The Future of Work: AR and VR
Predictions and analysis from the experts -- Learn what the experts have to say about AR, VR and the realistic implications the emerging technology will have on the Future of Learning and Development
AR and VR Trends from Experts:
- Dmitry Shapiro - Co-Founder & CEO, GoMeta
- Vicki Lau - Online Course Instructor, Specialist in VR & Visual Effects
- Steve Lukas - Former CEO, Co-Founder, Across Realities
- Daniel Araya - PhD, Technology Consultant & Advisor
- Olli Tiilikainen - Human-Computer Interaction Specialist, Valamis
- Bill West - President & Founder, REGATTA VR
- Donna Eiby - Founder & Creative Director, The Future Work Skills Academy
- Tyler Forster - President, Collaborative Edge XR
What is the difference between AR and VR?
Think of AR and VR as being a spectrum. On one side you have physical reality, not enhanced in any way. As you move down the spectrum, you get more and more augmentation. When you have so much augmentation, physical reality looks nothing like digital reality, then it becomes virtual reality.
What does it mean to augment reality?
Google augments our reality by giving us superpowers to be able to query all of the knowledge of the world. Google search is augmented reality when you think about it. When you hear music through your earbuds, that is augmented reality. I prefer the phrase ‘Interactive experiences’ versus using the terminology ‘augmented reality.
What do you consider interactive experiences?
Reading a manual on how to work a machine or workplace procedures are not interactive experiences. Seeing a photo or diagram, watching a video that teaches you how to do something, are not interactive experiences.
Interactive experiences require you to make decisions. To choose a path in the simplest way or in more sophisticated ways to get you to do things that really make you think.
How will VR/AR be beneficial for corporate learning/training?
Sometimes, replicating a safe learning environment is difficult or costly in reality. For example, it might be expensive to dedicate a specific room, lab area or work space in order to train employees how to use certain tools, processes or software when that space might be needed for actual work that leads to income generation.
Corporate learning, in its essence, is all about applying and disseminating knowledge in order to improve an organization's overall productivity and competitive edge but with situations like these, it would appear counter-productive. Hence, this is where technologies such as VR/AR/XR (Virtual Reality, Augmented reality, Extended Reality) come into the picture.
Not only do these 'XR' technologies allow for an unlimited digital customization of the learning and training environment (in 3D space) to suit each employee's training needs, but they also save the organization costs in developing and facilitating a live area for training purposes. Depending on how the XR experience was designed, the employee could teach oneself through a well-developed VR/ AR experience and there need not be a facilitator or training manager on-site.
How will VR/AR impact workplace training and learning? What are the benefits VR/AR can have on workplace training?
VR/AR has the capacity to replicate realistic conditions of workplace training with the benefit of reduced costs and the opportunity to design more challenging training situations otherwise risky or impossible to recreate safely in reality.
In fact, I strongly believe that VR/AR will only push workplace training and learning to new heights never before seen or experienced as all sorts of training scenarios (from the simplistic to the absurd) can be digitally replicated in virtual space. An extreme example of this might perhaps be disaster response training for firefighters.
Now, I am not an expert in disaster response management nor firefighting but I would imagine that by digitally rendering rare or dangerous scenarios in VR, the costs of developing such a training tool would be noticeably lower, more accessible and efficient than cordoning off an area and planning an elaborate disaster response training session that would occupy an entire day alone.
AR could also be used in a similar effect where, instead of recalling from memory or trying to gauge if a certain piece of an automobile is compatible, AR could lead the way in highlighting problem areas or incompatibilities in manufacturing components before any unnecessary man-hours are spent deciphering the issue. With time and money saved and the variety of training scenarios possible, VR/AR will definitely help increase the company's bottom-line if used intelligently.
What do you think some of the consequences of implementing VR/AR in the workplace will be?
Similar to trading in the stock market with demo money versus actual money, there are certain cases where regardless of the thousand of hours spent training in safe and "unreal" situations in VR/AR, all that work would be completely unravelled when faced with the real deal; however, I believe those mainly apply to a small minority of industries out there that involve a higher degree of risk and is also dependent on the individual's personality.
It is also important to point out that as with all other training solutions, there is no perfect solution out there that could possibly beat an actual workplace situation or problem happening in real-time and under real (sometimes stressful) conditions.
Hence, one should look at VR/AR training in the workplace as something that conditions the user to fine-tune their instinctive reactions or to accurately use specific tools, processes or systems in various situations rather as a perfect simulator of reality; a degree of flexibility would always be called for, should the situation or problem actually occur in the real world (such as the case of disaster response training with firefighters).
Another consequence of implementing VR/AR in the workplace is its potential to isolate employees and hinder interactions between the training facilitator and trainees. After all, if one only needs VR/AR/XR to be trained, why communicate with a real person at all?
This is where the design of the VR experience is key, as a poorly-designed VR/AR experience could be damaging to internal communications between new-hires and their managers (especially during the first few weeks of their training).
If a VR/AR experience is designed to also incorporate human interaction - either within the XR experience itself or as daily check-ins with the training facilitator/ manager - it would increase communication and collaboration between people rather than hamper them.
Will VR/AR inspire collaboration and engagement in the workplace? Or diminish it?
Many of us in the industry agree that VR/AR alone is a very isolating experience if there is no multiplayer component attached to the experience.
Hence, although it might appear that individuals using a VR headset or AR device would be isolated from the real world, they are actually fully engaged in the experience. This means that if the experience is designed to involve others as well, you can expect that the VR user would be engaging and would be forming connections with others in the same virtual experience.
Humans, by their very nature, are naturally social creatures so if you place them in a situation where they have other real people to interact with in a foreign space like VR, you can trust that they will come out of that virtual environment together with a shared experience.
To be clear however, VR/AR will only inspire collaboration in the workplace if it is designed as such.
Similar to how games are developed - if you only need one player to finish a very engaging game, then that player will possibly eliminate external distractions and interactions with others in order to complete the game.
Likewise, if you need a team or group to finish a very engaging game, then you can trust that they will find a way to collaborate with one another (even if Bob usually doesn't get along with Joe), regardless of wherever they are based in the world, in order to finish the game.
Whether it fosters or diminishes workplace collaboration ultimately rests on the design of the experience or VR/AR tool itself.
What will AR and VR enable us to do in the workplace?
AR and VR immersion will allow us to prototype and design more easily. Efficient communication: being able to convey ideas more directly using visual immersive media. What you communicate becomes much deeper.
How will AR and VR impact workplace training?
Being able to feel like something is there right in front of you enables experiential learning, where all of your senses are firing. What your reading or seeing, feeling, your emotional state, what’s around you. When you read a manual to put something together, you are reading something and trying to match it to what you see in real life. If you are going through a training or experience similar to real life, once you encounter this experience you now have this recorded in your muscle memory.
How will AR and VR change workplace communication?
You can expect remote learning, remote workplace collaboration, remote meetings, VR conferencing, and a VR chatbot in the near future.
What are some of the consequences of implementing AR and VR?
Addiction. If you enjoy VR and AR more than the real world, addiction can take place. Having an escape becomes dangerous when it is the dominant place you inhabit.
What are some of the obstacles in implementing AR and VR?
There is a lot to do for each experience in order to create an entirely new environment with VR. AR you don’t need as much. VR requires a whole new world. Having content libraries for VR and software libraries available will facilitate VR creation.
How can we successfully implement VR?
Extensive user testing is crucial to the success of VR; Especially users that are not familiar with VR.
How is technology driving corporate learning forward?
Building on technological innovation within the gaming industry, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now the cutting edge of a massive transformation in learning.
Where the Agricultural Revolution harnessed domesticated animals for pastoral farming, and the Industrial Revolution leveraged machines for factory production, so today the Computational Revolution is advancing computers to augment human intelligence.
Technology is now the basis for an evolving landscape of tool-mediated creativity and innovation that is driving a wide range of corporate learning systems and technologies.
Richard Florida argues that creativity is the defining principle of our age. What is increasingly clear is that intrinsic passion will be increasingly pivotal to skilled professions so that economic needs (in the traditional sense) are becoming interdependent with learning and education.
How will AR and VR be used in Corporate Learning?
Over the next decade, machine learning and AR will drive new educational approaches to corporate learning, empowering workers to have cutting-edge tools and access to accurate data across various contexts.
Heads-up displays (HUD), for example, will provide consistent support to workers in managing sequential learning and diagnostics across industries.
As computers evolve from programmed calculation to dynamic learning, so the capacities of humans and machines are beginning to develop in concert. As this trend continues we may well see the rise of radical forms of human-computer symbiosis.
To be sure, this “transcension” of earlier stages of tool-mediated work and learning foreshadows a momentous change in the kinds of cities we might build, the kinds of medicine we might practice, and the learning systems we might provide.
How will VR/AR impact workplace training?
The impact of virtual and augmented reality on studying practical skills and related information will be significant.
Unlike when using the traditional methods, knowledge and skills can be studied directly in situations where they are needed, which improves learning outcomes, reduces cognitive and memory load, and shortens the time required for learning.
In addition to the benefits of the quality of education and the learning outcomes, many other benefits can be achieved. For example, Walmart employees can practice the use of the new Pickup Towers before they are even installed. Volkswagen is using Virtual reality to empower employees to transfer knowledge and improve workflows.
Forwarding knowledge by distributing “in-person” interactions via the digital channel is indeed one really interesting application of virtual reality. In an experiment we did a couple of years ago while participating in Nasa Epic Challenge, the test subjects succeeded in solving the 3d puzzle without any other instructions or information by mimicking the mentor's activity in virtual reality they were experiencing in first person perspective.
Since technology is still at an early stage, it's difficult to estimate all its effects on learning, but there is now a huge potential that is the result of deeper interaction between people and computers. We just have to learn how to use it.
New types of learning materials are key to utilizing technology. As a result, the impact on the production of study materials will be considerable. Instead of PowerPoint presentations, new types of multidimensional study materials are needed, but there are not yet widely available solutions for producing them.
Will VR/AR be beneficial for corporate learning/training?
Definitely. I see Virtual reality as a way of transforming the learning material from more or less abstract representation of information into a personal experience.
VR and AR can improve the quality of training because the brain learning mechanisms can be better utilized and the less cognitive effort is needed to memorize and process the learning material.
Furthermore, using virtual reality, it is also safe to learn skills such as flying a helicopter or various rescue missions without the risks of the real mission. As there is no danger of losing human lives or expensive equipment in a virtual reality training, it can be safer or less expensive to use virtual reality training.
There are already many examples of training employees using VR or AR in big corporates such as Walmart, Mercedes-Benz or Volkswagen and I believe it will become more and more popular as XR techniques and knowledge become more common.
What are the benefits VR/AR can have on workplace training?
According to studies, Virtual Reality is a particularly powerful training tool because of the sense of presence. It seems that the memory retention and recollection ability of subjects after a VR experience tends to be higher than after viewing the video- or text-based materials. Virtual reality materials like 360 videos seem to have an ability to establish a feeling or sense of a personal experience or a memory of something that actually happened to a person rather than just a memory of a video of something that happened to somebody else.
In addition to the sense of presence that strengthens brain learning mechanisms, virtual reality headsets also offer isolation and freedom from distraction and by providing a sensory-rich experience helps to keep the focus and engagement in the content high as long as comfort levels remain high.
VR can also provide a safe environment for anybody for gaining the necessary experience to handle dangerous equipment or working in potentially hazardous environments. AR can help in performing on-site tasks by providing up-to-date information about the environment or the task at hand that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain – at least without distractions.
Virtual reality also makes it possible for specialists to remotely teach others in contextual interactive spaces and can thus enhance the sharing of information within organizations as well as the use of external experts.
What do you think some of the consequences of implementing VR/AR in the workplace will be?
VR and AR as technologies are still in the very early stage of adoption and there are not yet common implementations of them so it’s really hard to see all the consequences technology will have.
Nonetheless, it is already apparent that they can significantly influence how we work and how we can share information. Virtual and augmented reality technology can revolutionize remote working as a whole. The physical distance between workers and tasks loses its significance in the sense that we now understand it.
With VR and AR technologies, it is possible to transfer both the knowledge and even the realization of work tasks in real time to anywhere. One can operate a real crane in Virtual reality or mentor one's colleague through AR system in real time from anywhere in the world and still have the feeling of "being there and doing that.”
Presence is the keyword when we talk about XR. And when we learn how to utilize its potential better, it will change the way we work and learn.
Will VR/AR inspire collaboration and engagement in the workplace? Or diminish it?
This is a very important question. Virtual reality can isolate the user quite completely from the surrounding, actual reality – and all the other people as well. This can be harmful for collaboration. Yet it can also improve learning new things as well as make it easier to share your knowledge and that way inspires engagement in the workplace.
Even though the virtual reality itself tends to isolate the user from the surrounding reality and from the other people, it can also bring people together in a whole new way.
Various social VR applications and services like Facebook Spaces already allows a new type of more natural and deeper online interaction between people. The new service called Glue aims to create a platform-independent virtual platform for collaboration at the professional level. The opportunity for natural communication, regardless of location, opens up new opportunities for co-operation in a modern global business environment.
While at the local level it is possible that XR technologies may isolate users from other people, on the other hand, they can connect people more broadly and deeply than previously has been possible. Deeper and easier connection between people at workplaces may contribute to sharing knowledge in a positive way.
What potential applications for VR/AR can we first expect in the workplace?
We’re seeing most of the action with VR in the following:
- Low skilled labor in retail or food services as part of their orientation with a focus on applying time sensitive factors to typical work scenarios, such as a rush of customers, and how to make good decisions.
- Professional soft skill subjects where we can craft emotional scenarios that simulate a real-life conversation or situation, such as empathy and sexual harassment.
- Medical environments where we can simulate processes that are very expensive to get wrong, like materials handling, enabling us to demonstrate failure without the high cost or danger.
There are many others, but these are our more common requests.
With AR, we’re getting more calls in the blue collar or technology professions, with jobs that involve physical equipment and the need to access supporting data on demand.
There are many layover examples of AR using phones and other devices, but the ones that are more inspiring are using the advanced headsets.
How will VR/AR impact workplace training and learning?
The impact should be significant, but there’s still a lot that everyone is working out. (Anyone who thinks they have it worked out isn’t paying attention.) There are some very good examples of VR used in training, but there are a lot of really bad ones as well.
Too much time is spent talking about the hardware, software, video/graphics, and device experience, but without a solid design framework, there’s no guarantee that the device experience will produce any improved performance or even baseline skills. (Worst case is that the users get sick trying.) That means there’s no verifiable ROI to get the investment needed.
Also, without a solid understanding of the learning ecosystem, there’s no guarantee you’ll get VR to work behind your firewall or communicate in a meaningful manner to your LMS/LRS.
Finally, VR can’t work standalone. It must be part of a blended program of ILT or online learning. Your window of time in the headset is limited, so it must be focused on the activities that benefit most, while the content deliver is elsewhere. You must also address how your full employee base gets access to the experience when they don’t have a headset. There’s a lot that L&D organizations have to work through, but the decreased price point is enabling more and more companies the opportunity to work it out.
Will VR/AR be beneficial for corporate learning/training? Why or Why not?
Fast forward, yes it will be inspirational. We’ll be able to simulate real life situations and authentic characters and have natural conversations with them. We’ll have more ability to provide six-degrees of freedom to walk around and interact with the environment (without feeling like you’re in a cartoon).
We will also be able to facilitate group interaction among the learners. This opens the full spectrum of subject areas that have been challenging to teach effectively in online courses.
Topics related to customer interaction can be honed and perfected, leadership and group programs can be completed in a safe and effective environment, hard skills that are difficult to simulate or costly to replicate can be experienced. The list goes on.
Do you think VR/AR inspire collaboration and engagement in the workplace? Or diminish it?
We’re just guessing at this one. An obvious answer is that is will diminish interaction given you’re isolated in the headset, but as we discovered through our children, the social interaction with other “players” with similar abilities or experiencing similar circumstances was not only engaging but produced a deeper capability as they learned from each other.
The environments that they experienced in the game console was rich and sophisticated, well beyond the capabilities of your typical VR development team, but those techniques can be replicated over time as we learn more and expand on each sequential project.
Will AR/VR negatively impact or help us cultivate our empathy, as well as our social and emotional intelligence?
This is the first target most our clients select. The ability to produce a simulated human interaction in the headset offers the potential to produce experiences that increase our understanding and empathy for each other.
Whether you're helping your customer service staff work with customers under emotional duress or building a more effective program to address sexual harassment and diversity, VR enables us to try techniques never available in the past, and allows the learner to experience many scenarios in a safe environment.
They can take the role of perpetrator, victim, or witness to understand different perspectives. The optimal experience is rich enough that the learner will want to repeat the exercise from multiple perspectives.
How will AR/VR impact workplace training and learning?
AR/VR technologies have the potential to significantly impact workplace training and learning. We have adopted the term XR or extended/cross reality when addressing these technologies. The term means more than just combining AR and VR, instead of speaking to frontier technologies that can augment human capability.
Augmented Reality allows users to see digital projections in the real world, commonly on smartphones, but it is ultimately designed for goggles, glasses or eventually even contacts. Examples of the effective use of AR in workplace training and learning include research done by Iowa State University demonstrating AR’s ability to reduce error rates for the first assembly by 90%, while simultaneously reducing the total time it took these novices to complete the procedure by 30%.
Using AR, Honeywell reduced costs by over 50% for offshore oil platform maintenance, as experts can assist the learning process from the safety and comfort of their office. Many medical universities, such as Stanford, use AR glasses for surgery training and for layering MRI models of a patient’s tumor in the patient’s real body.
Virtual Reality commonly refers to a completely immersive experience, whereby the user’s entire field of view is covered by a headset with a screen responding to the user’s movements. VR experiences can be divided into those focused on procedural learning and those focused on emotional learning. Procedural learning allows individuals to complete a task in the safety of a simulation. By putting headsets on their employees, Boeing aims to reduce assembly training time by 75%, all without touching the expensive and dangerous equipment involved in manufacturing. Similarly, VR-STAR has been able to reduce 24-month on-boarding and training programs by 8 months.
At the Future Work Skills Academy our interest is identifying learning contexts that are effective in building agency in uniquely human skills, which we refer to as Non Technical Skills (NTS), so the opportunities presented by VR consume a lot of our attention. Despite VR being used in education as early as the 1960s for flight simulator training at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, we have only scratched the surface in understanding appropriate VR pedagogies when developing for NTS learning experiences.
Today’s XR education researchers are investigating topics ranging from whether its use improves intended performance and understanding, the impact on learners with different aptitudes, the characteristics of affordance, and possible benefits of 2D over immersive experiences. The answers to these questions will leverage solutions to technological barriers (such as the availability of cheaper and untethered headsets, solution to motion sickness experienced by many users, control of virtual objects and graphic quality in VR, and field-of-view and headset size for augmented reality) and lead to speed of diffusion and likelihood of adoption way beyond what we have experienced in the past.
There are already cases of organizations effectively utilizing VR’s immerse nature to build agency through emotional experiences delivered in a safe environment. Verizon is using VR to train employees for armed robbery situations, a highly emotional experience that, while unlikely to happen, demands excellent preparation for success.
Jeremy Bailenson’s team at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab have demonstrated great success in reducing racism through their ‘Walk a Mile in Digital Shoes’ project. Being VR has teamed with Bankwest to deliver VR leadership training aimed at shifting how businesses address prejudice and bias in the workplace.
As teams become more globalized, as more people work remotely, and as organizations look to reduce travel costs and times associated with in-person training, the potential of XR technologies will increase exponentially.
Immersive technologies have the potential to provide organizations faster, safer and cheaper training than traditional methods, while students and employees receive a much more engaging experience. In our view, success will be found in deploying VR experiences backed by effective pedagogies.
Will AR/VR be beneficial for corporate learning/training? Why or Why not?
The full benefits of XR will only be realised as advances in research and experiences establish evidence for the the most effective contexts and pedagogies. Academics generally agree that immersive VR is very similar to the psychological processes that operate when people construct knowledge through interaction with objects and events in the real world. Therefore, constructivism provides a potentially sound theory on which to develop educational applications of VR (Winn, 1993).
It is generally agreed that “curriculum design should go beyond substituting new technologies into pre-existing pedagogical strategies that are focused upon teacher-delivered content to exploring new pedagogical strategies that enable student-determined learning or heutagogy” (Cochrane et al, 2016).
Perhaps the most potent key to XR as it relates to corporate learning, particularly in NTS, is its ability to furnish first-person, non-symbolic experiences. Non-symbolic experiences are ineffable in that they cannot be fully captured in language or other symbols and are particularly important in the development of NTS.
Do you think AR/VR inspires collaboration and engagement in the workplace? Or diminish it? Will AR/VR negatively impact or help us to cultivate our empathy, as well as our social and emotional intelligence?
The benefits that could be realized through the application of XR to corporate learning are exponential with the areas of collaboration and design potentially yielding the greatest gains. For example, both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality can eventually replace computer monitors and increase collaboration of employees both in the same office space, and those across the world.
Ford’s use of AR in automotive design has reduced manipulations during team prototyping on real vehicles from weeks to minutes. Their employee’s use of the Microsoft HoloLens increases communication and collaboration between design and engineering teams much earlier in the process. Instead of screen-sharing and pointing with a mouse, colleagues can join each other as holograms or avatars in the same room and walk around while pointing to either a digital 3D model in front of them, inside a virtual space or inspect a real object filmed from one of the team member’s headsets.
With time, these collaboration experiences will mimic everything experienced in reality. VR can be used effectively for collaboration and design process contexts when full immersion (no visual or auditory distractions) are desired. This is not often not possible in a busy office. While VR is already being used in architectural and engineering design and prototyping, future 3D visualization and interaction improvements could mean future software and workflow development could be a much more tangible, and thus accessible, experience for everyone from HR to engineers, CEOs to sales personnel.
Beyond facilitating collaboration and engagement XR has the potential to scale the transfer of Non Technical Skills; those gaining traction in productivity payoff as automation consumes routines tasks and human workers are left to master non-routine tasks. As more people use XR daily and costs plummet, the network effect will allow for exponential collaboration opportunities.
As the future of work becomes more focused on human skills, the transportive and visual nature of immersive technologies will provide more opportunities for collaboration and creativity across departments, companies and nations.
Effective communication of ideas and concepts should be a top priority of corporate education, as indicated by the World Economic Forum’s Future of Work Report Furthermore, the digitization of human skill training will allow for standardization, scalability and quantification of a very qualitative field. Virtual Reality has been called by the “ultimate empathy machine,” by Chris Milk for the emotional understanding that comes with being swapping bodies with a homeless man or a woman of a different skin colour or following a refugee family travel across borders.
The Future Work Skills Academy has embraced the Institute for the Future’s 10 Skills (from their Work Skills 2020 report) as our foundation literacies. In accordance with peer cited research these skills are best transferred first through knowledge infusion (for example simple instruction, interactive activities and low risk assessment).
The next step to agency requires practice and one of the key challenges of practice is the confines of the carbon-based learning environment. How practically can organizations create the contexts in which employees can safely practice these skills?
Dr. Lia Bello’s (from VR platform provider WTRI primary area of research is the cognitive mechanisms underlying accelerated learning in VR environments. She has found that training at advanced levels (training to perform in dynamic and complex domains where tasks are not fixed – eg non-routine tasks) is generally more effective if it involves extensive practice on realistic examples or scenarios. Further, she has found that training using intelligent tutoring systems and serious games (virtual reality systems) can be highly effective.
XR offers a solution to both these use cases and as such we are investing heavily in trialing blended prototypes of XR learning platforms with collaborators around the world to determine the most effective solution to scale this learning.