Walmart, in its partnership with STRIVR, announced today that it will expand its preliminary virtual reality (VR) training initiatives to nearly 5,000 stores across the United States. More than one million associates will gain access to the same training that the retail giant’s managers experienced at their Walmart Academies via the untethered, portable Oculus Go head-mounted displays (HMDs).

Source: Walmart

“The great thing about VR is its ability to make learning experiential,” said Andy Trainor, Walmart’s senior director of Walmart U.S. Academies. “When you watch a module through the headset, your brain feels like you actually experienced a situation. We’ve also seen that VR training boosts confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 percent–even those associates who simply watched others experience the training saw the same retention boosts.”

Walmart and STRIVR’s partnership began in 2017, when the first VR courses, focused on advanced retail skills, were launched for supervisors, managers, and assistant managers at Walmart Academies, which are location-specific training centers.

“Walmart employees are actually enjoying using VR for training, the data is showing higher knowledge retention, and training is happening faster,” said Danny Belch, Vice President of Marketing at STRIVR. “It’s not surprising that these benefits have driven Walmart to want to launch VR training nationwide. They are trailblazing, and I know that many companies will follow.”

The aim of the VR courses is to place store associates in various retail scenarios that would be difficult to recreate in the real world, such as chaotic Black Fridays and deli fires.

Source: Walmart

“Walmart was one of the first companies to benefit from VR’s ability to enrich employee education, and its applications will only grow from here,” said Andy Mathis, Oculus’ head of business partnerships. “What makes it so compelling is that costly, difficult, or otherwise-impossible scenarios and simulations become not only possible, but immediately within reach.”

The initial training initiatives were powered by PC-tethered Oculus Rifts, but now, because of the mobility and affordability of the untethered Oculus Go, Walmart and STRIVR can take the effort nationwide.

“The Oculus Go has been a game changing device as we think about delivering effective training at scale,” said Belch. “The combination of lower price point, untethered, and form factor enable companies like Walmart to leverage VR technology without cumbersome setups or high costs. This is already being well received by the enterprise market where there is a need to train tens or hundreds of thousands of employees. The Go is the beginning of a new world in which VR becomes more accessible in both price point and usability, and will make VR much more palatable and more attractive to those who might have originally thought it to be a complicated gaming device.”