(Photo courtesy of Alchemy Learning)
With a new focus on designing virtual reality for employee training, Alchemy Learning is a member of the latest class of the Techstars accelerator in Boulder, Colo.
The company started in edtech, and got its first experience designing a VR environment for the classroom during a pilot with the International Neuroscience Network Foundation. That gave the team experience using Unity game engine to design for virtual reality, and seeing how the tool could be used to enhance learning. But ultimately, they identified a wider potential market of VR experiences to add experiential learning to corporate training or professional development.
“We’re very proud of some of the platforms and experiences we created, but this is an opportunity where we can put some of that prior knowledge and experience, but the opportunity is significantly larger,” cofounder Henry Blue said by phone from Boulder, where he and cofounders Win Smith and Jonathan Wilson will be located for the next three months along with 10 other startups. The other part of the team will remain at the company’s offices in South Baltimore. Blue said the three cofounders plan to return to the city after the accelerator program is complete.
Blue identified sales, leadership development and customer service as a few employee training areas that could especially benefit from virtual reality training. Along with teaching skills, the immersive experiences also offer the chance to learn by doing, Blue said.
“On our platform learners can learn how to give a great presentation in a conference room setting while actually delivering it and receiving feedback on their performance in a VR simulation,” he added via email.
In the future, the fact that the training is portable could also help save time and money for companies that currently pay to transport big groups of employees to a single location for in-person training.
“We’re not expecting to replace training seminars early on, but we do think we can add some good punch by giving them that last-mile training,” Blue said.
Along with areas of focus, they have also shifted headsets. In the classroom pilot, the team designed for the Oculus Rift. Since then, they have shifted to the Samsung Gear VR, both for economical and portability reasons. But the overall aim is similar, even though they’re designing for a meeting environment instead of a voyage down the Amazon.
“Largely we’re using the same team and same skillset, and it’s allowed us to move quickly and effectively,” Blue said.
He said Techstars will give the company a chance to strengthen their processes internally, as well as get access to the companies and investors in the worldwide accelerator’s network.