Walmart is using virtual reality to train its employees
Walmart employees across the US will be preparing for the job with virtual reality headsets by the end of the year.
The world's largest retailer announced ahead of its annual shareholders meeting on Friday that it has partnered with STRIVR, a virtual reality startup based in Menlo Park that has worked with companies like PepsiCo and professional sports leagues like the NFL.
Walmart said that it has been employing STRIVR's technology in 31 of its training academies over the past few months, and on account of its success will be rolling out the program to all 200 of the academies expected to be in use by the end of 2017.
Walmart opened its first training academy last year. Each is connected to a Walmart Supercenter and provides all employees in the general area with a classroom setting to learn for two weeks before starting an entry-level job or new role.
STRIVR's technology allows employees to experience real-world scenarios through the use of an Oculus headset, so that employees can prepare for situations like dealing with holiday rush crowds or cleaning up a mess in an aisle.
The headsets will also be linked to a video screen that shows the classroom what the trainee is seeing, so that the instructor and students can weigh in on the performance.
Former Stanford assistant football coach Derek Belch cofounded STRIVR at Stanford with professor Jeremy Bailenson in 2015. Bailenson was one of the chief authors of an oft-cited research paper from 2006 which concluded VR training yielded more knowledge retention than pure video training for completing physical tasks.
Over the past 11 years, VR technology has improved dramatically and allowed for more widespread use in job training situations. As K.R. Sanjiv of tech consulting company Wipro noted, oil companies have been using VR for oil rig job training since 2014, and hospitals have been using VR to train physicians in complex procedures for the past couple years.
In her highly influential annual presentation on the state of tech this week, Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker said she expects VR job training to be increasingly important, and cited STRIVR's success with Stanford football.
Walmart said that it expects 140,000 of its employees to go through Walmart Academy training this year, and that VR will be "an integral part of that experience."
Here's a quick glimpse of the STRIVR technology (though not in a classroom setting, or with full instructions).
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