Monday, August 14, 2017

Virtual Reality and Micro Learning: Ready. Set. Engage. - Tip #145

Steven Spielberg just released the trailer for the highly anticipated movie Ready Player One.” This movie is an adaptation of the same titled Ernest Cline’s virtual reality thriller novel and is set in the year 2044. In this story, people escape the harsh reality of the real world by entering into a virtual reality (VR) platform called OASIS. The virtual worlds shown and how people interface with them are pure science fiction; however, they are based on current science and trends being explored and developed now.

Concept art from Spielberg's new movie “Ready Player One”

This leads me to think about what is happening in the VR field now and in the next few years. Is it ready to move beyond prototypes into business and training environments? What are the different ways of implementing this kind of move? What are the possible benefits of using VR within the learning space?

What Is Virtual Reality?

VR has the ability to seemingly transport you to another place. You use a headset and headphones to block out any sights or sounds in the room that you’re in and replace them with the sights and sounds of a digital environment.
Using a headset to experience Virtual Reality

As you move your head to change your line of sight, the view that you see within the VR environment responds accordingly. Products like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR give you the sensation of “presence” in or of feeling that you are actually a part of the projected world. Everything you experience is how you would experience it in that virtual world. But, what if you wanted to interact in the real world, just enhanced instead of replaced? Is there a way to do that?

Enhance the real world though Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) takes the real world and enhances it by adding to or augmenting the current environment. Currently, there are two basic ways you could experience this. You could wear specially equipped smart glasses where the glasses display information regarding the things within your field of view, onto the lens. As you turn your head around and look at different things, objects and information would be displayed enabling you to interact with each. Alternately you could use a handheld device, a smartphone, or a tablet, and where the camera and screen display the environment around you with augmented digital objects embedded into the screen image. The latest craze Pokémon Go is an example of a platform that uses this technology to view and interact with objects only seen in your mobile devices.

Using Augmented Reality to play Pokemon Go on a mobile device

Using Augmented Reality To Explore and Learn

AR is already being used to provide people with an immersive learning experience. For example, Seattle’s Museum of Flight has recently launched an AR tour of an historic plane. As you walk through the plane, you can hold your mobile device up and view a full scale virtual model of the interior as it appeared decades ago. This allows you to compare the old and the new designs in real time and within the actual environment. As you compare and contrast designs, you become fully engaged in this immersive experience. This level of engagement deepens your learning because the experience is multisensory and authentic and encourages you to create your own insights and connections.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Apple is betting large that AR will be the next big thing. They have created a new ARKit that allows developers to create AR apps for the iPhone. What does this mean? It means that millions of people will be able to use AR without having to buy any additional hardware or software – they will already have it in their iPhones and iPads with the update to OS11. Just imagine being able to access AR wherever you go.

Combining Micro Learning With Augmented Reality

The implications for learning are tremendous, but learning can be enhanced by becoming bite-sized. Micro Learning experiences are designed to place learning exactly when and where you need it. When Micro-actions based on this new knowledge are applied in the work environment, and within the workflow, they support the correct completion of the task. Here are two ways AR can do this:
  • Access Information in Real-Time - Workers in the field will be able to use their smart glasses or mobile devices to recognize equipment and receive contextual step-by-step guidance. They instantly receive the relevant micro information in order to perform the next micro-task. This drastically reduces the amount of time spent in retraining the workforce when there are updates to information and procedures.
  • Use Virtual Micro Mentoring and Micro Learning - When workers need mentoring, support, or assistance in the field from a more skilled worker back at the office, what they see through their smart glasses is instantly shared with their mentor. The mentor can then talk to the worker or even share visual data on the worker’s smart glasses or mobile device. Instances like these create powerful teachable moments in which the workers not only gain insight but apply what is learned immediately.

Ten years ago, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality were delegated to the realms of science fiction; However, with the increasingly fast advances in technology, actual working products already exist in the marketplace. Major companies are investing heavily into this area making the products and services, undoubtedly, more powerful and compelling. We, as learning professionals, have an opportunity to seize this new powerful tool and begin exploring how it can change the experience of learning.

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Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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