SEABOURN & PIXVANA PARTNERED TO CREATE CUSTOM VR EXPERIENCE TO TRAIN CRUISE LINE WAITSTAFF
Ultra-luxury Seabourn Cruise Line had a problem. When a ship’s enormous dining room has 105 tables and is constantly in use, how can you train new waitstaff? With world-class service at the forefront of their promise, the Seabourn team is continually pushing the boundaries of hospitality, accomodation, and service, and cold meals are not acceptable.
At Seabourn’s Fleet Learning and Development, lead specialist Rocky Sudlesky thought VR-based training might be able to help. The challenges were formidable: waitstaff had to train onboard a ship while it’s in full operation, in a complex room that’s perpetually occupied by passengers and cleaning crew. “I am committed to identifying ongoing business challenges and pursuing new and creative ways to solve them,” Sudlesky said. “I saw great potential in the power of VR to revolutionize the way we train our cruise line’s team. I was confident that the right learning experience built in VR would not only save time and money, but deliver a much more powerful training experience for our staff, increasing engagement and retention.”
Under the existing system, waitstaff only had a single 30-minute training session in the dining area. To prepare for this session, a learning and development specialist manually circled the room, placing and eventually clearing numbered labels on each of the tables. Servers used this system of numbered tables to orient themselves in a complex dining room to ensure that meals arrived promptly at the correct seat. After the 30-minute training, waitstaff then had to rely on a printed pocket map to memorize the room’s intricate layout of 105 tables and twelve serving stations. With this system, mastery of the dining room typically took two to three months. Confident that a better approach could be created, Sudlesky partnered with the Pixvana team to overcome these boundaries and create a superior training experience using VR.
Sudlesky began by purchasing a VR camera, adding numbered table tents to each of the tables, and photographing the dining room himself, but he quickly realized that he needed help.
“While I was excited to try my own hand at VR, it quickly became apparent that I didn’t have all the necessary tools and skills for the task,” said Sudlesky. “One constraint was that I only had the ability to label the tables in physical reality, which meant they were difficult to see and impossible to hide (eliminating the option to quiz yourself). Also, the project didn’t meet the standard of quality the Seabourn brand represents. Still, though, I had an inkling that the right VR solution could fundamentally transform the waitstaff training experience. So, I turned to the pros.”
Sudlesky and the Pixvana team created Seabourn TableVision, a world-class custom VR training solution designed to shorten the time it takes to master the dining room, increase flexibility and engagement, and decrease time and cost. Pixvana assigned an award-winning production team to the project, who used the Kandao Obsidian R professional camera and Pixvana’s proprietary software, SPIN Studio, including the in-headset editor to shoot and edit gorgeous 8k footage.
On a pre-production scouting day aboard the ship while in port in Vancouver, BC, VR videographers analyzed the dining room environment to draft an optimized shooting-day plan. When the ship reached port in Seattle, WA, Pixvana videographers executed a fast on-set filming time of only 4 hours. The team created 26 scenes connected by 90 hyperports to represent the dining room in its entirety. Next, the Pixvana team evaluated its VR storytelling toolkit to identify which features were needed for an engaging VR learning experience. Over 300 assets were applied in a post-production period of just five weeks —notably including branded graphic labels over the tables that can be toggled on and off— to create a highly interactive, intuitive, and information-packed experience.
“Pixvana is the only VR company in the world that offers clients access to an award-winning creative services team of our caliber in addition to the power of our proprietary VR-native platform,” said Rachel Lanham, Chief Operating Officer of Pixvana. “This platform, SPIN Studio, provides a comprehensive suite of easy-to-use tools to simplify the entire process of creating, editing, and sharing VR videos. SPIN Studio uniquely positions Pixvana to deliver impactful VR experiences custom-tailored to meet the individual needs of each client.”
The Seabourn team initially contacted Pixvana to help them create a virtual replica of their dining room. They quickly found that VR offered far more than a simple reproduction of a physical space. It simulates the psychological experience of wandering through the dining room, and adds an element of engagement through interactive tools that enhance training recall. Seabourn TableVision eliminates the significant time required to manually set up each physical training experience. The flexibility and efficiency that TableVision brings to Seabourn’s training arsenal is exciting to many on the Seabourn team, skeptics included.
Pivana’s proprietary SPIN Studio software includes a VR Casting feature. This means Seabourn can run VR training sessions even when offline, which is essential when its ships are many miles out at sea. The VR training experience can be securely downloaded to Seabourn’s set of Oculus Go headsets in the highest resolution, ready to be accessed at any moment and from any point around the globe. TableVision has already been deployed on a Seabourn cruise to train the newest members of the Seabourn team. The program’s rollout included a controlled test to collect measurable data and evaluate the effectiveness of the training program. The Seabourn and Pixvana teams are eagerly awaiting results.
Sudlesky was initially drawn to Pixvana because of its portfolio of high-quality work and continued commitment to pushing the boundaries of VR. As a representative of a preeminent luxury cruise line, Sudlesky approached Pixvana with high expectations for quality of service and product. “Not only was I thrilled with the product, but I was impressed by the comportment of the Pixvana team,” Sudlesky said. “Without being prompted, they blended in with our environment seamlessly, surpassing my expectations for efficiency and professionalism. They were a delight to work with.”
After rolling out TableVision across each of Seabourn’s custom dining rooms, the cruise line will investigate further partnership opportunities with Pixvana, exploring additional uses for this breakthrough technology.
“Our team lights up when we get the chance to collaborate with clients like Rocky and the rest of the Seabourn team,” said Lanham. “It’s invigorating to partner with a client who is willing to push the envelope and doesn’t shy away from exploring new, innovative ways to solve daunting business challenges. We are enthusiastic about helping clients take the leap into the future of engaging, distraction-proof learning experiences that redefine the very way we understand training.”