AR

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.

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: 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.

Kinecting the Dots- Imagine Cup Demos Versatility of the Kinect

The summer has delivered more that its share of geeky get-togethers. From the Google I/O to Comic-Con, there have been enough nerdy round-ups to keep even the most sophisticated of Sci-Fi aficionado happy. But one of the more impressive tech fests of the season was the Microsoft Image Cup Competition, held this year in Sydney, Australia. The five-day competition pitted teams from all over the world together to find the best new applications of Microsoft products. There were impressive entries ranging from smart phones that locate land mines to automated shopping carts that aid those in wheelchairs. But far and away the most impressive device used in this competition was the Microsoft Kinect.

The winner was the Ukrainian quadSquad, who developed Enable Talk, a glove capable of translating sign language into audible speech, and many of the devices in competition were geared towards health and education, but there were those who geared towards energy conservation as well. But the American Team Whiteboard Pirates’s entry “Duck Duck Punch” was a feature in a Popular Science write-up of the event, and an excellent example of what developers using the Kinect are capable of producing.

Duck Duck Punch was developed with the help of a physical therapist as a tool in the recovery of stroke victims. It uses the Kinect to monitor the movement of patients who play the game as a means of stimulating muscle memory. “The trick with stroke rehabilitation is that it's not really the victims' [limbs] that need rehabilitating,” Popular Science explains. “It's their brains. The muscles themselves are capable of making the movement, but the brain believes it can't. The game draws on the idea of “mirror therapy,” in which the brain, seeing an image of a moving limb, believes the body is making that motion, even if it isn't.”

What makes the Kinect so effective is the precision of its measurements. A team from Belgium also submitted a sign-language device that allows the friends and family of the hearing impaired to mimic the signs to various words. This is something that would be difficult for anything except a precision instrument. Popular Science also reports how various businesses have started applying this technology. One company named Ikkos Training has used a similar program to assist in the training of certain athletes—including Michael Phelps. Their gear monitors the movements of its clients and shows how they can improve their form through the same type of muscle memory triggers used by the stroke therapy patients.

What moments like these at the Imagine Cup show us are the possibilities that entertainment and digital animation technology can open up in other areas. Along with types of Augmented Reality like Google Glass and the rapid changes going on in smart phone development, devices like Duck Duck Punch demonstrate the increasing role that interactive and virtual technology will play in everyday life—and soon. And while the Kinect may help only some of us reach our Olympic dreams, the rest of us can sleep a little better knowing that our loved ones are being taken that much better care of.

Family Night 2.0- Board Games Meet Augmented Reality

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It may not come as a shock that that someone who writes for a tech blog is a board game connoisseur. Monopoly, Risk, and Avalon Hill’s Gettysburg in childhood made way for Afrika Korps, Warhammer, and Axis and Allies in my teen years. And even geekier titles came later still: Squad Leader, SPQR, and Machiavelli. I would nothing more than to turn this blog into a public forum dedicated to the discussion of which are the best board games and why.

But, as anyone who’s ever been snowed-in with their siblings knows, the fun of board games is a sharp, sharp double-edged sword. Anyone familiar with Kramer and Newman’s game of Risk knows, cheating, dice rolls, and the precise interpretation of games rules (rulebooks often seem inspired by IRS tax-code prose) can ruin a game night. How many movement points does it cost to load soldiers onto a troop transport? How many armies can one free-move at the end of their turn, and how far? Is the banker stealing from the bank? A game of Machiavelli I once participated in included an hour-long argument between two players (both lawyers) over the placement of one piece on the board. I’ll never forget them standing in the dining room, all other players cleared, while they carried on over the rulebook like they were in court.

Well, thanks to Augmented Reality all that may be over. In June, Hasbro announced the release of Monopoly Zapped, a game design that not only utilizes digital technology to clear up the rules, but also includes new features that take game-play from the table top into the cloud. The Hasbro website explains that “The iconic game board and properties you know and love are still there, but this game is also packed with fantastic app-enhanced features!” A video posted on YouTube shows a game rep explaining how Monopoly Zapped combines the game board and the smart phone, utilizing such features as a credit card system that keeps track of players’ bankrolls and side games that allow players to, among other things, break out of jail along instead of paying a fine and throwing dice.

Hasbro isn’t the only company jumping on the AR bandwagon. In January, AppGear revealed a mixed reality game for both the young and the young at heart. Foam Fighters is one of a number of games being released by this company and features collectible products that interact with a smart phone. Miniature WWII era fighter planes are purchased in packets with distinct scannable codes and a special bracket is included that allows the user to mount the tiny plane in front of the device’s camera. When the game is started, the smartphone camera uses the real image of the model and its foreground and then combines that image with the enemy fighters and cloudbanks of the game. Naturally, the player tilts the device to pitch and bank and uses the screen to fire the machine guns. It looks pretty cool. In one demonstration video, a game rep said “and now all my childhood dream can come true.”

These are both interesting moves forward for both board-gaming and Augmented Reality app development. And with the AR market growing, especially in smartphone downloads, these trends are most likely permanent. Augmented reality is already being used for a variety of purposes, from education, to shopping, to safety, but this application, combining old-fashioned board games and cutting edge technology, is a little unexpected and surprisingly effective. It causes one to wonder in what other ways AR might be used in coming years. But more importantly, with smart devices keeping track of the score, it’s heartening to think how many friendships might be saved and cheaters kept at bay on those long winter nights.