360-degree Video: Safety Training in the Round

Written By

George Denoon

August 01, 2016

In safety-critical industries, ensuring that workers get home safely to their families at the end of every working day is of paramount importance.  

In sectors where competency can mean the difference between life and death, the challenge becomes finding ways to be much more efficient and streamlined without compromising on the employees’ safety.

The key challenge for employers and HR teams—in industries such as oil and gas, construction, aviation, manufacturing, petrochemicals, and many others—is how to keep employees engaged and motivated to learn and complete CPD (continuing professional development) without becoming distracted by increasing workloads or other engagements, which all too often take priority over training and competency.

One of the ways to combat these hurdles is to harness new technology to create digital learning experiences that truly enhance the quality of engagement and knowledge retention for the individual learner.

The latest technological trend in video is 360-degree video, which started gaining traction throughout 2015 as both Facebook and YouTube launched viewing solutions that allow everyday users to experience full-circle content.

An immersive technology, 360-degree video changes the way learners interact with course content. It captures a full panoramic view by taking simultaneous images from multiple perspectives (Figure 1). This offers the learner greater exposure to the environment and full control of panning and rotating the viewpoint to provide a more engaging experience. 

Figure 1: A still image from a 360-degree video illustrates the panoramic view the technology provides

Creating a 360-degree video

There are generally four key stages in creating a 360-degree video: planning, shooting, post-production, and delivery.

Planning

Compared to traditional video, planning such an immersive experience as a 360-degree video project requires different approaches. Adapting everything from a brief, a script, and a storyboard is essential for success in this medium.

Deciding upon the best location for filming in order to take viewers on a seamless 360-degree video journey is crucial. From a digital learning point of view, this means choosing a place that is familiar to learners but that doesn’t allow them to feel too comfortable, encourages them to explore further, and ultimately enhances the experience.

Shooting and technology

You can capture the content using a multiple-camera system or an omnidirectional camera.

A multiple-camera system such as the GoPro Odyssey offers a professional setup, capturing 4K (ultra-high-definition) resolutions through its 16 individual cameras. (The Odyssey rig is not currently being sold to the general public.)

As the name suggests, omnidirectional cameras look in all directions. They are all-in-one cameras, small and easy to use, with a 360-degree field of view. The Ricoh Theta is one of the latest models to capture an entire 360-degree space with a single shot. More and more options like this are now available to consumers.

Generally, the only area that you cannot view is the angle toward the camera support. However, in post-production, you can easily edit it out with “patching” by covering the area up with a still shot.

The technologies are simple enough and sufficiently available that you don’t necessarily require a professional videographer or photographer, and you can do the filming in-house.

Post-production

You’ll need software to bring the separate footage clips seamlessly together in post-production, often called “stitching,” although some of the new consumer models do this automatically. You can carry out additional work at this stage to enhance the visuals—for example, by improving color grading and visual overlays before publishing.

Delivery

You view the resulting content via virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard. Alternatively, you can view it via supporting applications and online providers like Facebook and YouTube, which have become ambassadors for this rapidly evolving medium.

As with all new technologies, companies have a responsibility to prove a practical application before offering this as a stand-alone service. Ultimately, we need to understand whether 360-degree video will improve the learning experience, but it certainly does appear to have the capacity for driving real change.

Development

We are all familiar with the traditional video format of directed single viewpoint, storyline, and narrative. This linear approach has allowed us to deliver video content and learning objectives in a set sequence and at a pre-determined pace to the viewer; the director is in control of what the viewer sees.

The introduction of 360-degree video means that video production workflows and deliverables need a complete rethink. The power no longer lies with the director to guide the audience; the power is now in the hands of the audience as they determine where to look and what storylines to engage with. This obviously creates new challenges for directors shooting scenes that require accurate timings and that need guidance for the viewer to follow.

Applications

So, how can you use this technology within safety-critical industries to get the best results? At my company, Atlas Knowledge Group, we are exploring various potential applications that may suit the requirements.  

Hazard identification is one such task. Much like taking the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) Hazard Perception Test in the United Kingdom, the learner will need to spot risks within a certain amount of time. By having the full 360-degree range of vision, the learner will experience a true risk-perception pressure. Real-time video also highlights the importance of identifying these risks before it is too late. This approach could either involve learners’ moving within a video scenario or remaining in a fixed location while the video plays around them.

This fixed-position filming would lend itself well to incident investigation reconstructions, as it would allow learners to act as observers or, alternatively, to play key roles, enabling them to take in the full scene and understand the actions of all involved. You would incorporate tools to ensure that the learners are guided to success, such as visual prompts, narration, or an actor to draw the learners’ focus to the necessary action. Directional sound would also be a key element. Following the video, a series of questions would encourage learners to establish how much they learned.

Affordability and practicality

It is encouraging to see both consumer and professional 360-degree video solutions other than Oculus Rift populating the market. As with most technologies, the cost of the equipment will reduce with time as new products continue to emerge. Additional things to consider are the scripting of multiple storylines for multiple actors, the advanced audio recording setup required, and the extended filming time needed to ensure that the simultaneous storylines are in sync.

With 360-degree video, there is literally nowhere to hide during filming. Therefore, staged storylines become more complex to record convincingly, as they require multiple stories to be acted out at the same time. As with the majority of applications so far, the filming and review of real events as they unfold would be the most practical use of the technology. A 360-degree video of real people reacting to real-world or simulated events, followed by the ability for learners to review or have an assessment of their experience, would provide a vivid, immersive learning experience.

The production costs are currently high compared to traditional video, but these are likely to come down. You should consider other factors as well, such as ways to minimize tendencies for viewers to feel motion sickness—fortunately, there are special techniques that you can employ to ensure a viewing experience free of this. It’s clear that 360-degree video will become a viable and highly beneficial tool for companies wanting to review multiple behaviors and activities in a set environment and time frame.

So how can it help?

According to Hermann Ebbinghaus’s “forgetting curve,” a concept he developed in the 1880s, the typical individual learner would forget 90 percent of a training course within just six days after completing it. Given the nature of safety-critical industries, workers’ forgetting 90 percent of their training can have catastrophic consequences, not just for the individuals but potentially all those they work with, too.

It is imperative, therefore, that digital learning solutions in these sectors evolve to become increasingly engaging, with memorable and resonating content.

Using emerging technologies such as 360-degree video, developers can create truly immersive and engaging learning experiences that can drastically increase knowledge retention. This increased quality of training leads to enhanced learner enjoyment, and it puts digital learning and continuing professional development back on the list of priorities, keeping the people in safety-critical sectors safe.

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