3D Modelled vs. 360 Video

Nicholas Prynn

3D models vs. 360 video - which one suits your training needs?

360 Video vs 3D Modelled Training

Often, when exploring training options in virtual reality, companies are met with confusion when they learn that there are multiple types of VR learning. That’s right, it’s not as simple as deciding to go with VR, booting up your headsets and beginning to train - you’ll have to decide which type of VR learning best suits your needs. In this blog, we're going to cover the two main types of VR learning, their pros and cons, as well as their most appropriate applications.

Both 3D and 360 essentially serve the same purposes and have converging goals, for example:

  • Creating realism
  • Cutting training costs
  • Improving learning outcomes
  • Allowing for repeated training
  • Allowing trainees to practice essential skills in hazardous environments without risk of injury

However, the ways in which this is accomplished varies dramatically based on the technology used and the goals of the company or organization that is administering the training. 

360 video immerses viewers in a panoramic view, allowing exploration in all directions and transforming passive viewing into an interactive experience. This approach uses real-world settings and people, making it highly lifelike and engaging, though it may lack the granularity offered by 3D modeled training. On the other hand, 3D modeled training employs computer-generated simulations to create a virtual environment for hands-on interaction with complex models. While neither approach is inherently superior, each excels in different contexts. The choice between them depends on the specific goals and requirements of the training.

The Key Differences

Despite their shared goal of immersive learning, 360 video and 3D modelled training diverge significantly in several key areas:

  • Environment:
    • 360 Video: Offers realistic environments that enhance engagement by immersing learners in true-to-life settings.
    • 3D Modelled Training: Utilizes simulated low-resolution environments, which can be less realistic but highly tailored to specific learning objectives.
  • Production Time:
    • 360 Video: Significantly faster to produce, requiring little to no technical skills, which accelerates the development cycle.
    • 3D Modelled Training: Involves long production times due to the technical demands of creating detailed 3D models and environments.
  • Ease of Creation:
    • 360 Video: Easy to create with accessible tools, making it possible for educators to quickly develop custom learning scenarios.
    • 3D Modelled Training: More challenging to produce, requiring advanced skills in 3D modeling and programming.
  • User Experience:
    • 360 Video: Offers a simplified user experience, ideal for training specific skills or providing guided tours without overwhelming the user.
    • 3D Modelled Training: Often presents a complex user experience, particularly challenging for those new to virtual reality environments.
  • Compatibility:
    • 360 Video: Broad compatibility across various devices, including smartphones, tablets, PCs, and VR headsets, making it widely accessible.
    • 3D Modelled Training: Limited compatibility, typically requiring more advanced hardware such as specialized VR headsets.
  • Measuring Results:
    • 360 Video: Training scenarios are more simplistic and train for a specific goal, allowing for easy measurements in terms of successful or unsuccessful attempts
    • 3D Modelled: Due to the myriad of available actions, accurately measuring the effectiveness of training can be difficult to do at scale or on a consistent basis.

More on Benefits and Drawbacks

Exploring the realms of 360 video and 3D modelled training reveals a landscape rich in immersive educational opportunities, each with its distinct advantages and challenges that shape the way learners interact with and perceive their learning environments.

360 video immerses learners in real environments, providing a sense of authenticity that traditional learning materials struggle to match. This authenticity enhances the learning experience by situating learners within contexts that are directly relevant to the content being studied, making abstract concepts more tangible. Furthermore, the panoramic view and interactive nature of 360 video significantly increase learner engagement. The ability to explore a learning scenario from multiple angles encourages active participation, which is a key factor in improving attention spans and retention rates.

In contrast, 3D modelled training offers an unparalleled level of interactivity. Learners can manipulate objects and scenarios within a virtual environment. This active engagement can foster a deeper understanding of the subject matter, as learners can experiment with variables and directly observe the outcomes of their actions. The versatility of 3D simulations is another significant strength, with applications ranging from medical education, where students can perform virtual surgeries, to architectural design, allowing for the exploration of spatial relationships and structural integrity. Despite these strengths, 3D modelled training faces challenges related to resource intensity and technology barriers. The creation of detailed 3D models and simulations demands significant time, expertise, and financial investment. Moreover, accessing these training modules often requires specialized hardware and software, potentially limiting their availability to a wider audience.

Expanding Horizons: Sector-wise Applications

VR in Education and Academia

In academic settings, these technologies have transcended traditional learning barriers, offering students hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of complex subjects. Virtual labs, historical reconstructions, and global explorations are now commonplace, enhancing both engagement and knowledge retention.

For academia, 360-degree videos are best for subjects requiring immersive explorations of real-world environments, such as cultural studies or history, enhancing student engagement with panoramic views. On the other hand, 3D modeling excels in fields like medicine, engineering, or physics, where interactive simulations of complex models are crucial for deep learning and hands-on experience. By aligning the technology with the educational content, institutions can maximize learning effectiveness and student engagement.

VR in Healthcare and Medical Training

360 video and 3D modelling are revolutionizing medical training and patient care. Virtual surgeries and diagnostic simulations offer medical professionals the opportunity to hone their skills without risk, leading to improved outcomes and patient safety. This study, for example, explores the results of VR training for medical students, with an emphasis on 3D modelled training. As expected though, they cite the limitations in terms of time required to develop the 3D models. On the bright side, students were overall happier with the training, and the study suggests stronger learning outcomes. This study just represents one of many echoing similar results. Surgeries are a great application of 3D modelled environments, which require precision, repetition and the manipulation of a trainee’s environment. However, when it comes to patient relations, pharmaceuticals, or patient care, 360 video is a simpler solution. Like with most industries, it depends on what your training goal is.

VR in Soft Skill training

While soft skills may sound like the easier skills to acquire (given their “softness”), they are make-or-break skills in many companies. The ability to meet or exceed customer expectations often depends on these skills, which can determine whether an employee is effectively prepared for their role. Both 360 video and 3D modelled environments can work, but again, the real-life aspect of 360 video will generally lead to more prepared trainees. 

VR in Safety Training

Safety training is another popular application of VR training, especially with 360 video. The real-life aspect of 360 video helps to create the emotional responses necessary to properly prepare employees for dangerous situations. For example, fire safety training or training employees to be more careful around hazardous environments. On the other hand, 3D modelled VR would be more appropriate for safety situations that require the manipulation of many objects, for example, in a complex engineering environment.


360 video and 3D modelled training represent more than just technological advancements; they signify a shift towards a more immersive, interactive, and experiential form of learning. As these tools become more integrated into educational and professional training programs, they offer the promise of making learning a more engaging, effective, and enjoyable process. The evolution of these technologies reflects the endless possibilities of integrating digital innovation into our learning environments, preparing learners not just for the challenges of today, but for the opportunities of tomorrow.

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