Benjamin Mazza of PIXO VR: How VR is Changing on the Job Training

Mar 23rd 2018

These days, with virtual training becoming ubiquitous, new hires don't have to go through the tedious and ineffective training. VR and AR training tools not only provide better training. They can be quite affordable to use. For the trainee, the idea of failing is much less terrifying and consequential as it's all done within a virtual sandbox, but the training itself is more effective due to its realistic nature. One such company has been taking the idea of VR training and running with it.

Benjamin Mazza is the Creative Director for  PIXO VR, a company that specializes in creating virtual reality safety training software for some of the world's most dangerous jobs that include those working in the utility, energy and industrial fields. He's here to answer some questions on the future of VR training and how his company is looking to evolve how we use VR outside of gaming.

Benjamin, having worked in the VR/AR space, where do you see this technology greatly improving our day to day life?

The VR and AR space brings with it a completely new way for us to engage with our world. Computation, design, education, entertainment and communications can all be enhanced and improved with this technology. Whether it’s preparing to work in a new vocation using a VR training simulation or exploring a national park with an augmented tour guide, the applications are seemingly endless.

PIXO VR seems to be aimed at professional industries that may or may not be directly involved with VR/AR. Which industries do you see readily looking for this type of technology and what is most commonly requested? 

PIXO VR has developed a platform that delivers licensable VR training modules, focused on preparing trainees to work in industries that require them to work on simple, complex or dangerous tasks. We’ve found traction within the utility, energy, first responder, manufacturing and construction industries. The value that these industries find in the technology is that practicing and training is accomplished with a significant reduction in costs and risks. The ability to track and report on individual performances also creates an immense value. Be it learning about areas of specific improvement or analyzing trends on a global scale.

Taking out fires without the danger

For those new to VR/AR, what would you say is the most needed skill as a developer? As an artist? 

For artists

The most important skill to learn is optimization for real-time 3D engines like Unity and UE4. I know that’s not the most glamorous trait, but I find it to be the most important when building and delivering responsive products to the market. Frame rates matter! If you can create assets and characters that are both attractive and performant, you’ll be in high demand.

For developers

Never stop learning and improving. This industry is young and there are many rules that have yet to be discovered on how best to solve problems. You’ll want a solid foundation in either C# or C++ with plenty of exposure to a real-time engine like Unity or UE4. From a theory point of view, you’ll want a strong understanding of Object Oriented Programming (OOP). Check out the Game Programming Bootcamp to learn more about C# in Unity

I'm a big believer that virtual training in any field can greatly improve performance and efficiency. Have there been significant returns on this type of training based on what clients have mentioned?  

We feel the same! We’ve seen benefits in investment, time and cost, as well as trainees’ skills and process retention, after employing virtual reality into their training over traditional techniques. Thanks to the ability for these trainees to regularly practice and successfully complete a task in VR, they are building experience and confidence that they can rely on when doing that task in real life. For our customers, this reduces employee ramp-up time, and reduces recruit turnover.

Navigate a virtual warehouse

Given unlimited funds and expertise, what would you like to build that you believe would be a massive game changer in the VR/AR space? 

Wow, that’s a tough one! I think I’d like to create a VR powered museum experience that allows people to view and explore history, art and culture. Where they can view and explore historical artifacts up close, and then transport themselves to that period to learn and experience how it was significant.

VR seems to have plenty of players "in the game" so to speak, but AR seems to be a less competitive field. With the current AR platforms/software out there, which do you believe will dominate? 

With AR it’s difficult to determine what the “winning” form factor will be. I’d vote the more portable, lighter solution will win out over a helmet or visor solution. AR is meant to be a wearable and passive technology so; comfort and access will ultimately drive consumer adoption. I would not expect hardware and capabilities to be a huge deciding factor.

Out of all the training simulations you've been a part of, which would you say is the most satisfying in terms of what it was able to accomplish? Be it providing realistic scenarios, the most engaging, or the most rewarding in terms of expanding your skill set in how these platforms can be used. 

I’m personally proud of the simulation we’ve most recently built focused on OSHA General Industry Safety Standards and Compliance. It’s a robust program focused on a topic from many different perspectives. Mastering all the provided activities and challenges delivers a comprehensive understanding of how safe work practices and environments reduce risks and ultimately save lives. Personally speaking, that type of impact eclipses any feeling I had working on a million-seller video game.

Virtual Reality has the ability to completely transform our lives and I fully believe that it will be a part of our day to day routines in the future. Everything from learning how to drive a vehicle for a license test, to military simulations, or even in the medical field. Do you work in a field that utilizes VR? Let us know down below in the comments.

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