The Networking Company, a leadership development consultancy based in Johannesburg, announced today the launch of its new virtual reality (VR), multi-
The Networking Company, a leadership development consultancy based in Johannesburg, announced today the launch of its new virtual reality (VR), multi-player education and training tool.
The training tool is known as Team VR, and described by the company as ‘a first of its kind on the African continent’.
“The future of work is set to change as high-performing teams become more important in agile and digital environments,” says Helen Nicholson, CEO at The Networking Company.
“Using VR game training has important advantages since it lays bare the flaws in communication and teamwork in a group of people.”
The Team VR game is designed for four players at a time. The players find themselves stranded on an alien planet and are told that their spaceship has crashed; there is a meteor storm coming and several of their colleagues are critically ill in cryotubes. The players have limited time to escape.
“Often, in the first round, players spend so much time asking each other what is going on that they don’t pay attention to the voice over, the text information, and visual clues that they do not manage to escape in time,” says Nicholson.
“When we take them out of the game and into a debriefing session they acknowledge that they did not communicate as well as they thought. The facilitator identifies what worked and what went wrong and what in their individual and collective behaviour might change to improve their chances of escape.”
Built on Apollo VR, the Team VR games to date have been developed in Unity, which is one of the predominant VR development environments. The products that are built to be used in one location are stand-alone Unity executives.
The cloud variants of the products are run on a Photon server hosted on a cloud platform – Amazon Web Services (AWS) in South Africa and the West, and Alibaba Cloud in the East.
The Team VR games run on slightly customised off the shelf high-end hardware. The control hardware for the VR hubs is also a range of off the shelf low-end professional and high-end consumer networking and AV hardware.
“Hardware-wise we are using HTC Vive or 5 Pro,” notes Nicholson. “The game uses high-end consumer VR gaming headsets, base stations and handsets. We are not currently using other optic feedback devices like jackets, racing chairs, and so forth.”
There is a general concern in the world that people experience motion sickness in VR environments, and some people indeed find it disorientating. Nicholson explains that Team VR games are not like games that children may play.
“There is no running around and there is no fast panning. The environments are big and complex but largely fairly static,” she says. “There is no requirement to run around or track fast-moving objects. We monitor players and if anyone looks uneasy we reassure them. We haven’t had any cases of motion sickness with the Team VR game to date.”
“Training and development through Team VR is different when compared to traditional learning tools,” comments Nicholson, “it creates a deeper understanding of others through utilising team dynamics.”
Another feature of Team VR is that it enables teams to enter many levels of difficulty, generating more immersive and repeated learning activities. Nicholson concludes: “Moreover, virtual reality closes the conscious and transient gap, so that cause and effect can be tightly linked, making it ideal for learning and development.”