#819: Neuroscience & VR: STRIVR is Leading the VR Training Revolution from Elite NFL Athletes to Walmart Employees

There’s been a virtual reality training revolution that’s been slowly brewing over the last five years, and STRIVR has been at the forefront of innovation working with everyone from elite athletes in the NFL to thousands of Walmart employees. STRIVR has been implementing a number of proof of concepts and initial implementations, and it sounds like the results are positive enough for many of their top clients to continue to invest and expand their virtual reality trainings. STRIVR has been keeping a pretty tight lip around the details of the clients and extent of VR training, but they able to announce in September 2018 that Wal-Mart was purchasing 17,000 Oculus Go VR HMDs for training purposes after an initial report in 2017 announcing that Walmart would be bringing VR training to all 200 Walmart Academy training centers.

I had a chance to have an in-depth discussion with STRIVR’s Chief Science Officer Michael Casale at the Games for Change Conference in New York City on June 19, 2019. I’ve had two previous conversations with Casale in episodes #429 and #595, as well as Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab founder Jeremy Bailenson in episode #616. Casale told me about how the training for elite quaterbacks and Walmart employees has an amazing amount of similarities from a learning perspective.

Here’s a quick overview of all of the ground I was able to cover with Casale: I was able to get a lot more high-level details for the positive response to VR training, what they’re finding after training many thousands of people within VR, some of the underlying open questions of neuroscience and the nature of learning, how VR is allowing people to upskill and have more agency over the career path, implementing best practices for spaced repetition, how eye tracking may be able to help determine expertise, the frontiers of biophysical data and what EEG might be able to contribute to learning in VR, ensuring that there’s enough variation in learning, and how coaching is evolving with real-time feedback from specific contexts and experiences in VR, what the mobile and tetherless Oculus Quest will mean for the future of training, and finally how VR is a behavioral scientist’s dream come true in being able to simulate many aspects of the deeper context of an experience.

There’s still a lot of questions of how to assess and quantify expertise, and to determine when someone is truly ready to move from virtual training into actual deployment. But there technological roadmap for VR is that there’s going to be a lot more biometric data that’s going to be made available, and that eye tracking looks like it will have some of the most profound impacts, especially once they’re able to compare the eye gaze patterns of experts with novices. There are a lot of indications that are pointing towards that the immersive industry is headed towards a larger revolution with virtual reality training, especially with the early successes that STRIVR is reporting. There’s a lot of technological innovation that’s still left to be done and also integrated with the best practices in learning, but it looks like STRIVR is benefiting from it’s early-mover status in the industry, and they’re currently focusing on scaling out their trainings to larger and larger deployments. We’ll be hearing more information about Oculus’ enterprise offerings at Oculus Connect 6, and get more data points as to how VR is being adopted within the enterprise.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality