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Virtual Training that Saves Real Lives

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Shannon Cantor
ByPor Shannon Cantor

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In 1999, Morpheus challenged Neo to question his conception of experience: “What is ‘real’? How do you define ‘real’? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, taste and see; then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Now, exactly 20 years after The Matrix blew open box-office records, high-risk businesses in the energy sector are listening to Morpheus’s wise words. Made possible by new technology and using virtual training, they are putting into practice the utility of “simple electrical signals,” enacting training methods that change what is ‘real’. 

VR (virtual reality) technology has long been a buzzing topic, ever since sci-fi planted a digital universe in the cultural imagination. But now, like many of our once-fantastical inventions, it has become a tangible reality. VR uses an immersive device that allows its users to simulate real experiences. When applied to business training, for example, new hires have the ability to “live” a potential danger in a perfectly safe environment, practicing proper reactions and even mitigation techniques. 

For oil and gas companies that depend upon quality employee training, this characteristic has proven to be invaluable. Not only does it save time and money– where businesses no longer have to invest in on-site training’s costs and risks– but its efficiency is also proving to save lives. In a study done at the University of Nottingham, researchers found that “the increased cognitive engagement of learning in the virtual environment creates more established and comprehensive mental models which can improve recall” (University, 2019). We all know that the human being panics in dangerous situations, less likely to react properly on merely book-learned knowledge. And yet, virtual training has improved these reactions, where employees “live” the compromising situation– but without the danger. If an emergency later occurs on the job, workers experience it for a second time, able to respond quickly and effectively because of their practice in handling both the action and their emotions (Haselgrove, 2019). 

Who would have thought that saving real lives would come through a virtual experience? But this is just one of the many applications of a digital world turning physical. This is also why sharp technology companies pride themselves on being this generation’s Morpheus– redefining daily reality by connecting virtual networks.