Walmart has introduced virtual reality (VR) headsets into its training program, allowing new employees to practice customer service before encountering customers on the salesfloors, the company reports.
Walmart says the technology is intended to allow new store associates “to experience a lifelike store environment to experiment, learn and handle difficult situations without the need to recreate disruptive incidents or disturb the customers’ shopping experience.”
According to the company, an employee developed the idea after watching University of Arkansas athletes use VR headsets to prepare for games.
The company says it initially tested the training program in 30 of its training centers, called Walmart Academies, and it will be launching the program in all 200 of its centers by the end of this year. Walmart employees train in the Academies in a classroom environment for weeks before starting their position in the store, according to Business Insider.
“When they said we were going to be using VR for training, I thought it was brilliant,” says Sean Gough, Academy facilitator at the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Walmart store. “From cashier to lawn and garden, to electronics or [fresh grocery]—there are just so many areas where I think this training would be so helpful.”
Business Insider reports that Walmart has worked with VR startup company STRIVR to develop the training program. Other trainees can see on a TV what the headset wearer is viewing, so the instructor and other students can continue training, the article says.
To watch a video of students interacting with the headsets, click here.