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.
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.
Recently a virtual collegiate tour company called YouVisit has upgraded its user experience by integrating their original concepts with the new Oculus Rift device. The experience of deciding on higher education has become more enticing with the immersive virtual reality tours. The initial user experience was akin to Google Street View with the founders being hired out by thousands of universities to photograph their campuses. With the new virtual reality headset, prospective students can get a more life-like feel for the spaces without spending money on airfare and travel expenses for short visits.
Interactive Education and Augmented Reality
YouVisit’s use of Oculus Rift for Education gets students excited about entering into the establishment, but keeping them there and engaged in the classroom is likely to become a digital experience too. While we are a long way out from holographic in-home tutors and professors, faculty members across the entire board of education can benefit their students’ imaginations and curiosity by bringing to life history and world travel.
Imagine: Art history majors walking through world renowned museums on virtual tours without leaving the classroom; and museums could go from virtual to creating augmented reality software and adapted devices that allow visitors to look at the art pieces while also having the history and information in their visual fields with interactive displays. Anthropology and Archeology departments can recreate lost ruins to their original splendor and create student projects that immerse students in the visual cultural space. Historical events could be created to become 3-dimensional worlds that can be explored and controlled. The possibilities are limitless once university departments start working with 3D animators and designers.
Students: Retaining Knowledge and Curiosity
I remember the agonizingly mundane routine of high school and teachers usually didn’t try to hide their agreement. The educational experience as a whole needs to be able to impress itself upon students without using grade coercion, which is a hard thing to do if both students and teachers are having difficulty engaging. Virtual reality education looks like an answer, with exciting benefits that motivate our youthful sense of curiosity. Tori DeAngelis wrote an article for the American Psychological Association about testing virtual reality in the classroom:
"The Holy Grail of teaching is one-on-one instruction," says Bailenson, who directs Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. "Virtual reality enables you to amplify what is normally done in a real classroom…" In a range of studies, Bailenson's team is showing that manipulating virtual versions of the teacher and classroom environment can help students pay attention and perform better… As a whole, these technologies could have profound implications for distance learning, individualized learning at home, and other applications, Bailenson believes. Consider the advantages of giving thousands of students the ability to see the same great teacher; to consistently sit in the best spot in the class; or to enter a teacher's body to learn physical moves.
Edutainment is something that we are all quite familiar with, just think back to your youngest memories of childhood programing: Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, Bill Nye the Science Guy. The list can go on, and you most likely remember them so well because at the time you liked them. Public Broadcasting Casting is known for its educational entertainment for all ages. The concept is now becoming a trend in corporate America. A simple application of edutainment is using animation or interactive graphics in Powerpoint presentations.
The Possibilities of Edutainment for Employee Training
Well-designed Powerpoints that include entertaining design elements are good for short projects or training tasks that don’t over task our attention; but once the amount information begins to rely too heavily on rote memorization, the task becomes burdensome and easily disengaged from. Learning in corporations that require longer periods of time to convey the necessary information can benefit from using different forms of interactive video and animation. Training programs can invest in a creative series of videos that are organized like the chapters of training handbooks. Animated videos don’t need to be the replacement to textual information; they can be supplemental, with the corporation choosing the most important information to include. Pairing videos with text training books decreases the amount of reading so that when the employee does read it is in-between a break by another form of media learning.
Entertaining and Educating Internet Customers About Your Company
Investing in the virtual marketplace is big business now and the website is the storefront. A nice storefront is attractive to customers who have never heard of the product and a good product keeps them inside. A good sales person and manager should know all about the company itself and be able to convey it charismatically and accurately. In the virtual store it depends upon site design and entertaining features like the degree of interactivity and presentation of the information. Anyone with a business wants it to fiscally succeed but also to be known as being a human expression. The entire story should be known to become a part of the community. Successful businesses and organizations become virtual personalities that are relatable and relatively transparent. Edutainment can factor in to developing the virtualized self of a company by engaging successfully with the customer on a personal level instead of solely as a financial exchange.