Verizon Uses VR To Prepare Employees For Hostage & Robbery Situations

Verizon is the latest company to use VR to guide employees through dangerous scenarios.

Imagine that you are an employee at a retail store getting ready for the start of the day. Then, just as you unlock the front doors, a group of strangers come barging in with guns pointed directly at you, yelling out fast instructions as a way to intimidate you and cause confusion; all with the intent of robbing the store.

How do you think you’d react in this particular situation?

Traditional on-the-job training covers this scenario, usually with a manager going over each step while you and other employees sit in a classroom with a handout that includes pictures and text to help you better visualize the situation.

With 1,600 stores throughout the United States filled with the hottest smartphone tech, Verizon knows their commercial locations are viable targets for those looking for a quick buck. One wrong move could end with someone getting seriously hurt or even killed, whether it be a store employee or customer. To give their employees the knowledge needed for better decision during potentially violent altercations, Verizon has turned to VR training specialists STRIVR Labs to help train their team members via a virtual reality experience in which the user finds themselves being robbed at gunpoint.

According to the Immersive Realities report published by the Masie Center, there are huge advantages in VR training. Employees are able to be placed into incredibly dangerous situations without the risk of physical consequences. “They can do things that aren’t possible in a real-world environment, all while enabling a physical and emotional response with risk and empathy playing a large role in the overall experience.”

During Verizon’s VR training simulation, a pair of gunman enter the store just as you begin to open. One employee is taken hostage, while you are facing the other gunman as he shouts instructions. You need to make decisions that are smart, that won’t put you or anyone else into danger; all without hesitation. As the VR experience plays out, you are given a selection of options for you to choose as your next step, but it’s done in a way that you are never taken out of the experience.

You are always on the store room floor with the gunmen, and your brain doesn’t see it as a game – so your emotions and your decisions are real – you’re in the moment.

In an interview with CBS News, Derek Belch, founder of STRIVR said, “Virtual reality takes your brain elsewhere. I’m standing here in a classroom and my brain thinks I’m on a factory floor, an airplane tarmac, or a Verizon store.”

Chief Security Officer for Verizon, Michael Mason saw the value in VR training and how employees can face extremely dangerous situations without real-world consequences.

STRIVR’s Verizon training program has three different scenarios.

  • Armed Robbery at store opening.
  • Armed Robbery at closing.
  • Smash and Grab during store hours.

Each VR scenario is designed to be emotional, traumatic, raw, and hopefully an awaking of what more you can do if you find yourself in this situation.

For Mason, the goal isn’t about protecting the store inventory, it’s about protecting Verizon employees and making sure they have the necessary training to be safe. “It’s a reality we can’t ignore,” said Mason.

Previously, STRIVR revolutionized how athletes trained by exposing them to various VR training simulations; working with football quarterbacks, NHL hockey players, and even the U.S. Olympic Ski team. From there, the company saw the potential of taking VR training and using it for employees. The company was recently in the news after the announced that they would be training every Walmart employee in customer interaction and store operation through the Oculus Go standalone headset; a program that put VR training into the hands of over 1 million Walmart employees across nearly 5,000 Walmart store locations.

Image Credit: STRIVR

About the Scout

Bobby Carlton

Hello, my name is Bobby Carlton. When I'm not exploring the world of immersive technology, I'm writing rock songs about lost love. I'd also like to mention that I can do 25 push-ups in a row.

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