adopt.

Lenovo offers both enterprise-grade AR (ThinkReality A3) and VR (ThinkReality VRX) headsets. No single organization will build the metaverse — but Lenovo is dedicated to collaborating with industry leaders to advance the growth and adoption of this emerging platform.

Bringing VR into the Real World

Q: How can organizations create more immersive training experiences for employees?

A: AR/VR technologies provide a highly immersive experience by creating virtual environments or overlaying digital information onto the real world. By integrating these technologies into training programs, organizations can create more immersive and beneficial training experiences.

For example, in the quick service restaurant (QSR) industry, it can be very daunting to be thrown right into a busy restaurant shift.

Organizations can use AR and VR technology to simulate the restaurant environment and allow employees to practice in a controlled, consequence-free environment before interacting with real customers.

This creates a critical business solution with faster and less expensive training time in an industry beset with high turnover rates.

In addition, using AR and VR technology, medical professionals can simulate procedures like using equipment like defibrillators or practicing surgery to hone their skills before treating patients.

Q: In what ways can AR/VR training contribute to increasing employees’ confidence in their roles and reducing the costs associated with employee training?

In a controlled AR/VR environment, employees can practice core skills without the fear of making mistakes or facing real-world consequences. This not only boosts their confidence but also allows organizations to save money. Mistakes made during the training phase can be costly in terms of time and resources. With AR/VR, employees can freely experiment and learn from their failures, all within a safe and realistic practice scenario.

For soft skills, trainees can practice scenarios like having difficult conversations with customers represented by increasingly lifelike AI-enabled avatars.

Is VR Training Effective?

Q: How can organizations evaluate the impact on employee development and organizational efficiency?

A: A study by PwC highlights the effectiveness of AR/VR training as it found that “V-learn,” which utilizes virtual reality to train employees on various skills, outperformed traditional classroom and e-learning modalities in teaching soft skills concepts.

V-learners exhibited up to 275% more confidence in applying what they learned, representing a 40% improvement over classroom training and a 35% improvement over e-learning. Furthermore, V-learners were up to four times more focused than e-learners, completing their training on average four times faster than classroom training and 1.5 times faster than e-learning.

With this in mind, the opportunities for organizations to streamline training and onboarding are endless.

Q: Looking ahead, what long-term benefits do you anticipate for companies that embrace AR and VR technologies?

A: On average, businesses in the US spend upward of $1,000 per person annually on employee training. Implementing XR for employee onboarding and training requires upfront investment, but long term, it can lower employee training costs and increase efficiency for reskilling.

The convergence of the digital and physical worlds through commercial XR technologies is occurring at an inflection point in the global workforce. Companies critically need to adopt technologies that make their employees smarter and more efficient to help compensate for the loss of retiring skilled and knowledgeable workers and enhance the efficiency of distributed workforces.

A Korn Ferry report found that by 2030, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them. Left unchecked, in 2030, that talent shortage could result in about $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues.

Challenges of VR and The Future

Q: What challenges do you anticipate in the implementation?

A: While AR/VR technology caters to the needs of the Gen Z workforce, as they are digital natives who are already well-versed in the Internet and accustomed to living in a highly connected world, older generations such as Boomers may have more difficulty adapting.

Employers should anticipate that there may be a larger learning curve and that more time and resources may be needed for different subsets of employees to get up to speed.

Q: Are there any additional developments or advancements in AR/VR that Lenovo anticipates for the future?

A: The development and growth of generative AI are just beginning to have a profound impact on the XR industry. Applications and solutions that used to take months or over a year to develop can now be done in hours, days, or weeks with no-code and low-code AI-enabled tools.

This is going to be a tremendous boon to the industry as hardware continues to improve, as well as the breadth and depth of lower-cost software. This is a very exciting time.

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Nicole Willing

Nicole Willing has two decades of experience in writing and editing content on technology and finance. She has developed expertise in covering commodity, equity, and cryptocurrency markets, as well as the latest trends across the technology sector, from semiconductors to electric vehicles. Her background in reporting on developments in telecom networking equipment and services and industrial metals production gives her a unique perspective on the convergence of Internet-of-Things technologies and manufacturing.