Walmart is going to send Oculus Go virtual reality headsets to every US branch of its stores, expanding a VR-based employee training system it announced last year. The company announced today that it will ship four headsets to every Walmart Supercenter and two to every neighborhood market and discount store, meaning around 4,700 US locations (not counting Sam’s Club stores and smaller centers like campus stores) will receive them. They start shipping next month, and Walmart says that over 17,000 headsets will be in stores by the end of the year.
Walmart already uses VR in its 200 Academy training centers, thanks to a partnership with a company called Strivr, which got its start in VR football training simulations. It runs more than 45 modules, simulating events that would be difficult to run as physical training scenarios, like a Black Friday shopping rush. It also lets employees learn how to use new technology. (Walmart has a VR module simulating its rolling “pickup towers,” for instance.) Walmart previously used relatively expensive PC-tethered Oculus Rift headsets, but they’re now adopting the $199 self-contained Oculus Go, which launched earlier this year.
These aren’t long, hyper-complicated scenarios; they’re designed to give employees a physical feel for situations, like a more immersive version of a normal computer-based course. VR simulations are common in many fields, but Walmart is perhaps the biggest company to make them a standard element of employee training. A 17,000-headset order also isn’t bad for Oculus, which (according to an external analyst) shipped around 289,000 Oculus Go headsets in the first quarter of its launch.