The Five Biggest Mistakes People Make When Creating VR for Training

The number of companies creating VR applications for training and education has grown exponentially in recent years, and on balance that’s a great thing. As the technology becomes more available and more normalized, we are starting to see amazing results, including a 75% decrease in training costs and a 31% decrease in employee turnover, from projects we have worked on.

Unfortunately, as VR becomes more accessible, the number of people creating bad VR applications has risen as well. Think of VR like Twitter — a platform many people can use but few can use well. Anyone can post a tweet, but the people who get great engagement and return on investment for themselves and their clients are masters of their craft. Likewise, there are plenty of DIY VR platforms, and anyone can hop on Amazon and buy a 360 camera — but that doesn’t mean they know how to create content that will work.

We’ve worked for several Fortune 100 companies and major consulting firms, and won a number of awards, so we know of what we speak. Below, find the five most common mistakes people make when creating VR experiences.

  1. Quick cuts

MTV and Miami Vice popularized the quick cut, and it’s now a staple of most TV and films. There’s a reason we notice the long shots in the Nordic murder shows we all know and love — because it’s so different from the usual scene jumping. Alas, what works well in music videos and popular entertainment is absolute death in VR. Jumping from place to place feels disorienting at best and nauseating at worst. People need to stay engaged in the piece, and jerking them around has the opposite effect.

2. Using film scripts

Being able to write for 2D film is a fantastic skill, but it doesn’t entirely transfer to a 360 environment. While writing compelling dialogue and creating meaningful characters are needed for both, writing a movie script and then expecting it to suddenly translate into VR doesn’t work well. Instead, work with partners who are experienced at writing for 360 environments.

3. The Downsides of Being a Wallflower

Standing silently outside the action is a terrible feeling, as anyone who has ever attended a junior high school can attest. But plenty of VR experiences put the user in the role of a passive observer; and an undefined role at that. Take a training piece on workplace discrimination produced by another company — the user stands idly by as a young woman tries to get her manager to take her seriously, and fails. The user simply watches them until the manager tries to commiserate — but the role the user is playing is never clearly defined. Are we supposed to sympathize with the woman, or with her manager? What is our role here? The piece falls flat in the end because the user is left with too many questions.

4. The Too Many Bodies Problem

Another training piece that missed the mark dealt with building empathy for difficult customers. The user started as themselves, but then they jumped into the body of a confused older customer and a stressed out customer who is young and broke. Setting aside how grossly inappropriate it is to “teach” minimum wage workers about being broke (trust me, they know), the piece is too disconcerting to make any sense. “Everyone has problems” is a pretty basic concept — a good piece would explain how to solve them.

5. Cheap isn’t Cheerful

Inexpensive tools can be great for prototyping and testing concepts, but no employee wants to train with something that looks, for lack of a better word, cartoonish. Cheap, poorly rendered objects just don’t get the message across, because workers will be distracted by how underbaked everything looks. Instead of cutting corners, investing in a top-quality experience that will last for years and have a great ROI is the way to go.

What other mistakes have you seen? Any VR experiences that make you wish you had those minutes of your life back? Let us know!

Founder and CEO at Friends With Holograms. Adjunct at NYU. Bylines Billboard, Ad Week. Speaker. Ultrarunner in my spare time.