David Cleverdon Discusses Virtual Reality Safety Training and How to Integrate the Technology Into Traditional Training Methods at the American Society of Safety Professionals


For those of you who prefer reading an article to watching a YouTube video, we have included a full transcript of the event below.

David Cleverdon:

So, how many of you have ever tried what’s called virtual reality – put a set of goggles on? We’ve got Randy, in the back – we’ve got a lot of people. You know, four years ago, there’d be nobody – absolutely nobody. It was brand new technology. But fundamentally, to realize the benefit of this new technology, you absolutely have to experience it. You’ve got to put a set of goggles on, and hopefully, it’s not just a roller coaster ride. Once you kind of look at the benefit for training and education – and that really comes down to actually trying it – and we have a kiosk back – if any of you, after this presentation, want to give it a go – we’re all for it.

So, I’m David Cleverdon from 360 Immersive. Jennifer and I are the principals of the company. And we actually started – the company started in 2001. And we were always in the kind of forward-thinking from production, marketing, and educational training standpoint. And then something happened towards the very first part of 2015 is that we saw the Gear VR came out. I mean it was the first google that you could apply to an actual training or educational standpoint.

In fact, our very first project was Boise State Football. Boise State – we put a project together – and the initial project was recruiting, but as part of that project, we looked a training standpoint for quarterbacks where they would actually literally put the goggle on and they would practice their plays. They would – I mean, to them, it was real.

So, we’re very passionate about our tagline – we build apps that save lives. And the reason being is that you can look at technology and it can sometimes make a fundamental difference in the ability to train better and educate better, and ultimately, that will drive fatalities and injuries to a low point and ultimately to zero.

So, innovation in safety training – love the picture of Benjamin Franklin because his saying – tell me and I forget. We’ve all done it. You’ve heard something and then immediately walked out of the room and you don’t remember what happened. Teach me and I remember, but where VR comes in is, involve me and I learn. And this was 200 years ago or thereabouts, and yet, it’s very fundamental to what we’re talking about today.

So, even though VR has been around for about four years in what we call VR for the masses or available to the common organization, it has been around since the ‘60s in the military and aviation and medical. But normal organizations couldn’t apply it because it was just too expensive. But what actually is it? And really, what it is, it’s a technology that allows you to experience anything, anywhere, at any time. It allows you to – we can create something that you could not create in real life for the benefit of the training experience.

And so much so that you start to believe – once you get in that in that environment – you start to believe that you’re actually in that environment. When you think of video, I mean how many of us have all watched training videos? And it’s up here on the screen and its great content, but it’s a passive experience. We’re just watching. You read a manual and it’s a passive experience. We’re just engaging with it and we’re just literally watching or reading.

But in VR, it actually tricks the human brain to believe that it is in that experience and there’s a tremendous benefit in that. That benefit is that sensory experience is so real that we have a tendency to forget that we are in a virtual experience and we tend to engage as if it was real. So, we think of virtual reality – and it sounds like science fiction. Doesn’t it sound like science fiction to you guys still? It still does to me and we’ve been doing this for a long time.

And yet, alternative realities we engage with all the time. And I can go back many, many generations to when the elders – I don’t want to go back to the cavemen but almost there – the elders were sitting around the campfire. And they’re passing knowledge down to their youth – to the next generations down the line. And they’re telling such a compelling story that it takes the youth into that world and so that they can learn and they can keep the tribe – if you want to use those terms – going.

How about books? Who has actually purchased a book and got into it so much that you literally finished it? [audience laughs] Okay, there we go! Because it’s compelling – it takes you into another world. It takes you into another reality. The same way with a movie – whether it’s an action movie or whether it’s a love story – sometimes you can get so wrapped up into the plot and the script of the movie that you’re surprised when it’s over because you’ve just been there with them. You’ve been in an alternative place and virtual reality does that very same thing.

So, you’ll hear us talking about VR, but truly, it’s all about kind of an umbrella technology that’s immersive. It can be VR which is virtual technology. It can be AR, Mixed R – there’s somebody coining the term XR. The fundamental aspect of it is that it puts you in the middle of an experience versus just watching it. So, you can interact with it. You feel like you’re there.

So, virtual reality replaces that experience. You talk about that football player – he felt like he was actually on the football team even though he was actually in the gym. And so, he felt like he was throwing the ball and running those plays because his whole reality had been replaced. Augmented reality literally takes the physical world and it overlays virtual elements on top of it for a benefit. And mixed-reality is kind of a combination of both.

So, today we’re going to talk mostly about virtual reality because it’s the technology that literally has come to the forefront. Augmented reality is short on its – I mean it’s coming soon – and mixed reality is somewhere down the line. But there are two general types of virtual reality and number one is 360 video. It’s live video just like we could set up a camera in here and we could capture every one of you all in one shot – everything that you’re doing, everything that you’re saying – we could capture it.

But more so, if you look at processes and procedures – if you look at real people – the value of using 360 video is that they’re real. They’re live people. Everything at City of Meridian that you want to capture – it is absolutely City of Meridian folks and everything you want to capture. The downside of it is that it’s not as interactive. I can’t decide in the virtual experience to move over to this side of the room. And I want to look at a little different view – what’s your name?

David Cleverdon:       Tim, that’s right – Tim. In video, I have to go where the camera takes me. Now, in a lot of cases, that’s just fine, but in some cases, it’s not. And that’s where computer-generated imagery comes in. So, if you think of training as somewhat of gamification as a term, it looks a little bit like a video game. But the real benefit is that we can have people interact in a way that they can’t interact in a live 360 experience. We can have them do things that would be hazardous. We can have them do things that would be hazardous not only to the environment but hazardous to themselves for a learning experience.

And the other thing is that it may be that, in some cases, that shooting live video is not appropriate because it’s too expensive. You have to set the stage. If we wanted to take a tanker truck out for a hazmat exercise, normally you just take a tanker truck out and you park it and everybody pretends that it’s leaking and all of that. But what if we could actually take it out and we could flip it over and it could be leaking, and actually, more than that, it could be laying in a drainage ditch and they’ve knocked over a power pole and there’s live power in the water?

And all of these experiences – somebody in the training exercise – can make decisions and assessments based on those set of circumstances. And maybe they don’t see the power pole and maybe they go over here and bad things happen. So, all of those are a learning exercise and that’s the true value of CGI is it’s much more interactive because I can move around the experience and we can create experiences that we couldn’t set up either from a cost or hazard situation in real life.

Hardware – it’s always a question of how do you use this technology? You have the best library of content in the world, but how do you display it? How do you use it? How do you implement it? Well, desktop is one way – desktop, laptop – anybody use Google Earth? Street View? All you can pan and scan on a regular desktop. Is it immersive? Not so much, but it definitely has some value. You can also take an iPad or a tablet or a phone and you can engage it like this.

So, I’m going to look around that experience and I’m going to interact with it. I’m going to do something within that. I’m going to make decisions. I’m going to take tests. I’m going to follow a decision tree. And I’m like this and this is somewhat of an immersive environment because it interacts with me. But’s not truly immersive. You have to put on a set of goggles like these to feel that immersive experience. And once you do, it transports you into the exercise.

So, in the past, there’s been these goggles that you literally take your phone, you download an app, put the phone in, and off you go. And it’s actually a good, solid methodology to get the content out to the learners in the classroom or wherever you might want to go. But about four months ago, they came out with what is called all-in-one devices. There’s no phone. Literally, you just plug it in, upload your content, keep it charged up, and it’s a tool in the classroom.

So, the final type is tethered HMD. So, the riff back there is tethered to a laptop. You can do more things with it if you want. You can reach out. You can grab using controllers. You can feel haptics into it, but it does require a PC or a Mac or a laptop or something to drive the device. So, if you’re going to deploy 30 in a classroom, it’s an expensive proposition. If you want to deploy 30 of these, they’re a couple hundred bucks a piece.

You all are safety professionals. Your job is making sure that people are safe. You care about people. In fact, if you look at some numbers, in 2016 we had almost 5,200 fatalities in the workplace – sorry, I’ll get out of your way here – 2.9 million non-fatal injuries with almost 900 rated as severe. So, obviously, things are still happening to people in the workplace. If you look at the amount of money spent, in 2017 there was 90.6 billion dollars’ worth spent on training.

And it’s not saying that that money is wasted. It’s not saying – but it is essentially saying that, if we’re spending all this money on training and we’re still having fatalities and injuries in the workplace, is there a need for a better tool? So, in 2015, 4,300 O&D and HR managers were surveyed – and I just pulled a few numbers out of the survey that I felt was interesting – and they said that 70 percent felt that better training was a key factor to employee retention.

And I’m not talking about training retention. I’m talking about keeping the employees – keeping the valuable assets that you have within your companies. Losing an employee in the first year can cost the company up to three times their salary amount based on recruiting, onboarding, training, and then they’re gone. So, you’ve got to go through the process again.

Ineffective training – 13.5 million per year per 1,000 employees – and so, these are just numbers, but they’re actually not numbers because they’re real human beings. There are real fatalities and real injuries in the workplace. So, let’s look at potentially a new tool because you have not had a new training tool since PowerPoint – which is what – 20-some years old? And then how many use YouTube links now in their PowerPoint presentation? You feel like, technologically, that’s a forward-facing type of deal or not?

David Cleverdon:       Okay. So, imagine a four-hour training course in PowerPoint. Now, based on the enthusiasm of the presenter and how good the content is, that can either be a good experience or what we would call Death by PowerPoint. But imagine, in that four-hour course curriculum, that you take and weave in two, three, four, five VR scenarios that are only a couple minutes long? They go into an exercise just like you would do a live exercise out in the field and you learn something from it. You experience it. You do an assessment. These can be video-based or CGI or computer-based.

And so, you’re going along and you’re presenting, and then all of a sudden, it’s time to put everybody in the headsets. So, you go through that two or three or four or five-minute exercise and then you come out of it and you talk about it. And then you lecture for another 30 or 40 minutes and dump somebody in again. And they learn from it, but then, the biggest thing is they’re engaged. And when you have engagement, you also have higher retention rates. People learn.

So, the other thing based on it is digital technology. So that digital technology – once you have that library of content – it’s easy to replicate. It’s easy to distribute. In fact, you can even do it on a 24/7 basis. If you go back to that quarterback – in his hotel room an hour before the big game – he could be practicing his plays. You wouldn’t send a quarterback out on the field without proper practice. And why shouldn’t that same process be applied to training? And the reason is they’re able to practice. They’re able to practice a process before they go out and do it in a live experience.

And then that app is always available if they want to come back six months later or a year later – I mean somebody up in Council – they probably don’t do a lot of car pitting and it gives them the opportunity to re-engage it. So, how many of you folks have realized that there’s a lot of different people in the workforce? People that might be past retirement age – what’s considered a traditional retirement age – and maybe pushing 70 and maybe people just coming into the workforce that are 16, 18, 22 years old.

Guess what? They all learn differently. I could give somebody my age a three-ring binder and it might be two or three inches thick and I’ll grind through it. I probably won’t like it, but I’ll probably get through it. You give that same three-ring binder to a 20-year-old and the results may not be as good. Likewise, that 20-year-old wants to learn in a different method. They grew up with iPads and phones in their hands. They understand what an app is – where some of you all might not.     So, the bottom line is because VR is an experience-based process, it spans the generations because you’re living an experience. It’s not, well, I’ve got to have video tutorials or I’ve got to have a book. It literally spans the generations and there’s a benefit in that.  So, how many of you have ever been in a training exercise and you’re kind of were afraid to raise your hand – and you don’t have to raise your hand now – but because you felt like you were going to ask a dumb question? Or you felt like –

David Cleverdon:       Of course, Suzie. Or you felt like you were going to take a path, but you might decide not to take that path because it might wrong and you were just afraid to make a mistake? And so, what VR does is allows you to make mistakes in a safe environment because you can go through the exercise, and frankly, nobody is watching. You can make those mistakes. You can learn from it. You can go through it again. And so – and I didn’t really want you to raise your hand, Suzie.

Has anybody realized that we’re in not only a diverse workforce from age but also culture? Different ethnicities – it’s a tough word for me – and because VR is a visual representation that you don’t necessarily have to worry about localization or translation as much. If there are graphical call-outs, absolutely, but they’re easy to translate. So, it becomes a medium that, because you’re living it, it tends to fit well in cross-cultural training.

So, ultimately, more engaged learners – we have greater safety and, frankly, more satisfied employees. Has anybody ever seen this? It’s called a cone of experience and it has changed a lot over the years. It initially was brought out in the ‘60s, but fundamentally, it deals with the fact that different media – people relate to it differently – and the ability to learn and retain. So, when you’re just reading something, you might retain that three-inch three-ring binder – you may only retain 10 percent.

If you listen to somebody giving you that same content, you’re going to be somewhat higher. And then, you start adding in – for instance, in a PowerPoint, you just add some pretty pictures. You add in some YouTube links into your PowerPoint presentation and your retention goes up. But when it gets interesting is that you start looking at people that are actually doing things. And then your retention goes way up and it’s logical. We all know it, but if you are actually in there doing a hands-on exercise or simulation, you remember it.

But unfortunately, that’s fairly expensive. So, what if you could use technology to simulate that circumstance and you could do it over and over again? And suddenly, you’re looking at a 60, 70, or 80 percent retention rate versus perhaps 20 or 30. Let me just check on my clock here and see if I’m – I’m not doing too bad.

Okay, how do you actually – you build this library of content – how do you actually implement it? Well, there’s a number of ways of using VR technology. We feel that mobile is the most cost-effective way to do it. Once you build an app with a library of content, that it’s, number one, effective – but also in an inexpensive tool to put it into the classroom.

And then you can say, well, how about building the content? Well, there are CGI-based modules that are more general that are extremely inexpensive. There are 360 video programs that allow you to capture your own content. And ultimately, everything goes into an app that sits either on a phone or in a google. And because it’s – once you get that library – you can share it across multiple locations.

So, how many have multiple locations that they have to deal with? A few hands go up. A lot of hands go up. Okay. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a library of content that you literally just implemented in the classroom and it’s a master library and the off you go? So, in each one of these technologies, you can include testing – you can include alternative endings and decision trees. You can make people make mistakes. You can have people make mistakes and learn from them.

It’s compatible in a web GO or what’s called now a web VR. You can integrate it into a masterly platform. We love this saying: It’s kind of like the three legs of a stool – affordable, scalable, and more importantly, customizable. So, who’s using it now? Well, we grabbed a couple of examples. The NFL has been using VR for about three and a half years. And again, we go back to football training and quarterbacks and players and it’s implemented almost throughout the whole industry.

Walmart – who would think of Walmart and VR? Guess what? They did a pilot project with Black Friday. They were trying to teach their employees how to deal with the mad chaotic rush of Black Friday. And we’ve all been there – or at least – maybe we haven’t – but I’ve been there. And guess what? They actually purchased the VR production company that produced the content for them because they found it such a value and they implemented it into a wider range of their training.    KFC – you want to learn to make chicken using virtual reality? They’ve done it. So, they cut the process time to teach an individual to make that secret recipe – secret sauce – whatever they do that they don’t tell you about – in half using VR.  Volkswagen – Volkswagen will train over 10,000 people using VR this year. They’ve implemented to that extent within their organization. And it’s Volkswagen, Audi – they own about three or four different car companies.  UPS – who would think that UPS – the guy bringing the box into your office or your home – who would think that they need VR training? But guess what? They’re truck drivers. And what’s more important than driving safely? Then transportation – where’s that transportation guy? There he is over there. What’s more important than driving safely to a UPS driver?

So, workplace injuries and fatalities need to be reduced to zero. I think everybody’s on board with that. Trainers need – and this is our opinion – but trainers need a new tool. They need a new tool to engage a diverse workforce. VR mimics real-life scenarios and it allows for the practice and continual practice of complex procedures, tactics, processes – depending on what your industry is.

And more so, it’s safe. I can flip that tanker truck over and I don’t have either the hazardous situation or the cost associated. So, VR is not a replacement for any of the traditional training that you do today. It’s an enhancement. It’s kind of like, gee, I can put a YouTube video in my PowerPoint and, whiz-bang, I’ve got it. This is an enhancement that can make a better outcome for your training.

So, when you have that engaged learning experience, it actually increases the retention and that’s really what everybody wants. You spend a lot of time and effort learning and training and teaching and helping people understand how to stay safe. And why not have them retain more of that information? Flexible and cost-effective – and organizations big and small are starting to do pilot projects. It is not everybody is running to the bandwagon to embrace it, but they’re starting to do pilot projects to understand how to implement the technology into their training.

End of Presentation