Businesses have always jumped at the chance to harness technological innovations in order to boost their processes and gain an edge over competitors. Today, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are perhaps two of the hottest new technologies to keep an eye on.
With enterprise spending on immersive tech rapidly accelerating, companies should examine what AR and VR bring to the table. At the same time, businesses may be hesitant to put all their chips on a technology that has not achieved mainstream use, so they might want to test the waters by using it in a limited capacity.
Training solutions offer an ideal proving ground for AR and VR. There were an estimated 58.9 million VR users and 93.3 million AR users in the U.S. in 2021, so it’s clear that immersive solutions are popular. But what makes them good for training?
• Immersive Experience
Learning new skills through video materials, online lectures and tests is similar to traditional education in schools and colleges, even if all of these are collected into one interactive software. In contrast, VR/AR apps and devices allow getting an immersive experience which can help users absorb information better.
Safe And Cost-Effective
Using virtual software and simulations removes or reduces the need to pay human trainers or educators, and it also removes many training risks (such as supervising the use of heavy equipment).
• Limitless Customization
AR/VR applications can feature dozens of 3-D models, scenarios and types of interactions. They are also easy to expand/modify over time.
Types Of Immersive Training You Can Use
Over many years of developing immersive solutions, my company has encountered and worked with many types of training software solutions, applying to different fields and processes present in most companies. The main varieties of these solutions are:
1. Equipment Training: Realistic interactions with equipment and machinery are delivered through 3-D models and twins so users can learn to operate them.
2. Safety Training: Users can learn to perform dangerous tasks or work with potential hazards without putting their lives or health at risk.
3. Emergency Training: Users learn to respond to a range of emergency situations, with consequences of failure imitating real-life events.
4. HR Training: HR specialists learn strategies and techniques for communicating with employees and potential recruits, with human-like speech choices and emotional reactions.
5. Gamified Training: Users learn through games or courses that feature game mechanics, such as badges, leaderboards, earning virtual currency and unlocking other rewards.
Pros And Cons Of Choosing VR
Virtual reality is a technology of complete immersion, and choosing it for training simulations gives you complete control over the content and interactions that take place in that digital world. Depending on the hardware deployed, you can take advantage of such features as eye, face and body movement tracking, input based on finger movements and gestures and advanced finger tracking (with haptic gloves).
In my experience, here are a few of the other reasons to choose VR.
• High level of realism (immersion) in simulations.
• Unlimited scenario and setting customization.
• Accessible anywhere and anytime.
• More safety in all interactions.
• Insightful behavior tracking and analytics.
With those benefits in mind, here are a few of the downsides you should consider.
• Relatively expensive hardware.
• “Play area” must be obstacle-free.
• Some movement types cause disorientation.
Pros And Cons Of Choosing AR
Augmented reality is a technology of partial immersion, relying on physical markers (like objects, patterns and shapes) to determine relevant 3-D content that should be visualized in predetermined locations and situations.
Currently, most AR applications are used via smartphone apps and cameras, but the market of AR glasses (think Google Glass, but more versatile) is in its infancy but steadily growing.
Here are a few of the reasons to consider AR technology for corporate training.
• Accessible on nearly every phone and tablet.
• Delivers more information and value to physical interactions.
• Advanced tracking, recognition and visual analysis capabilities.
• Adaptive to changing physical circumstances.
And here are a few of the challenges you might expect.
• Error-free tracking is hard to achieve.
• Limits the use of two hands.
• Most devices are restricted in graphical performance.
As demonstrated, there is a case to be made for using either of the immersive options, but the best choice will be different for each company. For example, one company may prefer to put their workers out of harm’s way with focused, hands-on training with VR headsets and gloves, while another will prefer an option with AR visualization that lets them take advantage of real physical locations and objects.
It is also worth mentioning that AR and VR are not the only immersive technologies today, just the most well-known ones. Another contender you should know about is mixed reality, which engages a headset (like VR) but also lets the user see digital elements in their real surroundings (like AR). In short, mixed reality can also be used for training, and there are dozens of companies like Program-Ace that develop custom solutions in this field.
Whatever you choose for your business, you shouldn’t go into the decision trying to imitate anyone, but instead, focus on your business needs and determine which tools let you fulfill them to the highest extent. If you are pleased with the solution you build, you can expand it to other areas of your business or jump into the metaverse.