What is learning? Is it simply the ability to memorize information? Or, the skill to understand how the information relates to your world? Increasingly, corporates across the world are trying to make learning a more engaging experience, encouraging the learner to be an active participant in the process and not merely a passive recipient of data.
Transformative technologies like augmented reality (AR) can help to make learning more collaborative and interactive. Enterprises are changing the very face of corporate training, having realized the untapped potential of AR to increase productivity. Dreary manuals and mind-numbing seminars may soon make way for stimulating AR-enabled training experiences.
Wondering how it works? By integrating information in the form of text, graphics, audio and other virtual enhancements (using a hand-held device or optical head-mounted display) with real-world objects in real-time, AR can provide learning and development (L&D) in the context of an existing environment. The idea is to empower employees to have the latest, most accurate information available in context, when and where they need it the most. Sounds too good to be true? Let’s look at how enterprises are already doing this.
Here and now
Long before discussions about AR’s utility in enterprises began, General Motors used Google Glass to train factory workers in the US. The USP was its real-time feedback, allowing workers to see the correct techniques in their Google gadget while they performed their tasks.
With AR-enabled training, the learning becomes faster and more effective. Unlike in a traditional setup, where you listen to someone explain the process, or read from a manual, the level of engagement here is very high. Also, by pointing an AR device at an equipment, you can access information about its features instantly. Similarly, when new equipment is added to any facility, the system gets updated automatically, keeping employees abreast of the latest developments.
Given that most industries are plagued by workforce issues of shortage and aging, enterprises need solutions that can make the most of their existing teams, without compromising on efficiency and morale. AR has the potential to disrupt the status quo and maximize productivity.
For instance, See-What-I-See (SWIS) glasses can help the experts in an organization manage a crisis or oversee a challenging situation from a central location. The AR glasses enable remote access, helping professionals ‘see’ the ground realities. In other words, domain experts can now transport their valuable skills across time and space, without having to leave their office.
Lessons from the past
Enterprises spend considerable amount of time, energy and money in training employees. Yet they struggle to ensure that the learnings stay when employees retire or leave the organization. AR systems can change this reality. With machine learning built into future systems, every employee can benefit from the learnings of a colleague – past or present. That way, valuable employee learnings and insights can be retained.
The AR-enabled workplaces of tomorrow will be able to learn by watching what today’s recruits are doing – right or wrong – to make the systems smarter and safer. Naturally, corporate training will tap into these past learnings to boost efficiency and safety at work. What’s more, AR systems enable users to progress at their own pace, making learning a more personal experience.
The ‘wow’ factor
Noticed how everyone went gaga over Pokemon Go?
The same element of fun and ease of accessibility can make L&D a more engaging process for businesses. Even in a traditional corporate training setup, with PowerPoint presentations and pie charts et al, there’s scope for introducing a short AR-enabled session to introduce an innovative concept or work methodology.
There’s no denying the power of experiential learning. Studies prove that we have a better understanding and retention of things we see or experience rather than what we are made to read or hear. The idea is to make learning an immersive and enjoyable experience. And that becomes easier for corporates when they don’t have to depend on the next generation of hardware. The ARKit from Apple, for instance, turns your phone or iPad into powerful AR training tools. How cool is that!
The last word
AR technology has been used by the military and airline industry for decades. What’s new is its affordability – with players like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Facebook, etc. jumping onto the bandwagon – and the exciting range of uses in business. This is not to say that AR systems will replace traditional corporate training or L&D practices, but it can make the process so much more effective.
For instance, when it comes to training workers to perform complex operations on the field, AR technology can help with the additional contextual information and operating procedures, getting them ready for the job in a jiffy. It not only has the potential to increase productivity and provide hands-on experience, but also to simplify current processes and enhance collaborations.
AR is already making its way into our smartphones and tablets. To gain a competitive edge, enterprises of today will need to start questioning the ways in which they are training the workforce of tomorrow.
Are you ready for the digital reality challenge?