Whether you’re looking to improve safety compliance, or productivity and efficiency or providing critical hands-on training to dispersed teams without the associated difficulties – there’s no doubt that the next generation of Performance Support solutions will include Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality solutions.
It’s no longer about delivering learning to learners; it’s about putting learners into the cockpit for a first hand, jump-in-and-fly-it-yourself experience.
Whether you’re actively looking to adopt immersive learning, or just surveying the territory, here are some tips that we’ve put together to help you get comfortable for the ride ahead.
The key terms
Augmented Reality (AR)
When we say AR, we are talking about delivering content via a wearable device that allows users a view of the real environment, with another layer of information/digital data superimposed. This could be graphics or text information (for example, labels displayed on the components of some system the user is looking at), but it could also be sound, video or GPS data to support the user with their current task at hand. The application can be designed to provide triggers from the real world, such as a coin, or an image, to launch the AR content. AR devices come equipped with their own camera and other features that allow users to capture and deliver digital information from where they are, without the need for additional devices.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR provides an immersive 360-degree experience that tricks the mind into believing it is physically present in the simulated environment. You can create powerful scenarios for exploration and guided discovery sets in artificial/computer-generated environments, or use real-world backdrops like 360-degree images or videos with real actors, for example, for sales and negotiation training. You can recreate challenging environments such as dark, underground confined spaces, which lend themselves perfectly to the use of VR. Utilising a virtual environment, users can be safely trained on specific tasks which might otherwise be difficult (or expensive) to prepare them for. Immersive solutions can be distributed in several ways. You could start with pushing the content out to the users’ own smartphones, or build more advanced scenarios for highly specialised (often tethered) headsets that are powered by a computer for even richer graphics and more options to interact with the environment for a truly immersive ‘out-of-this-world’ experience.
Mixed Reality (MR)
MR like its name suggests provides a combination experience, where the user sees the real world embedded with believable, 3D virtual objects, which can be anchored to a point in real space. In a way one could even say that mixed reality combines the best of both, Virtual Reality as well as Augmented Reality. With both, virtual as well as real objects being visible at the same time, the user can seamlessly navigate (or interact with) both environments at the same time.
Think about utility
Critical to the decision to adopt an Immersive Experience solution is whether this is what will give you the greatest impact. From experience, here are some key considerations for the decision to use AR/VR/MR one should think about:
- Do learners need to step into the frame and be present, active and immersed in the experience?
- Is it expensive, dangerous or difficult to offer real-world experiential training?
- Can the experience be effectively recreated in AR/VR/MR mode?
- Does it offer a significant shift in the way learners see and understand the concept?
- Is the operating environment suitable for this immersive approach?
- What are the hardware requirements, and how do these fit in the budget?
- How will returns make it cost-effective?
Weaving your story in 3D
It’s easy to get lost in space when you’re creating a new world for the learner to move around in. Consider the setting carefully, and keep in mind space is a key ingredient of the AR/VR story. Here are also some key considerations for ‘storytelling’ for a truly immersive 3D experience:
- Is the story meaningful? How does the user’s presence, goal and intention drive the story?
- How are you using the 3D space to weave in the story?
- How does the story progress as the user looks around and moves in this space?
- How much space do you need in the real world to set up the system and get it working
- What cues are you using to guide and direct the user journey?
- Are gestures, gaze, hand-movements subtly and effectively included to trigger interactivity?
- What do you expect users to know, think, or feel? Is the message being conveyed effectively?
- Is there a clear take-away and call to action?
Make it authentic
You are creating a 3D immersive, interactive world that will put learners in a state of suspended disbelief. So keep the communication intuitive, and remember to use the full field of vision. Again, here are some key design considerations we suggest you too look at:
- Have you thought about the entire learner experience, from start to finish?
- Are the settings accurately constructed, and are sound effects and art realistic and authentic?
- Are you planning for size, scale, perspective, depth, colours, contrast, lighting, shadows, movements and actions such as rotating a 3D object, peeling off layers, stepping into or out of a space?
- How will you communicate primary information (focus area) and how will you provide secondary information (periphery)?
- Will 3D objects be locked at a fixed distance, or will these move with the viewer?
- What cues will you use to interface / communicate with users so they know where to look, what to interact with and how to trigger events?
- How will you avoid overwhelming the user?
Real & natural
At the end of the day, you need to create an experience that stays with learners (in a good way!) and leaves them wanting more. There’s no list of best practices when you’re making magic, except to make it feel as real and natural as you can!
An article by Sambit Mohapatra, Founder and Director at Siyona Tech Ltd.