We know the tech industry wants to convince us we need augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) solutions, and while gaming experiences seem to dominate the discussion today, the greater opportunity comes in digital transformation of the enterprise.
Growing GDP one AR experience at a time
Recent analysis from PwC estimates VR/AR will boost global GDP by $1.5 trillion by 2030. Librestream and IDC believe AR will be key to the next stage of workplace digital transformation. In a recent report, they note multiple scenarios where the technology has already made a difference, including an auto manufacturer who managed to reduce machine downtime and maintenance by 15% with it.
But for most enterprises, the opportunity to develop virtual training solutions makes great sense. Hybrid working posed onboarding problems for some firms; AR/VR can support this journey. Accenture, for example, invested in 60,000 VR headsets, building a virtual global campus featuring digital twins to help in onboarding employees.
Other companies use QR symbols to link employees to information or training about that area, a product, or business process using an existing handset, such as an iPhone.
AR and VR are used to deliver critical training in a number of ways.
We know this kind of training is effective. Boeing says VR can reduce training time by 75%, and that’s is just one of the benefits the tech can bring to enterprise users. All this interest recently promised internet giant, Alibaba to invest $60 million in AR glasses manufacturer, Nreal
The idea is that staff can pick up training at their own pace. That’s a nice-to-have that becomes a must-have when you consider the need to build skills to handle dangerous or expensive equipment.
Virti, a UK-based immersive training start up, describes its work as providing an opportunity for learners to learn and practice skills in “low-stake, virtual worlds.” Working with virtual items eradicates risk, and maximizes active time, as precious infrastructure doesn’t need to be taken offline to support a training session.
[Also read: How will we use Apple’s AR glasses — and with what UI?]
Steven Ayer, an assoicate professor at Arizona State University, studies deployment of these technologies in construction and facilities management. He sees impacts in both training and safety.
“We see a lot of times where we use very antiquated modes of teaching safety courses that are ‘chalk-and-talk’ lecture-style learning, which by almost any accounts have been ineffective, and, by empirical data on sites, still don’t stop injuries,” he said.
On-demand, overlaid training doesn’t replace the human touch, of course, but certainly makes it easier for employees to learn what they need to learn where they are – or to familiarize themselves with new equipment.
Who can build them?
Apple is certainly exploring the opportunity. Its stable of products can work together to help create these experiences and the company’s relatively recent (Aug. 21) AR in Business guide evangelizes use; it also explains how Xcode, RealityKit, and ARKit mean developers have a powerful (and evolving) suite of tools with which to implement solutions of this kind.
That report highlights Apple-based training solutions such as Splunk AR, or SAP’s own Tech Trainer app, which lets remote trainers and students work together on virtual challenges using an on-screen display mirrored across two remote iPads.
Empowering new training sounds great on paper, but acquiring the skills to develop these training solutions is a real problem when there just aren’t enough developers to go round. But tools are evolving that may help plug this gap.
Scope AR’s WorkLink Create is a browser-based, no-code authoring platform to create remote training and assistance tools. It’s already used by Lockheed Martin to create that company’s own in-house training experiences.
New opportunity also means new challenges will emerge. Inevitable software flaws will make for new attack vectors. The same tools used to create surveillance-based ads models on social media will be 10 times more effective within realistic virtual environments, exposing brand new privacy problems.
The world’s smartest criminals will already be figuring out how to exploit these environments to steal information, exfiltrate data, and support their main business in crime. It’s quite plausible to think state actors will be considering how to build virtual honeypot traps to gather kompromat, too.
This new wild frontier will introduce a host of new wild problems, as Charlie Bell, Microsoft vice president for security, compliance, identity, and management, recently warned.
Given this has been the case each time new tech has hit town, don’t be too surprised to see 21st Century repeats of late 20th century scare stories. That’s why any enterprise working in virtual space will need to take steps before problems happen, rather than move fast and act surprised when things inevitably break.
Things will break and you have been warned — but at least VR/AR training may make it possible to break things in virtual worlds before you get down to breaking your real world business. That may be an argument to consider within the ROI for any company seeking to exploit AR/VR to test and explore new business opportunity.