mouse and keyboard replacements

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: A Look At Some Virtual Reality Input Solutions

Leap-and-Kinect-1  

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 Virtual Horizons: Oculus Rift in Training Part 1

Oculus Rift demo, development  

With the energized backing of the California based company, Oculus VR, virtual reality is getting closer to becoming a common fact of life in a variety of industries; especially considering their recent announcement July 1, 2014: “The first batch of official DK2s have left the manufacturing facility and are making their way to our distribution centers now. We expect to ship roughly 10,000 DK2s from the factory in July…” The DK2 (Developer Kit #2) is Oculus VR’s second generation virtual reality headset, continuing the company’s vision of “immersive virtual reality technology that's wearable and affordable.” With VR developers getting greater access to the devices necessary to integrate their ideas onto a testable platform, 3D animation is going to play an essential role in taking advantage of the new technological possibilities for entertainment, education, military training, and medicine. The horizon becomes seemingly limitless when we consider the always surprising ingenuity of inventors and entrepreneurs in fields unthinkable until now.

Training with 3D Animation

Simulating effective training exercises will be a unique experience with Oculus Rift as developers explore new ways to use the technology. Training programs and methods of learning specific skills that were once limited primarily to textbook work because of high risk and/or expensive requirements for hands-on practice can begin to 3-dimensionally render virtual objects and environments once difficult to include in particular fields like medicine, high-risk construction, combat, aviation, and biologically hazardous occupation.

Oculus Rift: Military Training A couple years back I posted about Flight Simulators and the valuable role they are beginning to play in the Air Force and Navy - noting the importance that they play in developing a pilot’s situational awareness. Well in March this year, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) revealed it is developing a combat project using Oculus Rift called Plan X. Andy Greenburg’s article in Wired magazine wrote:

At the Pentagon Wednesday, the armed forces’ far-out research branch known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency showed off its latest demos for Plan X, a long-gestating software platform designed to unify digital attack and defense tools into a single, easy-to-use interface for American military hackers. And for the last few months, that program has had a new toy: The agency is experimenting with using the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset to give cyber-warriors a new way to visualize three-dimensional network simulations–in some cases with the goal of better targeting them for attack. ‘Darpa Turns Oculus into a Weapon for Cyberwar’5.23.14

While Oculus Rift isn’t strapped to the head of soldiers yet, it is proving itself as a serious player in 3D animated realities.   The ability for its user to actually turn around in the virtual environment by using normal body motion greatly enhances the user’s ability to interact naturally with its simulated environment.