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Editorial Team
29 Sep 2020

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AR & VR Training: The Future of Corporate Learning

With their unique senses of immersion and experience, AR and VR technologies are the next big tools to find use in the workplace of the future.

Remember the simple, ingenious app – Pokémon GO?

If you wanted to train or catch Pokémon in the real world – and by that, we mean in the world of Augmented Reality – you’d have to use the Pokémon GO application.

Fans, and sometimes even non-fans, went all out in their hunt to catch Pokémon.

This was by no means the first time that the world had experienced AR. But this indeed changed people’s perception of AR, because it brought the experience of AR applications into real-world, practical use.

Eugene Chung, founder and CEO at Penrose Studios, puts it this way, “VR/AR uniquely provides a sense of presence and immersion, it’s a brand-new art form and brand-new form of experiencing.”

Laying Out the Terms – What are AR and VR?

Are you getting overwhelmed with the acronyms AR and VR? Just remember that these are avenues to represent information in a more visual way. The only point of differentiation is – how they do it.

Virtual Reality (VR) uses computer-generated stimuli to immerse someone in the illusion of being part of an experience, a landscape, or other imaginary situation somewhere else. Technically, it is a computer-generated three-dimensional environment a person can explore and interact with.

Augmented Reality – or AR – is more than just a tool to catch and train Pokémon. In fact, it is rapidly exceeding the use of VR and is expected to hit global sales of $138.78 billion by 2021.

Sounds impossible? Not really, because the technology is said to be more economical and easier to use compared to VR. Plus, AR does not require users to depend on pricey, headache-inducing headsets, which is a definite advantage.

As far as AR is concerned, it generally just lays out the information in the open. Users can apply AR technology to make their jobs simple, easy, and fast.

Let’s imagine you are an auto mechanic given the job of fixing the engine – a common-enough task. Except, you are only an expert in working on Chevrolets and this is a Jaguar. As you get the hood up, you notice that there are quite a few differences between the two.

Can AR help here? You bet!

All that needs doing is overlaying the Chevrolet engine with Jaguar parts. And without even leaving the hood, AR helps in naming and recognizing the parts that you do not know and viewing how the pieces fit together.

Since you are engaging more of your senses visually and physically, the information sticks in the brain much better. That’s the beauty of AR – learning becomes so easy.

Now the world is hungry for more. But is there a place for AR and VR other than in the world of entertainment and games?

Statistics suggest that 77% of millennials and 47% of baby boomers are more than happy to use AR and VR in their work lives.

So, believe it or not, AR and VR have found a new home in workplace training.

With more AR and VR applications becoming mainstream, businesses got more bandwidth to leverage the benefits of these immersive technologies – in particular, in verticals like training, marketing, and sales.

Growing Global Demand for AR and VR Training

TechCrunch writer John Briggs says, “The immersive, experiential nature of virtual reality leads to better recall.” In other words, it mitigates the forgetting curve.

Is that the only reason why businesses are all-in to experiment with these technologies?

The intention is to mimic real-life experiences by coming up with top-notch eLearning content that is based on the premise of driving memory recall for learners.                    

Statistics suggest that VR is quickly becoming a part of worker training, be it at hospitals, coal mines, or athletics fields.

Let’s get started with a brand that is extremely close to many hearts.

Now everyone knows the world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken, more commonly known as KFC.

So, how is KFC using VR for staff training?

If you happened to land a job at KFC in the foreseeable future, the company says that you may be trained using VR technology. This fast-food chain has specifically designed an employee training program that is all-out virtual.

This virtual reality training simulator teaches new employees to prepare that greasy-but-oh-so good chicken by playing a creepy and unsettling virtual reality game.

Unsuspecting employees are whisked off to a room somewhat resembling a KFC back-office. A ghostly Colonel Sanders does not hesitate to bark orders. To keep the spirits up, he also shares some words of wisdom.

Employees are required to prepare and cook chicken the KFC way in this VR environment.

KFC says that the program is yet to be put into active service. However, it is expected to become a part of its employee training modules soon.

Walmart, on the other hand, jumped on board the VR bandwagon to train employees in real-world scenarios with a pilot program launched way back in 2017.

Their 200-odd Walmart Academy training centers introduced the Oculus Rift headset, allowing employees to enter different real-world scenarios. The program was designed to simulate possible customer interactions, problems, or possible dangerous situations.

On entering the scene, employees would be asked to make choices based on what they saw.

What we can derive from this is quite simple: the market is evolving and remains open to innovative business-driven solutions.

AR & VR Trends in Workplaces We See in 2020 and Beyond

The bigwigs like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have committed serious support to AR and VR. 2020 is expected to be the year marked by an uptick in the velocity of growth in the AR world.

Andrew Makarov, an AR solution architect, says, “Successful projects typically start with a business need or a problem that must be solved by means of technology. And besides our trend picks, there are further business areas where augmented reality can be applied – in many cases combined with other innovative technologies – all in order to make or break on the market. The future of augmented reality is here and now.”

Leading the way are companies like Walmart and Tyson, shifting gears with their training programs in mixed reality settings. No wonder AR-based training at the enterprise level will be a $6 billion industry by 2022.

But what specifically should companies be using this technology for?

Employing AR & VR in the Corporate Learning Experience

Countless circumstances fuel the market for VR training. Creating real-life simulations can be expensive, dangerous, or just plain impractical. Even then, it may not have the desired impact on employees, and on millennials in particular, since their expectations border on working in ‘smart offices’ in the near future.

VR will revolutionize the workspace and make workers more productive – at least, that’s what 49% of Gen Z employees believe. More so because they do not find their current offices smart enough.

This is not something out of a science fiction movie. That said, the technology has potential.

Think of tools like WebEx, Zoom, and FaceTime today. No matter how advanced these video conference platforms are, when you look at your colleagues on a screen, the experience is lackluster.

And AR/VR can transform this team collaboration and in fact take it up a notch up by deducting potential challenges hand in glove with remote working.

Remember Tony Stark in his lab? What if you could swipe around data like that? It sure would be good to get rid of your pile of sticky notes and papers.

Agreed, the holograms are not quite there yet. But there is promise. The way in which Tony ‘swipes’ data around is very much possible with VR.

VR opens up new learning possibilities to drive collaboration via repeated simulations, unlike any other training methods seen before. The testing scenarios bank on ‘seeing the unseen’, and have been known to deliver the goods.

The goal for just about every enterprise is to enhance its onboarding experience. And VR offers that perfect first touch for new employees, even before they’ve started on the job. This can be a great confidence booster, specifically for roles that can be stressful.

The purpose is to ensure that employees become familiar and comfortable with new workplace settings. That way, their motivation and commitment to work automatically skyrocket.

The realization that the potential of VR is limitless is there. Yet, most enterprises continue with video-based online learning programs for their employees rather than go down the VR road.

But why are the odds so heavily stacked against employing AR and VR in the corporate learning experience?

Because only the biggest companies can afford this.

Shell spends over a million dollars to create these unique simulations of refinery operations and oil wells. IBM too invests unimaginable resources in developing sales simulations to coach teams on sales calls, presentations, and behavior. 

Unquestionably, the market is still nascent. Hence, not many have taken this leap of faith, despite the clear indications of this soon-to-be-over-a-billion-dollar opportunity.

VR-Driven Gamification Techniques Can Refine the Employee Learning Experience

Another VR onboarding mechanism showing success is gamification. In fact, experts consider it to be one of the top onboarding strategies because it adds the element of fun and makes the experience more immersive.

Look at how SAP Switzerland cleverly used VR in their new employee onboarding process. Not only did they reduced costs, but they also made the entire experience more engaging and personalized. That’s the power of VR-enabled gamification techniques, which transform the most tedious and mundane processes into something quite remarkable.

As far as the training world is concerned, the combination of repetition and simulations is seemingly valuable. With the intervention of VR, there is evidence of improvement in interactions between employees and customers.

The premise is simple. By acquainting employees with specific situations over and over again, it gives them the experience of actually dealing with these interactions competently in a real-world scenario. As an added bonus, employee understanding of customer psyches improves too.

Let’s go back to the Walmart example, where they launched a pilot employee training program using the Oculus Rift. This was in preparation for the Black Friday rush.

Everyone knows that Black Friday is the time of year where stress levels skyrocket exponentially for retail brands. Plus, customer interactions increase manifold. To combat any hiccups and get the workforce better prepared, Walmart designed all possible Black Friday scenarios in VR.

The VR experience is as good as real. The designed system tells the employees what to do and what not to do, when they hear, see, and feel all the pressure of a Black Friday sale in the virtual world.

So, when sales personnel come face to face with a store packed with customers, they know exactly how to serve customers who are in a rush.

The entire point of learning-focused VR technology is to convert rookies into professionals – and faster. That said, the question remains:

How do you know if VR is right for your business? What are the challenges? And where do you start?

Is VR Suitable for Enterprise-Level Learning Experience Needs?

When it comes to training new employees, conventional eLearning practices and experience can fall flat. That’s because evolving roles in corporates demand more hands-on learning. Learning simulations with AR and VR together can address this gap as they offer a wider outreach.

This comes in handy when complex knowledge must be transferred specifically in cases of dangerous workplace scenarios, helping learners deal with difficult-to-observe phenomena that rarely occur.

“People can be really immersed in these new training environments for situations that either are very unique or are very dangerous,” says Jaimy Szymanski, a founder at Kaleido Insights.

Policemen or firefighters are good examples, because they need to be prepared to deal with public safety and emergency scenarios without any prior notice or training. Failing to act can have dire consequences, which can even be life-threatening.

Emulating these scenarios in AR and VR greatly manages and minimizes the risk of putting inexperienced personnel on the job. Simulations of these real-world situations can help people working in these fields to make fast and effective decisions.

All of this, at a lower learning cost.

Despite the obvious benefits, can AR and VR technology really work in training employees across industries involving complex knowledge transfers?

Be it flying supersonic jets or just making a burger, the immersive learning opportunities VR technology provides can adapt to a wide range of experiences, offering measurable improvements in learning outcomes.

The Way Forward

In the words of Giulia Carosella, Research Analyst, European Industry Solutions, Customer Insights & Analysis, “AR/VR commercial uptake will continue to expand as cost of entry declines and benefits from full deployment become more tangible. Focus is shifting from talking about technology benefits to showing real and measurable business outcomes, including productivity and efficiency gains, knowledge transfer, employee's safety, and more engaging customer experiences.”

It’s safe to say that VR/AR is no longer just hype. But if you are torn between which technology to choose, then it is impossible to determine which one is inherently better than the other. Both have their effective uses.

It is going to take some effort for VR/AR to become a widespread reality in the enterprise sector. As with any technology, these are tools, not magic weapons. So, it is not about replacing traditional learning experiences but supplementing that with better learning opportunities.

 




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