Virtual reality and augmented reality have evolved over the past couple of years and become more accessible, both technologically and financially, for business and learning. Often voiced in the same breath, virtual reality and augmented reality bend what’s real to demonstrate, visualize, and impart information.
Here are the differences among them:
- Virtual reality (VR): VR is a virtual environment that shuts out the real world and creates a virtual environment before your eyes. To experience VR, you need a special headset that immerses you in the new reality.
- Augmented reality (AR): With AR, the real world remains central to your experience and is augmented by virtual details. Normally, the virtual details are superimposed on the screen of a phone or tablet, enabling you to learn more about an object by pointing your device at it.
- Mixed reality (MR): MR is a combination of virtual and actual realities, allowing you to interact with both at once.
- Extended reality (XR): XR is the term for when these technologies are used together.
Now that the technology is here, it’s time to refine and expand upon it. We need to think about blending augmented and virtual realities, enabling hybrid learning experiences between virtual and face-to-face environments.
Many companies are interested in using AR and VR for learning and corporate benefits but don’t know where to get started. I recently sat down with Matt Donovan, GP Strategies’ chief learning and innovation officer, and Tom Pizer, director of learning technologies at the same company. We discussed where VR, AR and MR are headed, what software drives them, and how to dip your toe in now that the technology and platforms to support them are more accessible. Here are selected highlights from our discussion. You can watch the interview at the end of this post.
How to Get Started With VR and AR
There are many tools on the market today to help rapidly develop content and lower the bar for entry. We suggest you start with an AR or VR training use case that’s meaningful and impactful to your learners. Keep it small and focused and incorporate measurement. Also consider the tools and devices you’ll need ahead of time and how you’ll supply them to your workforce. After some practice you will be able to plan to scale, include ideas that worked well, and tailor the experience for your unique learning culture.
Is there a quick way to get started?
We suggest getting started with a simple test-and-learn approach and make it low barrier, meaning that it can be accessed on a number of different devices. It’s easier to do with augmented reality because of the devices needed. A simple test-and-learn approach will familiarize your developers and writers with the process and get the learners comfortable with the user experience too.
How do AR and VR fit into your ecosystem?
There’s so much disruption these days that the question is hard to answer. Start with what you are trying to accomplish. What is the most effective way to achieve those goals? Augmented or virtual reality training or operations will not always be the best answer. Also consider that every time you implement a new technology, there’s a culture shift, so be prepared for change management.
Which is better—AR or VR?
To determine whether AR or VR training is the best approach to use, consider the challenges your workforce is experiencing. Are your people struggling to perform their jobs at the point-of-work? AR will allow them to scan an object and get information in a just-in-time manner. For example, you can provide a mechanical technician with augmented learning that allows them to scan a machine part and learn how to replace it. On the other hand, VR allows the technician to explore, replace, and repair parts in a virtual scenario that doesn’t require equipment downtime or mechanical risk. It allows them to understand and practice the skill.
Here are some of the tools you’ll need.
Your developers are probably already familiar with some of the tools you can use, such as Immerse, CenarioVR, and Adobe Captivate. They can be implemented on a desktop or headset. They’re not hard to learn. Once you do, you can move to more sophisticated solutions that deploy on any mobile device, such as Unreal, Zappar, Layar and Unity.
Will all of this require new staff?
When GP Strategies started implementing VR and AR solutions a few years ago, we refined our existing talent. Because our people were already experienced, upskilling was a viable option. It really depends on the team you have in place. Content creation for VR and AR, for example, is a whole different animal than traditional instructional design. So as you move into this arena, consider who can be upskilled and where you may have gaps in your team’s expertise.
Where is the future headed and am I too late?
You’re definitely not too late. If you think of VR and AR as a structure, we’re just on the first floor now. It’s an ideal time to jump in. We’re still building and perfecting tools and techniques, and we envision the growing potential of the AR, VR, and MR spaces. Also, AI is beginning to creep into the space, creating new opportunities to extend capabilities.
The future is bright for AR and VR. We’ve effectively used it for a variety of needs, from automotive sales training to continuity of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. As developers and users become more accustomed to the technologies, we foresee them as having a huge impact on modern learning.