Virtual reality can sometimes be the terrain of gimmickry.
But Porirua startup ShowHow has quickly signed a slate of real-life customers for its virtual learning platform - which helps customers create multimedia how-to guides that can be viewed on a phone, iPad or PC - or, if you've got one, a VR headset.
Co-founders Daniel Allen and Ben Knill say early adopters include the Capital and Coast DHB, which used ShowHow to create virtual tutorials for giving CPR in time of Covid-19 (see video above).
Another is a large government department that is using ShowHow for a series on diversity and inclusion training.
Z Energy has created safety training for tanker drivers. "Their course demonstrates the things a driver should be aware of when preparing to leave the depot with a full fuel tanker and identifying potential hazards," Allen says.
"They are also exploring retail and customer experience simulation."
And Thriving Under Fire author John Faisandier has used ShowHow to create a series of "soft skills" tutorials in areas such as practising difficult conversations with customers.
It doesn't hurt that this is Allen's second time at the rodeo.
In 2007, he teamed with developers Nicole Fougere and Richard Chetwynd to co-found Litmos, a training platform that promises to let you create your own training courses in minutes.
That's "create" in the active tense. Unusually for this sort of tech buyout, the Litmos brand is still around today.
The trio's startup was bought by Nasdaq-listed software company Callidus Software in 2011 - in what the Herald understands was a $5 million deal - and Callidus, in turn, was bought by multinational giant SAP in 2018.
The three-founders relocated to San Francisco after the buyout. Unusually for this type of small fish eaten by big fish eaten by bigger fish deal, Allen stayed on for the ride. He didn't leave SAP Litmos - where he was VP of engineering - until December 2019, and the unit had grown to some 350 staff.
Allen's new venture, the cloud-based ShowHow, will help you manage the process of creating online training courses, including the likes of where to insert decision points. It does assume you're a large enough organisation to have in-house content-creation expertise - though the co-founder notes that for the Capital and Coast DHB's CPR adapted for Covid tutorial, a group of surgeons essentially mucked in to create it themselves.
ShowHow's pricing (from $899 per month, billed annually) also puts it firmly in the big-organisation space.
Allen and Knill have so far bootstrapped their new company.
Investors are interested, but the co-founders don't plan a raise until they have around 30 to 40 blue-chip customers in the bag. There's no immediate pressure. Unlike most sectors, virtual training is a growth area amid the pandemic.
Medical teams across Australasia are now able to practise caring for Covid-19-positive patients in a range of virtual reality medical scenarios using software created by ShowHow and courses designed by Capital and Coast DHB.
Based in Porirua, New Zealand, ShowHow provides a software as a service platform for companies to create virtual training exercises for employees.
It doesn't all cut ShowHow's way.
Allen says he'll miss the face-to-face interaction at big US trade shows that helped Litmos make its mark. He's not banking on the ability to travel, at least with any ease, any time soon, but does plan to get boots on the ground by hiring staff in North America.
Meanwhile, ShowHow is putting down firm roots at home - where the CPR/Covid tutorial created by Capital and Coast DHB is now being used by hospitals around the country.
Covid-19 has presented challenges in medical training, where experienced medical professionals have to quickly learn new techniques to stay safe while carrying out standard procedures.
Doctors and nurses typically meet in groups to practise scenarios and learn new techniques, however this can be prohibitively expensive (in time and money) and increasingly dangerous in a Covid world.
Capital and Coast used ShowHow to create scenarios that feel like the real world, allowing staff to practise in their own time in a risk-free environment.
"Simulation is a powerful tool for us to learn and make mistakes off the job, and VR gives us a new tool in that training pathway," senior registrar Sapi Mukerji says.
"Covid has altered how we could do team-based simulation, especially with social distancing. It was important to have a different tool that would allow us to do simulation training without actually all being the same place."
Brad Peckler, director of simulation at Capital and Coast DHB add, "The parameters of Covid, getting in and out of the room safely with the protective gear on and still maintaining safety for the patient and providing good care is actually quite difficult. The way we did the scenario and the way it's meant to run is quite different from a normal cardiac arrest and ShowHow was a really excellent way to demonstrate that."