Training 2022 and Virtual Reality
- Mike Christian, CEO/Co-founder, From the Future.
The Training Conference has been around for 45 years. Presented by Training magazine, this annual conference attracts trainers from around the world to network and learn about the latest in training advancements. These folks know what they are doing.
I was fortunate enough to have been invited by Judy Hale, of Hale & Associates, to join her in her booth. Judy has attended the conference for 40 years and knows nearly everyone and everything about training and performance improvement. She has always been at the forefront of the latest in information and technology, including the latest trends in virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
Judy’s booth was across from an area titled Innovations in Training Immersive Lab. So not only did I get to meet lots of people through Judy and booth visitors, I was able to observe and participate in several demonstrations of varying approaches to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and experiential training.
UPS leads the way in experiential training, from location-based innovations for live video streaming from a truck to utilizing equipment designed for physical therapy fall safety to train carriers on walking safely on slippery surfaces while carrying packages.
The AR presentations included various solves for on-demand tech support and engagement through mobile phones. These certainly have their place, but I found them less interesting than the other sessions.
The closest VR training to what my company provides (From the Future) that I observed was via a presentation by Anders Gronstedt. What made it interesting was it solved similar types of problems that we do, and it gave me a chance to view how that technology is received and understood as a bystander. Even though the presentation was good and the audience seemed engaged, I felt the monitor view did not do justice to what folks were seeing and they did not appreciate the value and the magnitude, let alone the revolutionary aspects of what they were witnessing. Gronstedt’s skill-based training for drywall was a multi-user, hands-on experience that stepped through learning how to put up drywall. The audience experienced it by watching the VR experience being cast to a large monitor. They missed the immersive awe and profound effect of being “in it”. When simply watching it, the training can look like an uninteresting cartoon. We at From the Future prefer to demonstrate to users wearing a headset when possible. While in a headset, your brain is tricked into believing you are learning and doing a job in a place that feels real and impactful. Combine that with attention capture, engagement, and accelerated learning, and you now have something revolutionary, something capable of profoundly changing how we learn. No more checking out while someone talks. No more social anxiety, no more distraction while sitting in a classroom full of other people. You are in a headset, learning while doing, and your only choice is to be engaged or quit. No more sliding by.
While talking to some trainers about VR I heard the words “fear” and “scared” a few times and I can see why the technology is confusing and intimidating to some. We are used to having our classroom time and our hands-on time. The hands-on part can sometimes be limited for insurance and/or economical reasons (such as equipment expense). The rest is usually on the job, introducing safety risks and a drain on the time of other employees that need to teach while working. Now we are talking about a technology that can blend the classroom and effective hands-on training into one, creating a deeper and accelerated learning experience, one where trainers know with certainty what the learner did or did not learn. It’s a new model but one that I assure you can be learned quickly once an educator puts on a headset and sees the potential for themselves. However, and this is a big problem, there are a lot of old and inadequate VR systems out there. Some VR is nothing more than 360 images and video. Although 360 solves some types of training, it barely scratches the surface of what high-impact, integrated, and interactive VR can do. It takes doing some homework to find companies like Gronstedt and From the Future, who can deliver highly effective and affordable custom content that is reusable for years to come.
While there are many other things I learned at the conference, my other big takeaway is that technology does not replace what has gone before. People like Judy Hale have decades of learning techniques and experience from front to back that can be applied to and integrated with VR. VR development should not be an island that simply tries to replicate a learning situation, but should seamlessly incorporate the educational components that have gone before, and proven to be effective, to truly drive VR to its revolutionary potential.