Extending Reality – XR in Business and Training
What is XR technology?
XR, or Extended Reality, is used to describe several immersive technologies that have become popular, or which have reemerged, in recent years. You probably already know some of these technologies, including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality– even Smell-O-Vision is making a return! These platforms each cover different areas of specialty.
Here is a quick breakdown of what each of these technologies entails:
Currently the most widely recognized form of XR for experiences, virtual reality is a fully immersive technology. Wearing a headset, users experience a completely digital 3D world, with which they can interact via haptic controllers. This used to be a tethered experience, requiring powerful PC hardware; but recent hardware releases, such as the Oculus Quest (and Quest 2), allow for a more affordable VR experience to the average consumer. With backing from companies Facebook and HTC, VR technology is the most mature of XR technologies and is always making major advancements– be it in visual fidelity, weight and size of hardware, or interactions by allowing users to use their hands while in VR.
Augmented reality is the most commonly used form of XR today, even if many people don’t realize it. Using a head-mounted or handheld system, digital information or objects are superimposed onto the real world. Augmented reality has become most notable for its use in games such as Pokémon GO, and social media app smart filters that can overlay 2D images or 3D objects onto a user’s face, or an object or character onto the ground.
As the name implies, mixed reality is the use of both digital elements and physical interactions with the world. A good example of this would be Microsoft’s Hololens, which is used by businesses to bridge the gap between the digital and the physical. Microsoft’s Guide platform is an example of training via mixed reality, showing a trainee how to interact with a physical object to increase training speed, retention, and methods.
5G and Cloud XR
To many people, 5G is probably known as just “the next version of 4G,” which we’ve had for many years. But 5G’s advancement in latency and transfer capacity has the potential to operate at 100 times the speed of 4G. Streaming over the internet could provide immeasurable improvements to the XR landscape.
As XR improves, wearable devices such as VR and XR headsets, or AR glasses (such as Vusix Blade’s AR glasses and Facebook’s announced Ray-Ban smart glasses for release in 2021), get smaller and cheaper to produce. Just like smartphone technology, these will become much more consumer-friendly and affordable.
With 5G, entire applications of many gigabytes could be transferred and installed within minutes, if not less. Cloud computing could also allow for the heavy lifting of code and graphics processing to take place online, reducing the load on the headsets by reducing the demands on the hardware.
The implementation of 5G is only beginning, but its potential uses may be the biggest technological leap in decades for every area of the tech industry.
XR for Education
The educational usages for XR have the potential to do wonders for engagement and fundamental understanding. The term ‘learn through experience’ has proven in studies to be beneficial via XR training systems (Accenture), so applying the same theory to education institutions would not be out of place.
Imagine studying history in a classroom, only then to put on a headset and visually explore the timeframe you are studying, with further explanation of how people lived; or visit a fully restored Colosseum in the digital world.
The idea of this is great, but companies such as Lenovo are already making this a reality with their VR Classroom system, a solution which provides “hardware, content, device management, training, and support designed specifically for middle and high schools.” This is ideally how XR integration into the education system would work. Currently, the biggest hurdle is cost and availability; however, as time goes on and the price of hardware reduces, as mentioned above, we may begin to see XR hardware being more widely used in schools, just as computers and tablets have become more common in recent years.
For those with compatible phones, Google recently added augmented reality educational experiences to their search engine, by displaying a wide variety of 3D objects utilizing the phone’s camera and Google’s AR software. Users can view many different types of animals, human anatomy models, science models (including chemicals displayed in 3D), and historical and cultural objects and locations on the floor of learners’ homes. This is probably the first widely and easily available use of XR for educational purposes and, as such, is a look into how the learning experience will change in years to come.
XR for Training
XR training is already being employed in many industries and roles, including the automotive industry, medical fields, customer relations and corporate training, soft skills, and HR role requirements. Immersive learning is extremely practical to recreate situations, locations, and events without risk, and with the advantage of analytics to assess users and their progress.
WebCreek worked with TrainBeyond to develop a cross-device platform, which is currently being used for Oil and Gas training for rig sites, and for onboarding. It is an example of XR training having practical applications in the real world; by allowing users to actively engage in hazardous situations like fire emergencies, blowouts, or potential hazard identification, they retain more than they would by simply viewing a video or reading guides alone (Lovreglio et al.).
As time goes on, advancements in XR technology will provide the means of access and affordability for both consumers and smaller companies, as well as increase the power and quality of hardware. The implementation of training and educational software with the promise of 5G could signal the largest shift in how training and learning are performed for decades to come. WebCreek is at the forefront of XR utilization and knows the many benefits that the technology offers to business and education. We hope you join us on the journey into this new technological world.