What Are the Different Types of Virtual Reality Training?

Benjamin Arie

Virtual reality training uses computer simulations to teach important skills to workers. Simulations allow users to practice scenarios and procedures that are expensive or dangerous in real life. Three of the most common types of virtual reality training are flight simulations, medical instruction, and military preparation.

A mouse may be used to control flight simulators on home computers.
A mouse may be used to control flight simulators on home computers.

Flight simulations are one of the most established uses for virtual reality technology. This application uses software that is programmed with the physical characteristics of an aircraft. Flight simulation programs calculate how an aircraft would perform if it were maneuvered in real life, and duplicate these actions in response to the pilot’s controls.

Force feedback may help accurately stimulate difficult procedures, such as inserting a catheter.
Force feedback may help accurately stimulate difficult procedures, such as inserting a catheter.

Some flight simulators are more realistic than others. Basic simulation software can be run on a home computer with simple controls such as a mouse and keyboard. More advanced programs use actual aircraft hardware, including instrument displays and flight yokes. Virtual reality training simulators for professional pilots sometimes use wrap-around screens and moving platforms to create the full illusion of flight.

The training software used by pilots allows trainees to deal with situations that are difficult to practice in the air. Trainees can experience engine failures or other problems using virtual reality, and learn how to properly respond to different in-flight emergencies. Flight simulators are more safe and less expensive than similar training in actual aircraft.

Virtual reality training can also be used for medical instruction. Traditionally, medical students must passively observe senior physicians or practice procedures on anatomical specimens such as cadavers or animals. Virtual reality allows healthcare trainees to take a more active role in learning important skills. Medical software programs can simulate complex operations without putting an actual patient at risk, and help students visualize the structure of different organs.

Many of these types of virtual medical simulations use technology known as “force feedback” to create a realistic training experience. These devices use motors to vary the resistance felt while a trainee holds a surgical instrument or other medical tool. Force feedback can help accurately simulate difficult procedures such as making an incision or inserting a catheter.

The use of virtual reality training is increasingly common in the military. Many operations and actions can be accurately simulated using computer software and large-scale display screens. Infantry personnel, for instance, are able to practice their teamwork and fighting skills in virtual combat simulations. These applications use sensors placed on rifles and other weapons to determine if a soldier has successfully “hit” the virtual enemy. Virtual battle simulations can also be used to train other military members, including tank crews and ship commanders.

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