Areas of Expertise

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in the Workplace

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality in the Workplace

Not but a few years ago, augmented reality and virtual reality were both considered novel technologies. Though many experts speculated that AR and VR would revolutionize our world, the technology hadn’t caught up to their vision just yet. But if you fast forward to today, you’ll find both technologies in a variety of applications across several industries. They’ve been used for everything from immersive training modules to thorough employee evaluations. And with some of the largest technology companies in the world continuing to invest in both augmented reality and virtual reality, they show no signs of slowing down. Let’s take a look at each technology individually before we discuss the benefits AR and VR bring to the workplace.

VR

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is a set of hardware that allows a user to interact with an entirely fabricated, digital reality. Think of VR as 75% digital and 25% reality. The space you occupy is real, but the world you see and the objects you interact with may be completely digital. This hardware usually includes a headset capable of displaying the digital world on a monitor and hand-held peripherals that allow the user to perform actions. This hardware may be entirely standalone or can be tethered to a computer for applications that require more processing power.

Today, virtual reality has been used in dozens of fields from marketing to education. In classrooms, VR headsets have taken students on field trips that would never have been possible otherwise. Sometimes, entire classrooms can be transformed into different landscapes by projecting 360° images on the walls. In one of the most clever marketing campaigns of the year, Volkswagen leveraged a form of VR to get the edge on their competitors. By scanning a QR code with their phone, viewers were transported to a virtual racetrack where they could race against other people who watched the commercial.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a technology that layers digital visuals overtop of the real world similar to a heads-up display (HUD). Think of AR as 25% digital and 75% reality. You can see and interact with the real world, but certain aspects of it may be entirely digital or digitally enhanced with visuals and information. More advanced forms of augmented reality include a headset, but there are simpler methods that require nothing more than a smartphone.

As it stands, augmented reality is more limited than virtual reality, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t already had a major impact. In education, augmented reality has given students the opportunity to explore the concepts they’re studying closer than ever before. A student can learn first-hand how large an elephant is or how fast a cheetah is without the fear of getting too close. In the future, AR might be as commonplace as the smartphones in our pockets. It may be used by navigation apps to display directions directly on the street in front of you, or by educational apps to spellcheck and grammar-check handwritten notes.

Advantages of Training With AR and VR

One of the most pertinent applications AR and VR will have in nearly every industry is training. These technologies have the capability to make up for many of the shortcomings of traditional training programs if done properly. Most notably, virtual and augmented reality can make professional training more engaging, safe, and accessible.

Engagement:

Both technologies will make training programs much more engaging simply because of how immersive they are. VR and AR both limit the number of distractions that may interrupt a trainee from completing their program. Additionally, this immersion causes the training to feel realistic, which is important for the training to be both engaging and effective. For instance, mechanics can practice performing maintenance on a realistic engine in a setting that is free of stress and distractions.

Safety:

Some professions carry an inherent level of risk in gaining hands-on experience. An easy example of this is the medical industry. A young surgeon needs to earn hands-on experience in order to save lives but runs the risk of causing serious harm to get that experience. Training simulations in augmented and virtual reality can provide a solution to this conundrum. With VR and AR, young medical students can practice vital procedures without the risk of harming their patients.

Accessibility:

AR and VR share many of the same advantages as other eLearning methods. Most notably, electronic forms of learning are much more accessible than traditional methods. One of the major shortcomings of traditional training programs is the fact that they must be held in person. This is especially true in the wake of Covid-19 when more people than ever are working from home. However, VR and AR-powered training can remove this barrier to professional development. And with the technology continuing to become cheaper and more widely available, it will only become easier to use.

Skills Impacted By Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Training

The skills that can be improved through training powered by virtual reality and augmented reality can be broken into two categories: job-specific hard skills, and universal soft skills. However, new applications for these technologies are constantly being found and more skills are likely to be impacted by these technologies as well.

Job-Specific Hard Skills:

The hard skills required for a job will vary depending on the occupation, but AR and VR training can be applied in nearly every industry. Whether you’re learning to tune an engine, do heart surgery, or bake a cake, augmented and virtual reality can provide in-depth realist training modules to prepare you for the process. These training modules not only remove the risk associated with learning these skills but also limit the amount of resources spent on training materials. For example, tradesmen could learn to weld without wasting power or metal in the process.

Virtual reality in particular is adept at running mock situations that can be used to evaluate employee effectiveness. Pilots have actually been using VR-powered flight simulators to prepare new pilots for years. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can provide professionals with a HUD that makes keeps the worker on track. Continuing with our pilot example, AR can provide pilots with a checklist of actions for the pilot to follow without looking away from the controls of the plane.

Universal Soft Skills:

Since the pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, there has been a noticeable drop in workers’ soft skills. These are skills like communication and teamwork which may not be tied to the job directly but are still necessary to effectively do any job. Recently, AR and VR have proven to be effective for improving workers’ soft skills because they add a human element to the training. For example, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging training programs were found to be much more effective with the use of VR because individuals felt they witnessed the mistreatment displayed.

Leverage AR and VR Effectively With SkillSource Learning

AR and VR may be powerful technologies, but they’re only as smart as the person using them. In order to effectively utilize virtual reality and augmented reality training in your company, you’ll need to team up with some experts. Consultants from SkillSource Learning Partners are experts in effectively using virtual reality and augmented reality in the workplace. Additionally, our experience in instructional design and learning experience design gives us a unique perspective on professional development at large. Contact us today to start a discussion about how our VR and AR training consultants can help your business thrive.