Immersive Learning - A game-changer in L&D space
The idea of a home remodeling exercise scares a few people. After all, one is uncertain of whether the risk of investing in reshuffling everything will pay off or not. But what if one could visualize how the reinvented space looks before he embarked on the journey of remodeling? Visualize a reality that is virtual, yet seems real? Technologies such as Microsoft’s HoloLens are enabling that. In fact, a home improvement company Lowe uses HoloLens for exactly that – “show customers their new kitchen in mixed reality before laying off the first coat of paint.”
Microsoft’s HoloLens, first made available for pre-orders in 2016, is one of the few such available technologies which offer mixed reality to its end users. In simple words – one can see holograms of things they wish to see. Ford, for instance, has been trying HoloLens for a year to see holograms of virtual design elements as if they were a part of physical vehicles. “They’ve been able to explore different shapes, sizes and textures of future vehicle attribute in minutes and hours instead of the weeks and months it can take to create clay models,” says a Ford media release.
Revolutionary certainly, eh?
Businesses have been flirting with the idea of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and now Mixed Reality for some time now. Slowly, they are increasingly experimenting with creating an immersive environment for their consumers and designers as well. Now extend this immersive experience to wowing the internal customers – the employees of the company. Immersive technologies like that of HoloLens and Oculus Rift could introduce a whole new paradigm in the Human Resources function – especially Learning & Development. The possibilities are immense, with these Tony-Starkesque technologies getting consumerised.
According to Goldman Sachs, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality combined, will overhaul Television by 2025. Goldman Sachs predicts that VR and AR will generate between $80 and $110 billion compared to $99 billion by TV in the next decade. The research also predicts increased consumerisation – a steady 5-10% fall in prices year-on-year over the decade.
Here are some ways the L&D function could be impacted by Mixed Reality:
1. Give employees on-the-job training before they start with the job
Astronauts are trained rigorously before they leave the atmosphere of earth and reach outer space. Although the training is demanding, and potentially puts the astronauts through every unexpected event that they may encounter, outer space is still a completely different experience than what one feels in training at the ground. One can only prepare so much without experiencing it. MR has given astronaut training an edge – the outer space and different scenarios can actually be experienced – the way they would feel while in the space station or walking on the moon. NASA has actually been using mixed reality station to train astronauts, and has partnered with Microsoft to allow the public to take holographic tour of the red planet.
These holographic realities aren’t all made from space-grade materials that cannot be made available to another regular organization. They can be used for life experiences on earth as well. Simulating an operation, for instance. As a matter of fact, mixed reality is increasingly being used in medical trainings. A life-saving surgery technique was pioneered by doctors in Miami to save a baby born with only one lung and half her heart. The doctors used Google Cardboard to map her heart in VR and used the 3D image to plan the surgery. Surgeons/doctors/nurses can be trained experiencing situations they may face by operating on life-like holograms, for example. HelpMeSee, a foundation working towards curing cataract blindness, uses a simulation-based training program which replicates a human eye and feel of a live surgery. University College of London is using HoloLens to prepare and plan for complicated surgeries by transforming medical imaging (like CT scans) into 3D models.
2. Bring virtual problem-solving and e-learning to life
There are complex problems which require assistance to be solved. It often takes time to explain the solution via a regular virtual communication channel. Some are complex enough to require the presence of a specialist to be solved. Mixed reality/holograms enable the specialist sitting virtually to point out the specific instructions through the holographic image. Tetra Pak, the Swiss food packaging giant, deploys Mixed Reality through HoloLens to solve glitches in its manufacturing line within minutes. These technologies also enable scenario-based training for virtual teams, something that e-learning tools would fall short of because of their inability to offer “presence”.
Remote teams, when they undergo e-learning, cannot quite experience the feel of being in the presence of the trainer, and thus emotional and social engagement could be low because of a lack of direct interaction with the trainer (yes, chats are available and space is provided for questions, but it is not equivalent to having an open discussion) and fellow learners. Mixed reality can bring it to life allowing all the stakeholders to be present at the same place holographically!
3. Make gamification real
HoloLens actually has its roots in Xbox’s Kinect, which was an add-on for the gaming console introduced in 2010 . One could control and interact with their console/computer without needing a game controller. The control would be achieved through gestures and spoken commands. That is the objective with which most of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality was started – gaming. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, all started with gamers as their target audiences. With VR/AR/MR set to continue having an impact on the gaming industry, it is only natural it will impact the gamification industry as well. Gamification has enhanced its credibility as an effective source of engaging learners and reducing drop-off rates. Gamification is a tried and tested approach – Deloitte integrated gamification into their Online Leadership academy in 2016 and witnessed the number of returning users increase by 46.6% within three months. Technologies like HoloLens are bound to help the gaming industry take the next leap, and this advancement in gaming can only be beneficial to the learning and gamification industry.
The benefits of Mixed Reality kept in mind, L&D leaders would still face a challenge when it comes to developing a business case for immersive learning and adopting technologies like HoloLens. Although they have become more consumerised, HoloLens for enterprises comes at a price of $5000. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are better priced at $399 and $599 respectively but these prices are for regular B2C customers (HoloLens developer’s edition costs $3000 and commercial suite costs $5000). What is unique about HoloLens is that it has been developed as a B2B product, so the offerings (such as building apps yourself, with a partner, with MS, or using off-the-shelf solutions) are customized for businesses, and the suite comes with the features of enterprise security and mobile device management – making it conducive for businesses to invest in. Is the cost justified for the benefit accrued? Will the business invest so much in something so new? Some businesses (of the ilk of Volvo, Japan Airlines, Tetra Pak, Lowe, Stryker) have already done it. Will they extend it to the Human Resources function as well? If the benefits are visible against the investment, businesses may find it conducive to invest in immersive learning for their employees as well. Because the possibilities are immense!