Augmented Reality

HoloLens and What It Means For Learning & Development

Male dentist showing a molar tooth

HoloLens coupled with Windows 10 is being pitched by Microsoft, targeted especially for businesses, including the Training Industry. HoloLens promises to change the way daily operations are performed and to provide ease in training as well as new perspectives.

Some of the ways that HoloLens can be used for training include:

  • Skype conversations using HoloLens can allow those taking part to view the same desktop workspace from the same view. This means trainers can see what trainees are doing in real time and instruct them accordingly.
  • Diagrams can be viewed in context with realistic images. Augmented images can be overlaid over real time views of office spaces, work floors, manufacturing lines, and other professional areas.
  • Trainees can tour virtual scenes from a first person perspective. This way, they can get a better feel for what awaits them when they first set foot in a new workplace.
  • Trainers can see exactly what trainees are working on from a remote location, in a much more realistic way than remote access has allowed up to now.
  • Trainers in the seminar context can view the work of participants in a direct and clear way with the participants located all over the globe.

 

Promises Ease and a New Way to Get Training Done

HoloLens is less bulky and more streamlined than Oculus rift in size and appearance. With new applications offered by Windows 10, it can add considerable resources to those previously possessed by the training industry. Better insight into the work of participants during courses, seminars, webinars, and more will mean better success rates and less frustration on the part of distance learners and employees. Online learning, if also employing this technology, could change the success rate for the better. (In the past and present, a lot of online university students complain of little feedback on the part of their instructors. This is due in part to instructors lacking insight on what participants are actually doing. Virtual reality tools such as the Lens could turn this around.)

Skype and Collaboration

Skype conversations could follow with participants seeing into each other’s surroundings and being able to edit one another’s work. For training and collaboration, this is of particular value. Working on models and designs with an interactive context saves time and spares participants of frustration. Course creators can offer trainees specific feedback and look over their work more intensively to be sure they have achieved their goals.

Savvy and Fun for Training

HoloLens has the potential to make the training industry more viable, more interesting and technologically up-to-date with savvy tools that make the process fun. Instead of having the reputation of being necessary for work opportunities and promotions, it could make seminars and training courses a sought after experience involving virtual worlds, interactive contexts, funny scenarios and direct feedback from instructors and course leaders.

A look at Disney Immersive Experiences and What Training Departments Can Learn

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I just got back from Disney World with my family a few weeks ago. It was my children’s (5 and 8 years old) first time there, and watching them experience it all was pure magic! That kind of magic is something we strive for in everything we do at The Danse and encourage our clients to reach for as well.

For decades, Disney has made themselves the forerunner in Immersive experience technology. From the inception of their DisneyQuest programs to the Virtuality developments, Disney has led the way in total Immersive experiences for their customers. The question we are faced with now, is how can a training department utilize the practices Disney has already put in place to develop a more effective training module using immersive experiences?

The Disney Touch

One of the primary ways that Disney allows its guests to have an Immersive experience is through the ability to naturally interact with what you see. When you visit a Disney park, you enter a relatively virtual world. In this virtual world, you are able to manipulate the things around you. This can be scenery or characters. For a child, this is magic. Training departments should take note that the ability to interact is a key to a total immersive experience.

Seeing like Disney

True immersion must include seeing everything as if you’re really standing there.  Disney completely understands this and visually surrounds their guests in their experiences.  At Disney, every ride, show, and game are built all around you, making you feel as if you’re really in another place.  Every video or animation is perfectly captured or created to lend itself to these experiences.

Mickey Ears

At the Disney Parks, and on their rides, sound plays a key part to their Immersive experience. If you were to ride Splash Mountain, your experience would not be the same if you could not hear the interactions of Brer Bear and Brer Fox in the background. These sounds tell us the story while we are queuing and enjoying the ride. As a training manager, you must always remember to keep the sense of sound in the forefront of your training modules.

The Smells of Success and What Magic Tastes like

The Imagineers at Disney have never forgotten two of your major senses, smell and taste. When you enter the Gran Fiesta Tour experience at Epcot's Mexico, you are inundated with the smells and tastes of old world Mexico through the centrally located restaurant. When a guest can not only ride and watch the experience, but also smell and taste it, they are that much more fulfilled. For training departments, the concept is the same. Imagine a waiter trying to explain a meal that they have never tasted. Or imagine a fire chief trying to explain what a diesel fire smells like to a group of new recruits.

New Technology = Big ROI In Training

Training and Development on the Gears.  

 

The advent of accessible virtual reality application is right around the corner. This technology promises a new world of opportunity, for those seeking heightened entertainment capabilities, but more importantly for businesses looking for cost-effective solutions, return on investment for updating human resource skills, better training options, and more. Let’s take a closer look at where businesses can save money and optimize operations.

New Hardware Technology - A Better Approach

In the past, to create realism in simulated job site training, companies had to invest millions of dollars into bulky, software-limited simulator hardware.  In many cases, this hardware is completely stationary, which causes large expenses and/or inadequate training time when trainees are spread out nationally or globally.

Emerging affordable virtual reality hardware provides a 360 degree perspective of a digital world. It can be used in conjunction with various off-the-shelf motion tracking devices.  This new hardware approach allows learners to interact with what they are seeing using their arms, hands, legs, and feet.

The best part about this hardware (aside from the super low costs)

How can these devices make training more effective? 

  • Many companies hold training from a specific site (headquarters). Having to fly trainees around the country or from other countries is cost-intensive and time consuming. Sending hardware or instructors+hardware is much more efficient—bringing greater profits and lower costs.
  • Companies that deal with manufacturing of products can train their employees effectively the virtual way from various sites simultaneously without using resources. Digital models can be interacted within a realistic mode. This allows for a larger margin of error without waste.
  • Customer service training can be carried out interactively with less stress. Employees can learn how to better interact with customers on an individual basis. This can optimize time spent on training by reducing stress—a relaxed atmosphere is conducive to learning.
  • Marketing and sales training can be held virtually in a realistic way.
  • Seminars and training for specific topics for all levels of employees can take place on site simultaneously with participants from all over the world. Engineers can learn complicated new job operations without leaving town—saving lots of money, bringing increased expertise to the workforce, and thus a large return on investment.
  • Reduce the amount of time your money-making production equipment is "parked" for training.

Return on Investment and Cost Effectiveness

Being able to train employees for new operations, skills and job positions often costs a lot of resources and brings a questionable amount of return of investment. Investing in new technology costs less than 1000 USD per unit and can be used repeatedly by any number of employees. The amount of seminars that can be participated in virtually is limitless. The interactions that can take place between people all over the world are infinite. ROI becomes easier to measure based on the new skills and training programs undertaken, via this exciting new technology.

While many of these technologies are not yet on the market, they will be soon, and to stay competitive on the worldwide market will mean investing in new methods of doing business on an international scale. Flying and other forms of travel are expensive. The new way of communicating and learning interactively carries little risk and a lot of benefits.

New Immersive Tech Series: Oculus Rift vs. Microsoft HoloLens (Part 2)

virtualroom  

A varying array of applications for work and play with the newest technology, Oculus Rift and Microsoft HoloLens are making big waves in tech news. They are making reality augmentation and virtual reality that much more integrated into work and play. As highlighted a bit in part 1, Rift is a headset that allows the user to experience the images displayed from a first person perspective while HoloLens is a device that has the user controlling holograms and imposing them over their view of the world around them.

At first glance, the headsets look similar. They are worn by users like glasses over the eyes, but with varying degrees of transparency. Rift totally wipes out the outside world and puts the wearer into a virtual reality based world. HoloLens lets you see your desk, your computer, your windows and coffee cup, but with digital images imposed onto the scenery by way of the lens. Let’s take a deeper look at the features.

Rift

  • Ideal for gamers who want to get inside the games they play. — Rift will support a variety of games when it is available for consumers on the market.
  • At 350 USD, a competitive price tag for medical students who need to simulate the practice of surgery. —Technology already exists to simulate surgery scenarios, but this device is a cheaply priced alternative that could put it at the forefront  (we're actually working on applications like this).
  • Educating school children and teens in a more hands on way. — Students can explore countries and structures (like government buildings, pyramids in Egypt) remotely. Instead of an expensive class trip, this can allow students hands-on experiences at a fraction of the price.
  • Watching movies. — As more films are made in this format, it could change the way viewers experience films. They can watch a film as a part of the film, in the first person.

 

HoloLens

  • Can optimize the skype experience. — For families forced to be at a distance in today’s society, being able to see loved one’s as a part of the scenery can give the feeling they are there with them in the room while talking via skype.
  • Making remote business meetings more effective. — A complaint often heard in the business world is that virtual meetings are less effective than meeting in person. A holographic generated image of a colleague could make them feel they are interacting in a more personal way, and thus connect optimally to get more done on the job.
  • View a model of an engine while doing idle chores. — Multi-tasking taken to new levels.
  • Team building events will be more amusing. — Scenery can be created to resemble a beach, a desert, the set of Game of Thrones, and more. This can be a springboard for fun and open teambuilding events.
  • Training new employees. — A more three dimensional approach to getting new employees acclimated using holograms to demonstrate tasks.

 

The future promises to be an eye-opening journey into the world of reality augmentation and virtual reality, on and off the job. The Oculus Rift and the HoloLens will surely be at the forefront.

New Immersive Tech Series: A Look At Some Virtual Reality Input Solutions

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I'd like to start out by saying that this post was written and scheduled to post BEFORE Valve's latest announcement (the new SteamVR hardware).  There will be another post talking about that exciting new technology soon! I just need a little time to clean up the drool puddles around here that were caused by the mention of a new Portal game demoed with it... (GLADOS is my hero)

Now that that's out of the way...

"Input is really important for virtual reality, and our approach is that anything that's important, we need to be working on," said Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey.

The goal of virtual reality input methods are to achieve the look and feel of natural settings as realistically as possible. The various products, hardware and software, available to this point achieve this to varying degrees.

Here are just a few of the technologies that we're really excited about when it comes to developing training applications.

Kinect and Leap Motion Controller (on the market now)

Kinect for Windows

Pros/Features

  • Includes physical hardware
  • Motion sensing infrared
  • Input using the hands and voice
  • Has depth sensing
  • Allows the creation of specific hand gestures to affect responses
  • Interactive applications
  • Responsive
  • Stable product created by a stable company and has been on the market for several years
  • Single piece of hardware

Cons

  • lacks clear haptic feedback
  • somewhat limited when it comes accurately capturing more intricate motions

 

Leap Motion Controller

Pros/Features

  • Doesn’t replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them
  • Connects via USB
  • Motion sensor that can read the slightest motions
  • Can sense all 10 fingers at once
  • Takes up little space on desktop
  • Single piece of hardware

Cons

  • Doesn't replace the mouse and keyboard, but works in conjunction with them (pro/con depending on perspective)
  • Doesn’t have many applications to interact with up to now
  • Takes up little space on the desktop
  • Limits user to a much smaller space (compared with other technologies), and therefore limited in possible applications

Razer Hydra is a Thing of the Past

The now unavailable Razer Hydra was more suitable for gaming, but not for a comprehensive virtual reality experience. It was more of a controller in a traditional sense, similar to Nintendo’s Wii. Bulky and space intensive, it is now sought by gamers looking for a certain type of controller but will not be a model for future virtual reality input methods. It was a really cool idea though.

Promising Input Controllers (still in development)

Control VR

Pros/Features

  • Devices worn on chest, arms, and hands
  • Promises to allow professionals and gamers to interact with virtual reality via the hands and fingers
  • Reviews claim movements are accurately represented on screen
  • Not confined to a camera's sensor perception

Cons

  • Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
  • Lots of pieces to keep up with

 

Project Perception Neuron

Pros/Features

  • Devices worn on the hands, arms and legs
  • Has a lot of cords
  • Boasts simple use and motion detection
  • 9 axis IMU

Cons

  • Lots of cords to get tangled up or tangled in
  • LOTS of pieces to keep up with
  • Company is still starting up and working out kinks

 

PrioVR

Pros/Features

  • Claims to have natural, full body interaction
  • 3 different packages offered range from 8-17 sensors
  • Senses without the use of cameras
  • Still starting up

Cons

  • Lots of pieces to keep up with

The future will belong to input devices that can accurately transform motion to digital representations, on screen, in an immersive environment, that also can give haptic feedback (such as resistance in the arms and legs, as if the user was lifting something heavy, etc). Many devices don’t need to use cameras to translate their movements through the lens, but few seem to offer haptic feedback and this is an area that developers will likely need to focus on to improve the VR experience.

New Immersive Tech Series: Displays, VR, and AR

Reality of Knowledge  

Technology is becoming more and more futuristic, including the way we view what we’re doing. Lenses, headsets and other assorted viewing devices offer total or partial immersion in virtual worlds, or at the very least: augmentation of the so-called real world.

Popular displays like the Oculus Rift, the Microsoft HoloLens, the Google Cardboard, and the Samsung GearVR are among the up and coming technology virtual reality devices have to offer.

Oculus Rift: 

  • A bulky headset that allows users to see digital worlds from a 360 degree angle based on how the user turns his or her head. It can be supplemented with the Virtuix Omni to include hands, arms and feet motion for an even more realistic experience
  • It’s impossible to see out of the headset, users are totally immersed in what they are playing—working on or viewing.

Microsoft Hololens:

  • Slightly smaller than the Rift and lighter weight. It also allows the viewer to see their work from various perspectives but is also transparent to the outside world.
  • Provides only partial immersion, depending on what applications are utilized.
  • Augmentation to the world outside instead of blocking the outside world.
  • Runs only in conjunction with Windows 10.

Google Cardboard:

  • Consists of a simple cardboard viewer.
  • Applications on the user’s mobile phone provide the view.
  • Affordable, lightweight, and simplistic.
  • The cheapest virtual reality option that works with a variety of mobile phones.

Samsung GearVR

  • Only works with one Samsung mobile phone: the Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  • The headset is similar to Oculus Rift
  • Provides total immersion
  • Only costs 199 USD

Various Degrees of Virtual Reality 

Whereas Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens are more intensive and have the potential to be used for a lot of business related operations including training and design, the Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR viewers are easily affordable and can provide virtual reality experiences for consumers looking to just stick a toe in the water. They are less bulky than the Rift and more transportable. Though the Samsung GearVR only runs on Galaxy Note 4, more models could be added in the future and it’s already possible to go out and buy the Google cardboard and the GearVR—unlike the Hololens that is only out there as a prototype (that not everyone can get their hands on).

The Rift and the HoloLens are less accessible to start with, but may prove to be more realistic in immersing users. Once they arrive on the market to consumers, it will be interesting to see what applications are picked up. Google Cardboard and Samsung GearVR can be tried out now, giving us a taste of what is to come.

New Immersive Tech Series: Oculus Rift vs. Microsoft Hololens (Part 1)

HoloLens  

Lately I've been asked by a few clients to demonstrate and explain a lot of the new immersive technology coming out on the market.  The folks we work with look into all this cool new stuff and get a little overwhelmed by all of the choices they have for advancing their training programs.  In these next few posts, I am going to attempt to cover a lot of this hardware and explain their uses and benefits. That being said, let's jump right in with our first topic!

Augmented Reality (AR) vs. Virtual Reality (VR)

Two "up and coming" pieces of technology that many are just waiting to get their hands on are the Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Hololens. While both are pretty much situated on the cutting edge, they differ in some fundamental ways—Oculus Rift is all about immersing yourself in a total and complete virtual world, while Hololens allows you to augment the world you live in—using light-generated holograms.

Showpieces of users trying out the Rift are basically blindfolded with the headset that covers the eyes. The ultimate goal is to:

  • Experience games in a completely immersive way.
  • Experience movies from the first person (the company Condition One made a film just for the Oculus Rift called Zero Point).
  • Live out and perform in real world work conditions.
  • Explore a faraway place without traveling any distance at all. Some reviewers were quoted as saying it was like a dream come true for their former child self. You get to live out a different reality—an escapist’s wish fulfilled.

Microsoft’s Hololens is all about adding to the world you live in with elements of augmented reality, or "holograms." You don’t have to worry about walking into the coffee table while using it. The headset aspect looks a bit like the Rift, but you have a transparent lens. The concept is such that you get to see the holograms on top of your “real world.” It’s a digital overlay that can enable you to, for example, see your skype partner on the lens while drinking a cup of coffee (and not having to worry about spilling it). You can look out the window without taking off the lens; have a virtual meeting with your colleagues and still see the room you’re sitting in. Hololens runs on Windows 10, connects to your computer and interacts with the applications there. You'll have the ability to use everything on your Windows 10, in connection with the accompanying headset. Presently, it isn’t available on the market, however Microsoft recently gave access to the press to view the prototype they had on hand.

Oculus Rift is more about total immersion in a fantasy world, or getting completely into the simulation of something. Hololens is an accessory for adding holograms to the “real world.” Neither of them are ready yet for consumer use, but both promise usages appropriate within the professional world, education, entertainment, and more. Where Google glass was intended to be used out and about, both the Rift and Hololens are intended for use indoors, for the living room or the workplace.

It will be fascinating to see how both devices develop as they emerge on the market for consumer and professional use. Whether virtual reality will be used as a tool for life or holograms to improve our workspace, this futuristic technology is fast approaching.

Improve Sales Using Augmented Reality

If you want to capture people’s attention in today’s busy world, you have to feature interactive simulation of products.  It’s not enough to tell people about a product or even show them the benefits of using a specific brand or item.  You have to get them involved so they feel like part of the product.  That is the point at which you can begin to develop brand loyalty.

Heinz

A good example of how that is achieved is through the augmented reality app that Heinz developed.  It was designed to market the company’s tomato ketchup with a pop-up book featuring recipes using the ketchup as an ingredient.

Recipes would pop out when the camera was placed on top of the product.  Users could look through the recipes and download as a PDF.  They could also view the recipes as videos on the Facebook page of the product.  The goal for the company was to inspire users to try new ways of using the product while they are out rather than waiting for them to visit a website to find the recipes.

This is just one instance of how this technique can be used to draw people in.  Marketing has achieved new levels of brand awareness by incorporating new technology into their advertising campaigns.  Heinz is not the only company to focus on a mobile app to sell their product.  As more people move from traditional computers and laptops to mobile devices, mobile applications will play a stronger role in marketing.

Businesses that want to be relevant will have to move to mobile.  They can create simple apps designed to provide information about a product or company.  While that is the easiest way to begin in mobile marketing, it cannot be the only way a business gets involved.  To be effective, the mobile development must also include the user in the experience.  This ensures that they feel more connected and involved; it will also make them more likely to tell their friends about the application and convince them to try it.

Mobile marketing is the trend of the future, utilizing interactive applications and augmented reality to enhance the user’s experience.  Businesses that want to stay at the forefront of their industry must learn to compete in this arena to capture their visitors’ attention and to create a loyal following.  This will ensure that their campaigns have a high conversion rate and are more successful.

Training Benefits of Mixed Reality Technology

On July 4, 1976, Israeli commandos landed at the Entebbe International Airport, outside Kampala, Uganda, and in under an hour rescued the 100 hostages that were being held there by hijackers. The news of the rescue was met with international astonishment. Without any warning the commandos landed in the in the night, rescued the hostages, and flew back home. Only one commando and four hostages were killed, as opposed to all hijackers and several dozen Ugandan soldiers. A number of Ugandan MiG aircraft were also destroyed. The international diplomatic fervor, which coincided with the US bicentennial, was brought to a screeching halt as Israel thanked everyone and said they had taken care of the problem.

One of the main reasons the mission was so successful was that the special forces combatants chosen for the mission trained for the operation on a reconstructed, full-scale model of the airport. This is how with only a few days to prepare, and despite having never set foot in Entebbe, the rescuers were able to secure the terminal where the hostages were held, use the airport’s fuel facilities, and destroy the squadron of warplanes stationed there. And all this without real-time satellite surveillance.

In their technology quarterly in March, the Economist reported on a variety of training and research platforms—from computer programs to full scale combat training facilities—that are making the tasks of preparing for and carrying out dangerous missions less costly. And not surprisingly, these technologies rely heavily on 3D rendered environments that allow their users to interact with the generated content in varying degrees.

One of the technologies, an interactive program akin to a military computer game, allows strategists to digitally recreate actual battle scenarios (like the Entebbe raid), which can then be reviewed from any angle and replayed with environmental and situational variations that might demonstrate how things could have gone differently. Among the others are simulations that try to test the responses of decisions made by officers under amounts of psychological duress, a NATO network that links 3D training devices, and an interactive virtual battlefield that allows soldiers to train and observers to scrutinize—all with a minimum threat to the people involved.

With a number of countries around the world investing in digital and mixed reality technologies, rescue missions like those at Entebbe may seem less and less miraculous as soldiers can be prepared for a broad number of situations before actually being inserted into a combat zone. But hopefully too, this kind of technology might reduce the need for high-risk combat missions in the first place.