Problem first: VR isn’t the solution its the platform for solutions

29 Jul, 2016

“Work out the problem to be solved, then use the technology to tackle it.”

So said Touch Surgery founder Jean Nehme at the recent EdTechX 2016 VR panel, hosted by our MD, Tom Symonds.

And he’s right: VR is revolutionising the workplace training industry, but businesses will only benefit when  the training is being used to solve a clear problem.

The danger with any new tech is that it’s seen as a gimmick, but it’s not a gimmick  if there is a clear purpose. That’s why you need to highlight the problem first.


VR reduces risk. Botched surgery poses no threat to VR patients, soldiers don’t risk injury in a VR theatre of war and VR machines can’t be damaged by inexperienced trainees.

Real-life combat training presents a clear training challenge. It’s dangerous because, even without live ammunition, it causes extensive physical and mental stress – and it has to be repeated many, many times, which multiplies the risks of shock, fatigue, and mental trauma.

VR provides a clear solution. All three branches of the armed forces use VR battlespace simulators to train recruits and specialists, building confidence and skills in a safe environment so that they’re second nature by the time the troops are deployed.

It’s also used during demobilisation, The problem here is that the armed forces have to ‘untrain’ personnel before they can leave service. They need help adjusting to civilian life, and overcoming the stress of combat deployment. Once again, VR solves this problem, as scenarios can be run and re-run in safety, helping veterans unlearn their conditioned responses and adopt a different set of reactions and behaviours.

Military grade: All three branches of the armed forces use VR battlespace simulators to train recruits 

In law enforcement, there’s a problem of conflict de-escalation – how much force is excessive force? Officers can work through scenarios and attempt different approaches, building the experience that’s necessary to gauge situations and adopt the correct approach.

In maintenance, it’s easy for inexperienced trainees to botch repairs and ruin equipment – learning how to identify and handle components in VR means those awkward early days can be worked through with no harm to expensive hardware.

These are just a few examples from disparate industries, but the common theme here is problem solving. Some scenarios, however, are, for now at least, out of the reach of VR.


VR doesn’t work well for situations where the major problems are social.

Virtual teacher training is unlikely to work in places of education like schools, colleges, and universities, because we have yet to devise an artificial intelligence that can model the complex motivations, behaviours and interactions of thirty students.

VR can provide a controlled environment in which to research and learn, but the quality of knowledge available to trainees is more important. If your problem is a lack of experienced and confident mentors, your solution involves hiring and firing, not introducing VR.


Hopefully these examples have sparked off some ideas about how VR can solve a problem on your training agenda. Here are four questions to ask yourself while you’re refining those ideas:

  1. What’s the specific skill you want your team to learn?
  2. What’s the problem you’re having with training that skill?
  3. Does VR solve it in a better way, or a way that isn’t possible, than other training methods?
  4. Can the skill be learned in a VR training environment?

If you have an answer for all these questions, you’re ready to implement VR in the right way. You’ve assessed your workplace training requirements, you’ve identified a problem, you know how VR can solve it, and you’re ready to talk specifics.

Find out more about our VR training


Photo credits:

Featured image via pixabay

Army parachute via Wikimedia commons

Both in public doman

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