Look, we don’t know how your feel about augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). Maybe you’re a fully-fledged convert with your own collection of devices. Or maybe you’re the kind of person who cynically laughs at the “sheeple” every time they see that photo of Mark Zuckerberg demonstrating the technology to a room full of journalists.
Whatever your feelings, one thing is clear: AR and VR will play a major role in the future of professional training.
Evidence of that can be found in the numerous professions already using these technologies for teaching and skills development purposes.
Here are a few examples:
For most surgeons, training usually involves watching and assisting their more senior colleagues. Thing is, that can limit the kind of surgeries they’re exposed to. Observing a rarer form of surgery can meanwhile involve a costly flight or watching a totally inadequate video recording.
VR is changing all of that. In April 2016, British surgeon Dr. Shafi Ahmed performed the world’s first operation broadcast around the world via virtual reality.
Using a dedicated app, people with VR headsets were able to experience Ahmed removing cancerous tissue from a patient’s bowel as if they were in the room.
Those without VR headsets could meanwhile view the surgery via livestream.
“There will be noise, there will be the immersive factor — so that will add different layers of educational value,” Ahmed told the Guardian, speaking of the broadcast.
Ahmed is actually something of a tech pioneer when it comes to surgery. Previously, he livestreamed another surgery using the Google Glass AR device.
One of the easiest ways to guarantee a military disaster is by not properly training your soldiers. Thing is, it’s not always easy to train them for the exact scenarios they’ll be facing. How, for instance, do you train them to operate in the desert if your country happens to be green and temperate? How do you get them ready for an urban operation if your training grounds happen to be out in the country?
In the past, you would’ve had to ship them out to suitable locations. Thanks to AR and VR, however, soldiers can experience an almost infinite variety of scenarios with just a few tweaks of an algorithm.
In 2014, US Marines demonstrated the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer (AITT). According to Engineering.com, the system works by injecting virtual images—indirect-fire effects, aircraft, vehicles, simulated people, etc. onto a real-world view of one’s surroundings.
“Instead of going out to an old, stale range that has the same targets that people have been shooting at for the last 40 years, AITT provides a target-rich and dynamic environment for training without having to rely on external resources,” said Marine Corps Capt. Jack Holloway, a Marine assigned to ONR’s Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department.
“This is true augmented reality: the system knows where you are in the real world and is able to accurately place other objects in that environment and keep them there, which has been a major challenge for other systems,” said ONR program manager, Dr. Peter Squire. “The sky’s the limit in terms of the types of training scenarios you could create—whatever you can dream up, you can now run out in a real environment.”
When it comes to using AR and VR as professional training tools, the case for engineers is fairly obvious. Virtual reality allows them to create virtual prototypes at a much lower cost or test fixes before applying them to the real world.
AR devices can meanwhile give them real-time access to information about a problem while they’re trying to fix it.
Alternatively, it can allow them to collaborate in real time on designs and prototypes.
Heck, those kinds of scenarios are a major part of Microsoft’s strategy for punting the HoloLens.
Oil Rig Workers
Oil rigs are incredibly dangerous places to work. As such, they require staff to be rigorously drilled in safety procedures.
Thing is, knowing the safety drills backwards and implementing them in an emergency are two different things.
That’s why some oil companies are using VR games to train workers for the scenarios they’ll face on an offshore rig.
“When you have workers who have never been on an offshore platform, they don’t know what to expect,” Skyra Rideaux, spokesperson for Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise (LITE) — a company that creates virtual reality gaming software, told Fox News.
“We create a virtual environment for them where they actually get to see what a rig looks like and what they’ll be doing,” she added.
While the future of Google Glass as a mass consumer product remains doubtful for now, at least one company felt that it was a valuable tool for training its factory workers.
According to ChicagoInno, General Motors’ factory workers would wear Google Glass on the factory floor “during difficult projects like installing strip molding, allowing them to see the correct technique in the glass as they perform the task”.
At the professional level, the narrowest advantage over an opponent can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Small wonder then that professional athletes have often been at the forefront of adopting new technologies. VR is no exception.
The advantages of VR in sports are clear. Teams and coaches can, for instance, run through plays and tactics as many times as they like, from any number of vantage points.
Interestingly, as Vice points out, VR is far more important for enabling mental training than anything physical.
It’s big business too. STriVR Labs, a company that enables the use of VR in sports has a client list which currently includes NFL teams, college programmes, and NBA, NHL and even WNBA organizations.
“Virtual reality replaces your senses with ones generated by a computer,” STriVR Labs co-founder Jeremy Bailenson told NBC. “So when virtual reality is done well, we measure exactly how the body moves, and we replicate the senses for those movements. … VR is a constant technological system that tracks body movement and updates the sights, sounds and touch based on those movements; you feel like you’re mentally transported into a different place.”
Are you using AR and VR for employee training? Let us know how in the comments section below.