US retail giant Walmart is prepping its employees for difficult customers and marquee sales events by strapping its staff into virtual reality training programmes.
A total of 200 Walmart Academy training centres dotted around the country will receive an Oculus Rift device and a high-powered PC which will run a series of VR courses designed for trainee managers and customer service staff.
With an estimated 150,000 employees graduating from Walmart's proving grounds every year, the training experiences, created by STRIVR Labs, are intended to be short, supplemental guides to customer care, with simple interactive elements.
The experiences will be in 360-degree video format, with on-screen prompts tasking trainees with making decisions based on a variety of customer-focused or managerial scenarios - perhaps Walmart is hoping that angry customer avatars are just as demanding in the virtual world.
The training schemes will also touch on seasonal sales extravaganzas such as the infamous annual price-slashing holiday, Black Friday. The VR content is expected to last between 30 seconds to five minutes, which is longer than anyone in the real world would want to be near a retail outlet during the manic Black Friday sales.
"We don't do anything that is not a good use case for VR," STRIVR's CEO Derek Belcher told TechCrunch. "We have experiences for the lowest-level bagger all the way up to the store management."
As well as Walmart, which began trialling STRIVR's VR experiences in January, the VR startup's team has also been involved in virtual training schemes for the University of Arkansas' American football team and has received interest from an unnamed "major" manufacturer from the automotive industry, among others.
Belcher also told TechCrunch that Walmart is considering installing a virtual reality headset in its retail stores at a later date. The retail company, which owns UK supermarket chain Asda, boasts over 4,500 stores in the US.