VR’s Superpowers Part 2: Presence

VR for training offers a number of benefits, from cost-effective scaling to realtime assessment tools, but its most singular and powerful assets are its three unique superpowers: immersion, presence, and empathy. These superpowers can apply to businesses of all types, with applications for onboarding, professional development, company-wide brand refreshes, and beyond. In this three-part blog post, we’ll discuss how each of the three superpowers offers solutions to old training problems and unlocks completely new possibilities for modern day organizations.

In part one, we discussed VR’s sense of immersion and how it grabs user attention and contributes to higher rates of engagement and retention. In part two, we’ll discuss the second superpower: presence.


Unlike any other medium, VR has the power to put users in the middle of any scenario, unbound by safety concerns or constraints from regular business flow. Businesses of all kinds could benefit from the ability to let trainees “live” through a moment in virtual reality, spanning process, people, product, and place. A training grocery clerk could, for example, safely gain practice using in-store machinery, learn how to navigate a challenging interaction with an upset customer, get a 360° look of the store’s history and values guided by the CEO, and memorize where different goods are located within the store, all without pulling a paid training facilitator away from their regular duties.

More than any other training modality, VR empowers organizations to make users feel present in rich learning environments, rather than walking them through hollow hypothetical exercises. Rather than reading about managerial strategies to diffuse conflicts amongst teams, why not practice doing so in a photorealistic, interactive environment? Or, to refer to an existing business application, why simply talk about safe driving practices with UPS drivers when they can (and, as of 2017, do) practice navigating road hazards in virtual reality?

Thanks to VR’s sense of presence, training managers can bridge the gap not only between theoretical training but theoretical assessment. E-learning and classroom-style learning rely on simple attendance tracking and multiple choice tests, which measure recall ability in a structured testing environment but don’t necessarily reflect on-the-job performance. In fact, immersive training experiences demonstrate that employees know about 80% less than what their paper assignments might let on. VR offers brand new analytics, from gaze heatmaps to branching storylines and beyond, allowing training managers to understand what users are looking at in the headset, how they chose to navigate the experience, how long each step of the training took them, and more. This assessment is cost-effective and scalable while providing genuine, relevant insight to on-the-job performance.

The presence felt in an immersive VR experience makes the simulated experience seem real — real enough to benefit from experiential learning, have déjà vu, and even form muscle memories that carry over into the real world. This is especially valuable to businesses who need to train employees about a particular location before arrival, such as researchers in a remote location, or organizations that need to train employees a potentially dangerous process without any risk of harm while learning the ropes, such as lineworkers and electricians performing maintenance on power lines.

Regardless of industry, organizations of all kinds are poised to take advantage of VR’s superpower of presence. From in-demand soft skills, such as managing a team or delivering constructive feedback, to hard skills, like operating heavy machinery or performing first aid. Whether users are onboarding, brushing up on old skills, or receiving HR training, VR experiences can provide users a bank of individual memories which are more lived-in, rich, and actionable than lessons taught from a book or traditional online module.

VR training programs can reduce onboarding times by as much as 50%, thanks in part to VR’s unparalleled sense of presence. Pixvana partnered with the ultra-luxury cruise line, Seabourn, to produce a custom training experience leveraging VR’s sense of presence. Seabourn aimed to allow new employees to explore and memorize an interactive version of their ship’s dining room because actual room is perpetually in use. By granting access to the dining room in virtual reality, new team members are able to build repeated exposure without disturbing customers in the real-world dining room. Seabourn’s switch to VR training has delivered a vast improvement over the old method of studying a paper map and, as a result, Seabourn’s waitstaff is able to provide an even more polished level of service to their customers.

VR training programs can leverage the medium’s unique benefits anytime, anywhere around the globe. Via headsets, cell phones, or web browsers, trainees have flexible, versatile access to VR training experiences. This accessibility enables companies to build immersive, impactful, and relevant training experiences into the curriculum even before the first day of work. Seabourn employees, for example, can orient themselves within the VR dining room ahead of time, meaning that navigating the dining room is a familiar task when waitstaff board the ship for their first day on the job. 

TableVision the Seabourn Training Experience Being Administered

VR business training programs such as Seabourn’s can reduce onboarding times by as much as 50% and result in a 76% increase in learning effectiveness over traditional training methods, thanks in part to VR’s unparalleled sense of presence. Stay tuned for the next installment of this three-part series, which will introduce and explore how immersion contributes to VR’s place as a top training tool. In the meantime, get in touch with one of our XR experts to discuss how VR’s sense of presence — and immersion and empathy — could supercharge your organization’s training.

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