Augmented reality (A/R). If that phrase gives you visions of Blade Runner, you are not alone. In the past several years there has been a lot of discussion on the use of enhanced reality in learning and development. Companies like Apple and Microsoft are betting on it to deliver unique user experiences and drive sales of their enhanced reality-compatible devices and apps. All that is great, but WHAT is augmented reality?
Firstly, it is not virtual reality (V/R) It’s easy to get augmented reality confused with virtual reality but the difference is clear. Virtual reality puts the user in a completely simulated environment while augmented reality puts the user in a real environment with enhancements. Let’s dig a little deeper:
Virtual reality is a 3D computer-generated environment that immerses the user in the action and allows interactions with virtual characters and situations. Tools like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard are required to experience virtual reality.
Augmented reality may involve external tools, but it doesn’t require them. It uses a real environment and overlays it with visual and auditory enhancements. On a simplistic level, think Pokémon Go. You open the app on your smartphone and point it at a real scene hoping to see, and catch, JigglyPuff, Mankey, or Gloom. Another example is Google Sky that provides a real view of the night sky and overlays it with star maps, planetary information, and more.
Now that we’ve established what augmented reality is, and isn’t, let’s explore why you need it in your training arsenal.
By 2020, corporate America will be in the middle of the ‘Silver Tsunami’ which means the need for succession planning and up-training will be greater than ever. As we look for efficient ways to ensure the younger workforce is ready, innovative approaches, like A/R, are becoming critical because they provide an engaging learner experience, allow for the immediate application of knowledge, and can offer an on-demand layer of performance support.
Imagine that you have call center employees who are responsible for handling a high volume of inbound calls. Navigating the system, resolving caller issues, and ensuring they hit their KPIs require a solid training foundation and the ability to navigate quickly from one task to the next. Now, imagine that there is an application that works in tandem with the call handling system and, as the employee moves their mouse around the screen, an intuitive overlay appears providing additional context on the system, the issue, or the caller. That’s A/R in action.
Let’s take that same call center and move over to the technical support side. Suppose your agent is helping a caller navigate the set-up of a new product. With A/R, the agent can use live video feed for real-time support on how to connect the device. Not only does this give the caller a faster resolution, but it makes the tech support agent more efficient.
Those are just two instances where A/R can help with customer-facing situations so let’s look at an internal training application where A/R provides an advantage.
John is a maintenance mechanic for a manufacturing company. He has almost 40 years of experience and is due to retire in 5 years. That means, that he has limited time to transfer his expert knowledge to the team, most of whom have less than 3 years of experience. John has been traveling across the United States visiting each plant and teaching one or two junior employees at a time. He is tired of traveling and wants to be sure everyone is receiving the same training experience. So, how does John ensure consistent knowledge transfer and reduce the need to travel? Simple – leverage an augmented reality training solution.
With an A/R training solution, John can conduct live training sessions from his plant location using video feeds. It works like this: The junior employees join John’s streaming video and see what he sees as he performs maintenance on the water tanks. They see the tank and its controls with an overlay of additional information and step-by-step instruction. Once they have seen him complete the task, they can take control of the video and share their view. As each one takes a turn performing the maintenance steps they have the expert, John, watching them and providing guidance in real-time. It’s just like having him on site. Even better, the session is recorded so it is available for refresher training whenever they may need it, complete with overlays and additional on-screen content.
This real-world situation is a great example of augmented reality in action. It illustrates how A/R eliminates the need for the expert to be in the same physical location as the learner which makes operations more efficient. It also provide a deep level of knowledge transfer and skills application which help the junior employees be more productive with fewer errors. But, A/R goes beyond call centers and manufacturing environments. It can provide robust development of core skills, too. Communication, conflict resolution, and leadership acumen can all be enhanced through the use of augmented reality training. Whatever the task, role, or expected outcome, augmented reality can deliver an engaging learner experience, provide a risk-free environment to practice newly acquired skills, and help reduce time-to-competency. All the reasons, and more, make it clear that A/R is no longer a tool of the future. It’s a tool for today and deserves to be part of your training arsenal.
To learn more about augmented reality and how it can help your learning and development initiatives, contact CoreAxis today!