Future Workplace: Viability of Virtual and Augmented Reality for Business and Learning Professionals

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have evolved over the past couple of years and have become more accessible for business and learning, both technologically and financially. VR and AR are two different ways of bending reality to demonstrate, visualize, and impart information.

Watch highlights from the interview.

Because they are often confused, here’s the difference between them:

  • Virtual reality (VR): VR is a virtual environment that shuts out the real world and creates another virtual environment before your eyes. To experience VR, you need a special headset that immerses you in the new reality.
  • Augmented reality (AR): With AR, the real world remains central to your experience and is augmented by virtual details. Normally, the virtual details are superimposed on the screen of a phone or tablet, enabling you to learn more about an object by pointing your device at it.
  • Mixed reality (MR): MR is a combination of both virtual and actual realities, allowing you to interact with both at once.
  • Extended reality (XR): XR is the term for when these technologies are used together. Now that the technology is here, it’s time to refine and expand upon it. We need to think about blending augmented and virtual realities, enabling hybrid learning experiences between virtual and face-to-face environments.

Many companies are interested in using AR and VR for learning and corporate use but don’t know where to get started. I recently sat down with GP Strategies’ Chief Learning and Innovation Officer, Matt Donovan and Tom Pizer, Director of Learning Technologies. We discussed where VR, AR and MR are headed, what software drives them, and how to dip your toe in now that the technology and platforms to support them are more accessible. Here are selected highlights from our discussion and you can watch the interview at the end of this post.

How to get started with VR and AR.

There are many tools on the market today to help develop content rapidly and lower the bar for entry. We suggest you start with an AR or VR training use case that’s meaningful and impactful to your learners. Keep it small and focused, and incorporate measurement. Also consider the tools and devices you’ll need ahead of time and how you’ll supply them to your workforce. After some practice you will be able to plan to scale, include ideas that worked well, and tailor the experience for your unique learning culture.

Is there a quick way to get started?

We suggest getting started with a simple test-and-learn approach and make it low barrier, meaning that it can be accessed on a number of different devices. It’s easier to do with augmented reality because of the devices needed. A simple test-and-learn approach will familiarize your developers and writers with the process and get the learners comfortable with the user experience too.

How do AR and VR fit into your ecosystem?

There’s so much disruption these days that the question is hard to answer. So start with what you are trying to accomplish. What is the most effective way to achieve those goals? Augmented or virtual reality training or operations will not always be the best answer. Also consider that every time you implement a new technology, there’s a culture shift. So be prepared for change management.

Which is better—AR or VR?

To determine whether AR or VR training is the best approach to use, consider the challenges your workforce is experiencing. Are your people struggling to perform their job at the point-of-work? AR will allow them to scan an object and get information in a just-in-time manner. For example, you can provide a mechanical technician with augmented learning that allows them to scan a machine part and learn how to replace it. On the other hand, VR allows the technician to explore, replace, and repair parts in a virtual scenario that doesn’t require equipment downtime or mechanical risk. It allows them to understand and practice the skill.

Here are some of the tools you’ll need.

Your developers are probably already familiar with some of the tools you can use, such as Immerse, CenarioVR, and Adobe Captivate. They can be implemented on a desktop or headset. They’re not hard to learn. Once you do, you can move to more sophisticated solutions that deploy on any mobile device, such as Unreal, Zappar, Layar and Unity.

Will all of this require new staff?

When GP Strategies started implementing VR and AR solutions a few years back, we refined our existing talent. Because our people were already experienced, upskilling was a viable option. It really depends on the team you have in place. Content creation for VR and AR, for example, is a whole different animal than traditional instructional design. So as you move into this arena, consider who can be upskilled and where you may have gaps in your team’s expertise.

Where is the future headed and am I too late?

You’re definitely not too late. If you think of VR and AR as a structure, we’re just on the first floor now. So it’s an ideal time to jump in. We’re still building and perfecting tools and techniques and we envision the growing potential of the AR, VR, and MR spaces. Also, AI is beginning to creep into the space; creating new opportunities to extend capabilities.

The future is bright for AR and VR. We’ve used it effectively for a variety of needs, from automotive sales training to continuity of business during COVID. As developers and users become more accustomed to the technologies, we foresee them as having a huge impact on modern learning.

Learn more about VR and GP Strategies.

About the Authors

Dennis Bonilla

Dennis Bonilla

Dennis F. Bonilla, currently Dean of the Wiley Education Services Global Academy and a Fellow of the Future Workplace Network, is an industry-recognized Digital Learning & Technology Transformation Strategist specializing in the integration of adult learning neuroscience, digital learning technologies and curriculum, data analytics, and corporate and higher education strategies for the modern multi-generational workforce. Mr. Bonilla also designed, developed, and launched the Red Flint Innovation Centers for the University of Phoenix in Las Vegas and Phoenix. His wealth of experience in delivering learning technology leadership and innovation spans a variety of industries including higher education, technology, energy, manufacturing, medical, biotech, telecommunications, and nuclear energy. He’s worked for and consulted at Fortune 100 companies in the technology, manufacturing, energy, and healthcare industries. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he taught at the Naval Nuclear Power School and served three patrols in engineering operations on the USS Casimir Pulaski, SSBN 633 Blue Crew. He began his professional career as a training engineer for Westinghouse; teaching nuclear plant operations at multiple commercial power plants, both domestic and international. Mr. Bonilla is a member of numerous organizations’ boards, including the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board of directors, SQUIGL board of directors, Los D-Backs Ambassadors Council, Microsoft Higher Education Advisory Board, Whole Systems, Inc. Board of Directors, and the Pandexio Board of Advisors. In July 2017, Mr. Bonilla was awarded the Insight Into Diversity Inspiring Leaders in STEM Award.