UPS is developing virtual reality tech to train its drivers

UPS drivers preparing to get behind the wheel will soon be using virtual reality to do so.

The company’s new VR training program will be rolling out next month at nine of the company’s training facilities, simulating some of the uncertainties and challenges of delivering packages on city streets. Trainees will interact with the content using voice commands to identify obstacles while wearing headsets.

“Virtual Reality offers a big technological leap in the realm of driver safety training,” said UPS exec Juan Perez in a statement. “VR creates a hyper-realistic streetscape that will dazzle even the youngest of our drivers whose previous exposure to the technology was through video games.”

While companies like Walmart have signed onto programs with enterprise-focused startups like Strivr Labs, UPS will be building its training materials in-house.

Virtual reality may be a more immersive technology but, when done poorly, training videos can be just as unbearable as more traditional instructional materials. The big issue right now is that making custom, realistic VR content able to take advantage of everything the medium has to offer really isn’t worth the effort.

Enterprise software companies could build (and some have) game engine-rendered content that allows you to move around and interact with the environment, but they often end up with dumpy PlayStation 1 graphics that wander too far from the real-world. Largely for this reason, most companies are opting for more realistic — but less interactive — 360 video.

While VR may not be as revolutionary as, say, drones to a company that ships packages across the globe, it can still be an effective tool for getting prospective employees ready before they get out on the job. It’s also important because UPS drivers are a clear candidate for utilizing AR headsets in the future to more easily keep track of shipments hands-free while preparing for drop-offs and pick-ups.