Over the last few years, we have seen organizations across the globe adopting technology to enhance their operations. In the corporate training sphere too, immersive technology experiences have opened up possibilities for knowledge and skill enhancements. Let us first begin by understanding what Immersive Technologies are – Immersive Technology is any technology that uses or enhances an existing reality or creates a new reality using the 360-degree space. These technologies provide learners with an environment in which they can look in any direction, view related content, be a part of the environment, perform related activities, or familiarize themselves with similar situations they might face in the real world.
Some key Immersive Technologies used by corporates are – Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR).
Let us take a quick peek at some of these technologies and how they are slowly becoming part of corporate education.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality is an immersive technology where the learner is completely shut out from the rest of the world while being surrounded by a digitally-simulated 3D world for content. Through a head-mounted display set, the user is transported into a world which becomes his or her reality. The learner is then able to explore this new environment, sense their own presence in the environment, engage in activities, learn, and enhance their skills. The fast adoption of smart devices and wearable technology has helped corporates transit to this form of experiential learning with ease. These experiences allow learners to engage in first-hand decision making and problem-solving situations in a high fidelity, real-world environment.
One example of such a learning experience is where an officer on-board a vessel moves through different sections of the ship’s crew area with an objective of inspecting life saving devices – whether they are available, whether placed correctly, calibrated as needed, whether something is blocking their access, etc. During an otherwise busy workday, the officer may overlook such things which could lead to potentially dangerous situations in the future. However, these simulated experiences change behaviors and in this case, make the officer more vigilant in a real-life situation. This also bridges the gap between theory and practice by allowing the learner to learn in a risk-free environment. Some examples where Virtual Reality is being effectively used by corporates are:
How does it work? There are many tools and software available in the market to create an immersive environment experience – such as Max, Maya, Unreal Engine, Blender, etc. The most ubiquitous by far is Unity 3D due to its ease of use and ability to quickly prototype VR applications. Videos, images, 3D meshes, and text are used as inputs to create an environment. VR headsets such as Oculus Quest, Oculus Rift, and Play Station are some popular platforms to experience such an immersive environment.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR overlays simple information over what a user is looking at – unlike a VR environment where the user is totally immersed in the environment. The technology is designed for free movement of a physical real world environment while projecting a live feed of graphics in the form of images or videos, text, and GPS data to enhance an individual’s learning experience. Although AR does not provide the visual immersion experience it allows the user to experience it on a phone or a tablet thus calling it mobile augmented reality. This means that the hardware required to implement an AR application is something that you take with you wherever you go. Phone or tablet-based AR software recognizes surroundings and provides information about what it sees. This offers a live feed of text or graphics or audio, or pop-ups to help the learner explore and learn.
A great example of AR is Snapchat Filters. With Snapchat Filters you can overlay digital images of a dog, cat, movie star, etc. onto your face. You can even move your phone around and see clouds around you.
Some corporate training interventions where AR technology is being used are:
How does it work? Like VR, AR experiences too can be created using Unity 3D or other similar software applications. The difference lies primarily in the deployment of this content. For AR, an app is designed and installed on any camera-enabled device like a tablet or phone which can launch graphics, audio, text, videos, 3D animations, etc.
Mixed Reality (MR)
This is merging of real and virtual worlds to create new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. This can be experienced through a hands-free device such as the Microsoft Hololens.
All three technologies are constantly evolving, and as they evolve, so do the use cases. The key is to realize that with changing learner needs, these technologies provide organizations the power to create immersive, interactive content that helps enhance learner experience.
– By Deepak Dudwadkar, Director – Key Accounts at MPS Interactive Systems