Training in virtual reality. (Image courtesy PwC.).
It is four times faster to train employees soft skills when using virtual reality than when using traditional in-person classroom or online training, according to a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
And it’s cheaper, too — organizations spend about $195 per trainee when using virtual reality, compared to the $207 to $265 average costs for traditional training.
Training modality cost per learner. (Image courtesy PwC.).
The results of the study begin to help clarify the potential value of using virtual reality for soft-skills training such as leadership, sales, customer interactions, and change management, Scott Likens, PwC’s emerging tech lead, told Hypergrid Business.
“Our study found that virtual reality is ready to deploy at enterprise scale,” he said. “The PwC team was able to provision, deploy, and manage a large fleet of head-mounted displays with a very small team.”
Virtual reality is particularly useful during the pandemic when training budgets may be shrinking and it is not safe to train groups in-person. But it can also help companies prepare for future the future, he said, offering low-cost but still effective training at scale.
And just how effective is it
According to the study, which involved 1,600 new managers, workers trained in VR are 340 percent more confident in their new skills, and feel four times as emotionally connected to content as classroom learners.
Training in virtual reality. (Image courtesy PwC.).
PwC has already trained more than 4,000 of its own employees using virtual reality, he said.
“As a next step from the virtual reality soft-skills training study, we are conducting a readiness review to inform a global learning and development strategy for virtual reality at the firm,” he said.
And PwC isn’t alone. According to a PwC’s June 2020 CFO Pulse survey, 52 percent of executives are planning to make remote working a permanent option for roles that allow it and this will likely increase remote training opportunities.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and up to $294 billion of that amount will be for training,” said Likens.
And it’s not just for soft skills, he added. Virtual reality can also be employed in teaching hard skills such as operating machinery or using new software.
Virtual Reality (VR) along with Augmented Reality (AR) is the next big thing in employee training and development in corporate organizations, as well as something which will be quite commonplace by the middle of the next decade.
Learn How Virtual Reality Can Be Useful In Corporate Training
By the looks of it, it does seem that a lot of corporate organizations with the means to implement Virtual Reality in their employee Learning and Development (L&D) programs are actually exploring VR as a means to provide immersive learning and training to their employees. Thus, for those organizations that haven’t looked into implementing VR as a digital learning strategy/method, it’s time to start preparing because, whether you like it or not, VR is coming to the L&D industry, and it’s better to get on with it now, rather than jumping on the bandwagon later on. But first, let us understand VR a little better.
What Is VR And How Can It Help Corporate Organizations?
VR, or Virtual Reality as the name suggests, creates a simulated environment using 3D-generated images in which the user is immersed. This makes the user feel like they are in that environment, very much like reality. VR can be used in 3 ways, depending on what fits the organization’s requirements and budget:
- Mobile VR: is quite simple and requires a VR headset. The user’s smartphone is inserted into the VR headset and the simulation is run on the smartphone.
- Standalone VR: is a more advanced form of VR than mobile VR and does not require any additional devices or cables to run other than the VR headset itself.
- Desktop VR: is the most high-end form of VR which provides the most immersive experiences to the user. It requires powerful computers as well as an advanced VR headset.
It should be obvious how helpful and amazing VR can be for corporate training, as it provides employees with a virtual world where they can learn, train, explore and make mistakes without any real-world consequences, and without any other costs. Not to mention, VR is highly-engaging and immersive. This automatically increases the absorption and retention rates of all that they experience and learn. Experiential learning, after all, has been proven to be the most effective way to learn, as it is how our brains absorb and retain information.
How Can Corporate Organizations Best Use VR?
The best thing about VR is the fact that it can be used in any industry to teach any thinkable skill, which is why it has such a high adoption rate. It can be used to train doctors to perform surgery, to train chemical engineers to properly synthesize hazardous chemicals, to train military personnel, to train automobile engineers, scientists, astronauts, you name it all without any risk or any additional expense.
Thus, it is really up to the corporate organization using VR to get creative and find how they can best train their employees. A lot will depend on the quality of the digital learning simulations that the designers at the organization create, which will require a lot of expertise. But, it is worth having smart, knowledgeable, and productive employees who have been trained using this training method. VR has been used and is usually used in corporate organizations to train employees in skillsets such as:
- Business and soft skills
These are skills that require thorough practice to improve and include skills such as public speaking, sales, negotiation, and networking (to name a few) which can be simulated using VR.
- Diversity, inclusion, harassment, and compliance training:
These are usually mandatory trainings that would otherwise bore the living daylights out of employees. Thankfully, VR is very engaging, and thus puts the user in the middle of all the action, thus helping them learn what to do and what not to do. As VR is simulated reality, it leads to actual behavioral change in employees, rather than them behaving in the way the organization wants just for the sake of it.
- Customer handling training
This is perhaps one of the best and easiest uses of VR, as it is perfect to train customer experience executives on how to handle customers. The training simulation is (or at least should be) made up of branching scenarios all based on how a customer would react in real life.
- Recruitment And onboarding
VR can be used to train HR professionals and managers to better interview candidates that apply to their organization. Once a candidate has been selected, they can be onboarded using VR. The onboarding training may include an intro to the organization, its origin, its locations worldwide, important personalities of the organization, and the like, making for an onboarding experience which is sure to leave a mark on the new recruit.
Foto: Mr. Tempter/Shutterstock.com
Podcast rund um das Thema Lernen und Arbeiten mit und in Virtual-/Augmented (VR/AR) und Mixed Reality (MR).
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Joachim Scholz, marketing professor and researcher specialized in augmented reality marketing, has recently joined Brock University to teach the innovative AR marketing course.
Future marketing specialists can start their career specializing in the latest technologies thanks to a new AR marketing course offered by Brock University in Canada. The St. Catherines (Ontario) university has recently enlisted professor Joachim Scholz, who spent the last six years researching and teaching augmented reality at California Polytechnic State University.
Why the Need for an AR Marketing Course?
For professor Scholz, there is a real need for this specific course in the academic field. So far, universities are teaching digital marketing with augmented reality as a small component of the overall curriculum. What he proposes to do at the Goodman School of Business at Brock University is to focus exclusively on AR techniques in marketing.
“Students will become marketing experts who are familiar with the types of AR experiences that resonate with customers, and they will gain first-hand experience in how to design an AR marketing initiative,” Scholz said in a press release sent to ARPost.
He further explained that many students and marketers confuse augmented reality with virtual reality. Thus, they need in-depth learning through the AR marketing course to understand the use cases and benefits of AR in business.
What Will Students Learn While Attending the AR Marketing Course?
Professor Scholz structured the course in four specific learning blocks:
- A series of lectures that cover basic concepts of AR, its strategic potential in marketing, AR experience design, and how augmented reality is applied in advertising, retail and experiential marketing;
- Presentations by guest speakers experienced in industry practices;
- Presentations created by the students covering topics related to current AR experiences;
- The core of the course – a project developed by the students for a client.
The AR marketing course launched in May and so far the students have already created a project for a client – a winemaking kit brand.
How the Students Work on the Practice Project
Professor Scholzestablished a collaboration agreement with an AR/VR company, UP360, to help the students develop the client project within the AR marketing course. Harrison Olajos, President and CEO of the company, stated that he is “excited” to offer working space, mentorship and coaching for free to the AR marketing course students.
In their turn, the students worked closely with the client and with other industry partners focusing on:
- Understanding the objectives of the business
- Develop skills in the creative process
- Learning how to create a persuasive pitch
- Build and implement the ideas they’ve come up with.
Plans to Develop the AR Marketing Course
At the moment, professor Scholz’s course is available exclusively online. However, he plans to incorporate it into his syllabus, taught at R3CL facility, an AR/VR reality consumer laboratory equipped with Microsoft HoloLens and other cutting edge technologies.
“Beginning with the R3CL and now this new unique AR marketing course, Brock University and the Goodman School of Business is on a trajectory to become a centre of excellence in the area of AR marketing,” said Dean of the Goodman School of Business at Brock University, Andrew Gaudes. “Goodman students will be among the first to have a solid foundation on how to use AR in marketing strategy.”
And what avatar technologies are essential in the era of spatial computing.
At the dawn of the internet, people were first only able to communicate through text, with no font or design optionality. Eventual progressions in technology enabled more nuanced design and the onset of digital photo and video. As Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 2016, “We’re always looking for better and richer ways to express ourselves and share with one another”.
Evolution of digital content
In recent years, we’ve seen a rapid rise in live video communication alongside a shift in interpersonal communication and media consumption from desktop to mobile. The next frontier is the eventuality of AR/VR, which allows a user to share content that is closer to the purest form of his or her experience and to consume arguably the most immersive and compelling form of media available to date.
In addition, the use of virtual spaces for traditionally physical experiences is becoming more and more commonplace. The onset of COVID-19 has only accelerated this phenomenon. Examples include people holding wedding ceremonies in Animal Crossing, students recreating high schools to study in Minecraft, and performers hosting concerts in Fortnite.
Communication through avatars
In these aforementioned digital environments, the individual is able to represent his or herself with avatars. The more society employs non storyline conforming uses to these digital worlds, the more important nuanced interpersonal communication becomes for the user base.
This phenomenon highlights the need for a new form of digital communication, particularly in light of the shift to AR/VR interfaces. Current text-based messaging solutions are extremely inconvenient on virtual interfaces, while audio streams don’t fully reflect the emotional dimensions of a conversation. Lastly, while video holograms benefit from their accurate depictions of user emotion, they unfortunately suffer from the uncanny valley effect rendering them less than ideal for encouraging user engagement.
Online multiplayer games like the World of Warcraft and Diablo series originally enabled people to communicate with their avatars through text. Since then, technological advances have enabled audio to stream alongside user characters.
The popular multiplayer game Fortnite has taken a step forward in online user interaction by adding user controlled emotive behavior to their avatars and audio communications. However, these popular Fortnite dances and celebrations are highly limited in their functionality from a communication perspective.
The New York City based venture studio developing Chudo, the next generation virtual social network, sees the next phase of avatar technologies employing real time emotion animations that reflect the speech of the user. Recognizing this progression, Chudo’s developers have reworked the entire way a user can create, as well as interact with avatars.
Chudo’s work on avatar technologies
Chudo developers have set out to create technologies that shift messaging from text-based to voice and animation-based content, using digital avatars to enable emotion rich interpersonal communication.
The first step for the team was developing an automatic tool for creating avatars, which is far more user friendly than the traditional “avatar maker” approach.
The traditional “avatar maker” approach
Incumbent technologies typically employ a manual avatar making toolkit, where the user is expected to build their own personalized digital twin by choosing from hundreds of different facial feature options: eyebrows, chins, noses, etc.
There are three main issues with this approach:
- Specific artistic skills are required to design your look-alike avatar.
- The user experience is daunting.
- It’s workforce intensive for developers to draw many variations of different face parts to match everyone.
Chudo’s machine learning approach for avatar creation
While still providing the ability to customize looks, the team behind Chudo built a tool that allows users to create precise virtual copies of themselves, i.e. digital twins, with ease. To put it simply, Chudo’s team has built a machine learning technology that automatically generates avatars based on a user’s selfie photo.
Of note, the technology runs inference locally on mobile devices without cloud processing users’ sensitive data — face pictures.
Here is how it works:
The process of avatar generation starts by constructing a user’s 3D face model from a selfie shot. With this single photo, one neural network builds a 3D mesh of the user’s head.
Then the mesh goes through the automatic stylization process that makes it look more cartoonish. Afterwards, it is used as a basis for the avatar’s head.
Next, other neural networks swing into action. Face parts such as hair, eyebrows, facial hair and colors are classified and synthesized (generated) onto the mesh in the appropriate style based on the user’s selfie.
Moreover, if a user is wearing glasses another neural network will detect and synthesize a 3D version of them.
In comparison to platforms like Fortnite and Minecraft, Chudo’s product focus is on user interaction and communication, rather than gameplay. With that purpose, Chudo’s team has built a technology that uses machine learning to recognize speech and translate it into real-time emotional animations.
Chudo’s AI Speech-driven Facial Animation allows users to express themselves in a more nuanced way to foster closer emotional connections between users on the platform.
How the technology was built:
As the first step, Chudo pre-trained its neural network on more than 10,000 hours of speech recordings to transcribe audio into phone sequences. These recordings trained Chudo’s network for audio speech recognition.
In the process of training the animation network, Chudo’s team used its proprietary facial performance capture solution to extract animation from the large video dataset and obtain audio-to-animation training examples.
Taking into account that different actors had produced unique animations for the same utterance, Chudo trained its animation network to learn the distribution of possible animations in the generative adversarial framework GAN. This implementation allows Chudo software to choose an animation style based on speech in real time.
The larger speech driven animation network uses full audio recordings to obtain animation, which is fine for audio files. To adopt this solution to real-time streams, Chudo applied a technique called “Knowledge Distillation” for training real-time architecture by the larger and non-real time version. As a result, the real time version has a smaller memory footprint and requires much less computations.
Chudo. Live the future.
The avatar technologies described above are implemented in Chudo, which is now available on the App Store and Google Play. The mobile app is the first step in product development towards building the virtual social platform. For now, Chudo has the very basic functionalities that serve as the foundation of the larger digital world: real-time audio chat, personalized emotes and a multidimensional digital space that the user can explore.
This first version of Chudo allows the team to test out these proprietary avatar technologies in a 3D space and find more specific use cases for virtual gatherings before expanding to new platforms (Oculus, desktop). Chudo is hard at work to refine and expand its functionalities, with your help.
Voice, body, and biometric feedback tracking. It’s an exciting time for VR training analytics. Find out how VR enables adaptive learning, continuous improvement, and evidence-based learning efficacy for innovative L&D professionals.
VR Equals To New Possibilities For Learning Analytics
Adaptive learning. Continuous improvement. Evidence-based learning efficacy. The rise of learning analytics is driving change in Learning and Development (L&D). If this area of focus gets you excited, you’re not alone, and VR training analytics is about to open up a whole new world for you.
“Learning analytics” jumped from third to first position in Donald Taylor’s annual L&D Global Sentiment Survey, which asks, “What will be hot in workplace learning in 2020?” Yet despite the drive to collect and use data to adapt, improve, and assess the value of learning, it has been challenging for L&D to accomplish. An annual report by Watershed suggests that while 90% of L&D professionals surveyed want to measure the business impact of learning programs, 53% of L&D departments have either no or basic measurement .
Compared to eLearning, VR brings unparalleled access to user data because of the innate tracking capabilities inside the headset, which can then be exported to an analytics tool or dashboard. Analysis of VR data can demonstrate training effectiveness and show areas of improvement, both on an individual level and aggregated across entire learning audiences.
Combined with a strategic approach to learning evaluation outside the headset, we have a powerful formula for tying data to performance outcomes.
The Many Ways To Use VR Training Data
An important point to make is that VR user data is not only useful for analyzing after the fact. With sophisticated VR programming, we can collect data during the learning experience and adapt the experience in real time. New developments in VR include tracking body movements, facial expressions, voice recognition (speech) and vocal tone, and even biofeedback, such as heart rate.
What Can Be Tracked In VR?
Progress, Completions, And Replays
Measure and report on how many tries it took to finish a VR learning experience, and if/how many times the learner replayed the experience. This, combined with other data, can indicate whether you have areas for improvement in your learning experience.
Continuous monitoring of data means you can gather data on key decision points, which can include anything from multiple-choice assessments to choices in a branching scenario. Analyzing this data can help you determine if you’ve made the questions or scenario choices too challenging or not challenging enough. It could also help you analyze patterns in an individual’s thought process or decision-making. With a branching scenario in which the paths are based on emotional response (empathetic, severe, professional), the data will show which path an employee tends to take.
Voice Recognition And Analysis
Track the verbal interactions learners have with avatars and interactive components within the VR experience to gauge the emotion and energy level demonstrated by a learner’s verbal response. Pace can be determined by the words spoken per minute. Data can reveal the tone and overall sentiment of the speaker. You can even track how many “um’s” or “likes” a person exhibits during verbal communication.
Body Position And Movement
Evaluate this data to assess if the proper physical techniques being instructed are being achieved—ideal for safety training. For soft skills training, this data can be monitored to evaluate the learner’s communication, interactions, and behavior exhibited through body language in the program. Monitor how and where learners move around a virtual environment to evaluate if you’ve created an intuitive path for them.
Retinal Eye Tracking
Data showing where learners are looking in the VR experience (and at whom they’re looking) can be visualized in a “heat map” for any point in the program. Evaluate this data to ensure key content is successfully being seen at the right moment in the learning journey. This data could also be used as key metrics for diversity and inclusion training, potentially indicating areas of unconscious bias.
An exciting new development in VR, biometric feedback, may include monitoring a learner’s heart rate, energy expenditure, and even mapping brain activity (which is still in the early stage of development). This can provide insight into stress levels that learners feel at specific moments in the program. You can measure learners’ heart rates to determine if they’re exerting a specific amount of energy at a particular time.
Tracking Of Multimodal Data
You needn’t be limited by only VR learning data. Not only can your analytics tool monitor each VR program, but you can also aggregate data from other learning modalities, such as Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. This gives L&D the flexibility to implement different learning modalities (for optimal learning potential) while monitoring learning activities from a single, customizable dashboard.
LMS Vs. VR Analytics Dashboard
Achieving the best integration with the LMS is a continuing journey in VR for learning. As self-contained, stand-alone applications, VR is typically launched via the VR hardware and software, rather than an LMS. However, if we want to go deeper and review and analyze more of the user data, then we need another tool: Enter the VR analytics dashboard.
The VR analytics dashboard can provide L&D professionals with these features:
- Track users, completion of experiences, and assessments
- Track the amount of time spent on a given situation
- Count repetitions and/or interactions in the experience
- Capture specific data for each unique user
- Support a dashboard view with a familiar LMS look, feel, and functionality
- Be customizable to provide insight into the most important data: you can add a data tracking element to just about anything in the Virtual Reality experience
Tying It All Together And Measuring Impact
To create the most effective evaluation strategy, you’ll want to combine data captured from VR learning with data gathered after the learning experience. This evaluation strategy should be tailored to your learning objectives and audience as well as business constraints.
If you’re new to training evaluation, good places to start are the Kirkpatrick Model of training evaluation and Will Thalheimer’s Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model  .
A comprehensive evaluation strategy might include surveys, observation, and data analysis to address the following areas (informed by the two models mentioned above):
How do learners rate the level of engagement? This can be combined with user data captured inside the headset on progress and replays, and, in the near future, biometric feedback as well.
How confident did they feel about performing the task(s) on the job before the training, and how do they feel after the training?
How relevant did they find the training? How often do they predict they will use what they learned on the job?
How motivated are they to apply what they learned back on the job?
This refers specifically to the recall of facts and information, and it is typically measured via multiple-choice assessments. This could be combined with user data on decision-making, such as with branching scenarios captured inside the headset.
Back on the job, is the learner making decisions and performing tasks by applying what they learned—in other words, displaying behavior change? This can be measured via manager observation and/or more sophisticated assessments (possibly in VR!).
What is the effect of the transfer on the business or organization? This typically requires more in-depth data analysis on Key Performance Indicators before and after the learning intervention. Given the variables involved in these metrics (Is the increase in sales due to learning? New products? Discounts?), understanding impact at this level is challenging—the holy grail of learning analytics!
Learning Analytics And The Future of L&D
Data collected both inside and outside the headset create a comprehensive VR training analytics strategy, beyond what can be done in other delivery modalities. As we move forward through precautions around physical distancing, analytics is more important than ever for capturing every interaction and reaction your learners have. Armed with the granular data to track learning, instructors can support learners with better and more personalized feedback—without having to be in the same room.
Interested in discovering more about learning analytics in VR training and seeing examples of analytics in action? Download Your Guide To VR Training Programs: Virtual Reality For Our New Reality. In this comprehensive eBook, you’ll learn the steps to successfully building a VR training program within your organization and read the case studies that prove its effectiveness. Join the webinar VR Training Program Case Study to learn all you need to know through a success story!
Foto: Katherina Canales/SweetRush Inc.
Virtual Reality might seem like a far-out fiction, but it’s one of the most practical training tools you can employ. How do you fit VR training into your Performance Management strategy and hold everyone accountable?
Improve Employee Performance With Virtual Reality Training
Every member of the team must toe the line. They need to understand company policy and how it connects to their job duties, and be aware of personal areas for improvement that limit workplace productivity. Thus, Performance Management is an ongoing process that must walk the fine line between organizational standards and individual growth. It also happens to be one of the trickier aspects of employee training since there’s a great deal of real-world application, self-analysis, and skill-building involved. Fortunately, you can use Virtual Reality training for Performance Management to improve performance behaviors and get stray staff members back on track.
1. VR Assessments To Evaluate Employee Performance
Virtual Reality for Performance Management imparts practical experience, but it also gauges how well employees apply that experience in real-world settings. Virtual Reality assessments identify performance issues ahead of time. For example, a task simulation or serious game can test their ability to communicate with clients and match them with the right product. They can hone their skills and broaden product knowledge based on the VR training assessment results. Alternatively, use VR evaluations to see if they’re ready for promotions or have what it takes to earn their skill-based certifications.
2. Interactive Progress Maps To Chart Growth And Improve Motivation
Frame the entire VR training program with an interactive progress map so that employees can monitor their growth. This also motivates them to do better and go beyond the status quo. They may take an extra course or spend an additional half-hour on training every day. The map allows them to see how far they’ve come and what they need to do to reach the next stage. They’re even able to set their own milestones or goals along the way to make it personal. Or earn VR badges every time they reach an online training destination.
3. Immersive Simulations To Rapidly Bridge Skill Gaps
Simulations let the online training experience sink in and form an emotional connection. Employees aren’t just going through the motions or tapping into policies they’ve memorized. They must keep their wits about them and use every online training resource at their disposal to achieve the best outcome. This can also reveal hidden skill gaps discreetly and then target these areas of improvement through practical application. For example, a customer service employee realizes that their active listening skills aren’t up-to-par. They don’t need to go outside the VR simulation to bridge the gap or use customers as soft skill „guinea pigs.“ Immediate eLearning feedback highlights the pain point, and they can retake the simulation to develop these abilities.
4. Up-Close And Personal Product Demos
Manuals only brush the surface of product specs, features, and benefits. eLearning infographics and videos take it up a notch. But the ultimate is interacting with a VR product demo with a firsthand POV. Employees can pick up the virtual object, see how it works and how to maintain it. They’re even able to use it in real-world situations to experience the benefits. Of course, you could give them the actual product and let them take it apart in real life. But VR demos are much more cost-effective. Imagine how expensive it would be to gift your entire sales team the full product line just so they could examine the inner workings and test out the „lifetime guarantee.“ Virtual Reality demos can also teach them how to pitch the item to different customer groups.
5. On-The-Job Tours With Embedded Triggers
Give new employees a tour of the facility so they can explore work stations and get to know their surroundings. These VR tours with embedded triggers are also great for experienced staffers. They’re already familiar with the meeting room and customer service desk. But the triggers make it an on-the-spot support online training library. For instance, they need to know how to operate a piece of equipment. So, they slide on the headset, walk to the virtual warehouse, and click on the operational demo. You can also include brief employee bios to facilitate knowledge sharing. An employee training participant wants to build their sales skills. Thus, they travel to the VR sales floor, see who’s the strongest negotiator, then call on them for peer-based support in real life.
6. Explore Personal Anecdotes That Set A Prime Example
Reading a personal anecdote or story can foster emotional engagement. But there’s something missing. Even adding images or background music falls short. So, how do you set a positive example and let employees experience the challenge from the narrator’s perspective? Develop VR anecdotes that immerse employees in the tale and allow them to see how certain behaviors or choices impact their performance. Maybe the narrator lets anger get the best of them during a coworker conflict. Or they’re impatient with a challenging customer. Show employees how it feels to face these obstacles and how to overcome them. Another option is to present them with two different approaches to the same problem. Then ask them to tell you which is best and why. What would they do differently? Personal reflection prompts them to spot areas for improvement and look at their performance more objectively.
Virtual Reality training is a natural fit for Performance Management because it imparts experience without all those pesky repercussions. It’s a proactive approach to Performance Management as you can identify issues before they become workplace disasters that impact your profit margin, instead of reprimanding employees after the fact or trying to do damage control to save your reputation. Virtual Reality training takes preventative measures to build skills and supplement experiential knowledge while there’s still time to act.
You can launch your own successful VR training program with the right eLearning outsourcing partner, regardless of the resources and size of your business. Download the eBook VR Training Outsourcing: Your Guide To Launching A Successful Virtual Reality Training Program With A Top-Notch Content Provider and find out how to warrant your investment while boosting your employees’ performance and self-confidence.
Forscher der ETH Lausanne haben ein Gerät entwickelt, welches einem das Gefühl gibt, etwas zwischen den Fingern zu halten, obwohl da gar nichts ist.
Das Wichtigste in Kürze
- Forscher haben ein Gerät zum «Anfassen» virtueller Objekte entwickelt.
- Es wird spürbar sein, ob das Objekt aus Holz, Plastik oder Keramik ist.
- Die Forschung wird Videospielen aber auch Simulationen in der Chirurgie dienen.
Forscher der ETH Lausanne haben Geräte entwickelt, die das Gefühl vermitteln, ein Objekt zwischen den Fingern zu haben. Das Ziel ist, die virtuelle Realität dem Anschein nach anfassbar zu machen.
An der ETH Lausanne in Neuenburg arbeitet Herbert Shea seit Langem an künstlichen Muskeln und Motoren aus Silikon. Er fragte sich, wie man eine Tasse oder einen Stift ergreifbar machen könnte. Auch wenn die Objekte nicht aus reellem Material bestehen.
«Mein Team und ich haben kleine, schnelle Geräte entwickelt. Sie haben die Form millimetergrosser Taschen, die sich je nach verabreichter elektrostatischer Energie aufblasen oder entleeren». So wurde Shea am Donnerstag in einer Mitteilung der ETH Lausanne zitiert.
Kapsel aus Silikon und Öl
Die Kapsel besteht aus einer isolierenden Membran aus Silikon und ist mit Öl gefüllt. Jede Blase ist mit vier Elektroden verbunden, die wie ein Reissverschluss funktionieren. Wenn die elektrische Spannung aktiviert ist, nähern sich die Elektroden an und blähen die Kapseln auf wie Blasen.
Die Haxel genannten Kapseln, können sich von oben nach unten, von links nach rechts oder kreisförmig aufpumpen. «Wenn man sie unter die Finger legt, können wir das Gefühl eines konkreten Objekts nachbilden». Dies führte Shea aus, der das Labor für flexible Wandler der Fakultät für Ingenieurwissenschaften leitet.
Sheas Team arbeitet bereits daran, rund ein Dutzend Kapseln in einen Handschuh zu integrieren. «Diese kapseln werden mit einem anderen System auf dem Handrücken kombiniert. Dieses kann die Finger blockieren, damit sie nicht durch das virtuelle Objekt dringen. Auf diese Weise hat man den Eindruck, ein festes Objekt zu halten, obwohl es nur Leere gibt.»
Spürbarer Unterschied von Materialien
«Wir können auch den Effekt von Materialien übermitteln: der Nutzer wird den Unterschied spüren, ob er ein Objekt aus Holz, Plastik oder Keramik hält», so Shea. Das werde Videospielen dienen, aber auch Simulationen in der Chirurgie.
Damit die Entdeckung funktionell ist, muss noch eine Software entwickelt werden. Mit dieser soll die Empfindung der Objekte und ihr Gewicht im Handschuh programmiert werden. Die Forschung ist in der Zeitschrift «Advanced Materials» publiziert worden.
Foto: Nancy Torres, junior in Business, explores the capabilities of the virtual reality headset as she plays one of the interactive games on the computer in the Virtual Reality Lab at the Armory on Oct. 2. It is being debated whether VR technology assists in learning and should be implemented in classrooms.
Virtual reality technology is rapidly being integrated into classroom learning, but it may still be inaccessible for people with disabilities.
Laura Shackelford, associate professor in LAS and Medicine, is one of the professors at the forefront of experimenting with and implementing virtual reality technology in an educational setting.
“Education was the one place that was truly resisting implementing (VR) technology,” Shackelford said. “That’s actually why we started this project, to try to figure out how it can help and if it does improve learning.”
The research appears to point to potential benefits for the implementation of VR technology in an educational setting. According to a literature review conducted at the Institute for Educational Technology, it appears that from around middle school, the use of VR tech combined with the presence of a teacher may help students grasp less concrete subjects.
Shackelford, who uses VR technology in her ANTH 399: Virtual Archaeology class to help give students the experience of archaeological fieldwork, has noted how the technology has helped break down potential barriers in the field.
All archaeologists must attend a field school to learn necessary skills, but since field schools are expensive, so many potential students may be discouraged from exploring archaeology as a career. However, through the use of VR technology, students can get a feel of what it is like to actually be an archaeologist without first having to commit to field school. This technology does not, however, remove the necessity to attend a field school, Shackelford said.
Shackelford and Cameron Merrill, graduate student in Engineering, collaborated to create the VR program used in ANTH 399. The program immerses students in an archaeological site, while also implementing game-based learning in the form of a more narrative-based experience.
While this technology may help break down barriers to learning, it still may present its own issues, which there has been a push to identify.
As Shackelford said, there is very little existing research into the subject of VR accessibility for the differently-abled, yet there are some clear issues with the technology that may prevent it from being accessible in its current form. For example, some of the controls used in her archaeology class may be difficult to operate for people with disabilities.
“If this technology is actually going to be used to learn, we don’t want to immediately have there be a barrier for some students,” Shackelford said.
The issues haven’t necessarily posed a challenge yet, and in fact, some things that would have potentially created an issue have already been amended, such as wheelchairs being made with new materials that don’t interfere with VR sensors. But there is still an urge to identify more potential issues before they become problems down the road.
“What Dr. Shackelford is doing is being really preemptive in realizing this is a need that we need to meet, and how do we go about figuring out what it means to meet that need,” said Jim Wentworth, e-learning professional at the Innovation Studio and Virtual Reality Lab. “So I don’t see it as much of an issue of meeting problems that have arisen as realizing that this needs to be more generalized to as many people as possible.”
This is not the first time the University has striven to be accommodating for all people.
“This is a university that has been on the forefront of things, like wheelchair sports,” Shackelford said, referencing the fact that the University of Illinois was home to the first college wheelchair basketball team, “And it’s important for us to just continue that.”