AGL tests virtual reality for employee training

Future VR applications could include aerial footage shot by drones, VR-based conferencing

AGL is trialling the Samsung Gear VR for employee orientations. Credit: Samsung

AGL is trialling the Samsung Gear VR for employee orientations. Credit: Samsung

A trial of Samsung Gear VR at AGL Energy Limited (AGL) will explore how virtual reality can assist in training new employees, among other potential opportunities.

AGL has been working with Samsung for the trial and is using the Gear VR, a headset released commercially this week that uses the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone as a screen.

“Virtual reality is infinitely more compelling than other forms of media available today,” AGL digital product innovation manager, Sam King, told Computerworld Australia.

“As such we are leveraging it to create engaging experiences that get our messages across whether it be in training or general communication. There are already real world commercial applications for VR within our business as it stands …

“We anticipate VR will have numerous uses within AGL with activities such as office learning and development, on site safety training and communication. This could even lead to flow-on benefits for travel costs. The upside is considerable.”

AGL plans to complete its VR trial later before the end of March, King said.

“We anticipate this will validate the concept so that we can investigate more opportunities for VR in the workplace.”

VR training

Initially, virtual reality will be used to induct AGL new employees.

“For now we are planning to use VR in our AGL Welcome Day for new employees as a training tool,” said King.

“This will give people a taste of life at AGL and the types of ‘in situ’ experiences they are likely to encounter.”

Training is an area where AGL believes virtual reality can provide significant benefits, he said.

“Training is traditionally a mixture of self-guided online courses, slide based presentations and perhaps video,” said King.

“VR is considerably more immersive than these other mediums as the VR experience really bring messages and environments to life.”

To prototype the concept, AGL recently filmed a team stand-up meeting in virtual reality, he said.

“To shoot the actual VR content we have made use of a 3D printed camera mount which houses 12 GoPro cameras. The footage was subsequently edited to create a seamless 360-degree perspective …

Read more: Samsung Gear VR goes on sale in Australia

“The result has been great as watching it really makes you feel as if you are ‘in’ the meeting and a new starter can much more quickly get a feel for what it is like to work at AGL thereby making induction easier.”

Virtual tours

Virtual reality could also be used to highlight the $3 billion worth of investment AGL has made over the last decade in the energy sector, he said.

This could include footage of hydro operations and windfarms – video that could even be shot by drones, he said.

“Shooting drone footage of our plants is being investigated as we speak,” he said.

“Airborne virtual reality footage will give people a true sense of the scope of our investment and the scale of operations such as the view from atop a wind turbine.”

Virtual meetings

King said AGL could explore real-time, VR-based meetings in the future when this becomes more viable.

“Perhaps there will also be opportunities resulting from Samsung’s Project Beyond 360 degree camera initiative down the track, although we'll have to wait until we get our hands on it before we can understand its true potential,” he said.

“For example, the capability to stream VR in real time is interesting. Theoretically the team from Australia could participate in a meeting with partners in other countries whilst feeling this notion of actually being there – this is known as 'presence'.”

A growing trend

AGL is not the only big Australian company exploring uses of virtual reality in a business context.

Qantas announced in late January that it was testing virtual reality for in-flight entertainment experiences.

The trial entertainment service uses Samsung Gear VR headsets to show customers virtual 3D destinations, new Qantas products and in-flight movies.

Qantas claims to be the first airline to offer in-flight VR.

REA Group is working with VR production house and Samsung partner Virtual Reality Ventures on potential VR applications for Realestate.com.au.

And Tourism Australia is looking at the Oculus Rift to create virtual Australia experiences that might inspire people to travel to the real Australia.

Virtual reality is seen as a major opportunity for marketers to build an interactive 3D brand experience that truly engages the consumer’s senses.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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