The movies were wrong about holograms replacing teachers in the future, but they weren’t that far off. Walmart is introducing virtual reality training at 200 of its Walmart Academy training centers. Next year, 140,000 new Walmart employees will learn their job using a VR headset.
The company’s senior director of central operations, Brock McKeel, came up with the idea after watching the University of Arkansas football team practice using VR technology.
The team leverages VR to test players’ skills and reflexes in real-life scenarios. The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers are taking the same approach, as is the U.S. Ski Team. After discussing it with the Arkansas coach, McKeel decided Walmart could also benefit from the technology.
Walmart Academy training centers will be equipped with an Oculus Rift headset and gaming PC pre-programmed with various training modules. Startup STRIVR Labs, which creates the training videos used by the Cowboys and 49ers as well as Fortune 100 companies, will develop the content.
STRIVR says its platform helps people learn faster and more effectively, improving real-world reaction time, pattern recognition and decision making. Plus, it collects data and insights to assess the user’s performance and preparedness for the situation when it happens in real life.
So far, that seems to be the case at Walmart. Associates who have undergone VR training in the 30 locations where it’s rolled out have retained the information better than others who trained the old-fashioned way, according to Walmart spokeswoman Beth Harris.
Harris said that trainees were able to virtually experience everyday situations, such as stocking the produce section, and extraordinary situation, such as a Black Friday rush.
“VR allows associates to experience a life-like store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to re-create disruptive incidents or disturb the customers’ shopping experience,” Harris said.