Walmart Buys 17,000 Oculus Go Headsets For Worker Training

by Ian Hamilton • September 20th, 2018

Walmart and VR startup STRIVR are expanding a partnership and distributing Oculus Go headsets for worker training at every store.

The roll out should see 17,000 Oculus Go headsets distributed to Walmart stores for employee training — four going to every Supercenter and two heading to each Neighborhood Market or Discount Store before the year is out. The standalone VR headsets can be used with more than “45 activity-based modules” for training Walmart associates in “new technology, soft skills like empathy and customer service, and compliance.”

Walmart kicked off its program with STRIVR last year after the startup showed early adoption with athletic training through scenes captured from the real world and shown in a VR headset. A quarterback could get extra play repetitions without leaving the house and a skier could train for the Olympics without needing to be on the mountain.

With Walmart, the company pilot tested this summer training associates how to load the new “Pickup Tower” which allows customers to pick up online orders without interacting with another human being.

“VR is allowing associates to be trained before the towers are even installed – no teachers required,” a Walmart blog post reads. VR is said to boost “confidence and retention while improving test scores 10 to 15 percent,” according to Walmart’s Andy Trainor, who directs training.

The latest effort could introduce 1 million Walmart store workers to standalone virtual reality powered by Facebook. The 17,000 headsets, at roughly $200 each, is an investment of less than $3.5 million in hardware plus STRIVR’s training program. That isn’t exactly a large expense for an operation of Walmart’s scale, so if this project is successful we might see other companies following suit.

And if employees actually enjoy the training via VR headset? Facebook just showed workers at the largest employer and retailer in the United States why one might want to buy an Oculus VR headset. Come 2019 when a different class of standalone arrives capable of playing must-have games like Beat Saber and Superhot, Walmart might have a lot of employees ready to speak to customers from personal experience.

That’s certainly one way to get one billion people into VR I hadn’t considered before.

Clarification: It costs around $300 for the business edition of Oculus Go, but we would expect Walmart got a discount on 17,000 headsets.

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