A resource from the leaders in simulation training.

Hello, Troubleshooters! Good to have you back with us. If you haven’t tuned in in a little while, be sure to catch up on some of our recent posts. Right now, we’re in the middle of a series on the latest trends in manufacturing training. If you’re a manufacturing exec or Director of Technical Training, you’ll want to read Part 1 on learning management systems (LMSs), Part 2 on microlearning, Part 3 on gamification, and Part 4 on simulations. These are all exciting developments that can help you train your staff better, smarter, faster, and cheaper!

Today, our topic is also uber cool—we’re talking about the fascinating new technologies that are blurring the lines between reality and imagination, and completely disrupting traditional methods of learning. We’re talking about the application of 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality in manufacturing training. You’ll see for yourself that these new technologies have mind-blowing implications for upgrading employee knowledge and skills.

A quick 3D-VR-AR-MR primer

We’ll talk about how the new tech will affect manufacturing training, but first, in case any or all of these are new to you, here’s a quick primer to bring you up to speed.

3D technology is, in its simplest form, the addition of another dimension to a 2D image to create the perception of depth, similar to what we see in real life. 3D has been around for a while—3D photography became popular in the 1800s, and of course there was the 3D movie craze in the 1950s and the more recent revival. Basically, images are taken with a stereoscopic camera that takes the same photo from two slightly different places, mimicking human binocular vision and giving the impression of perspective or depth. This technique was later applied to moving cameras and 360-degree 3D tech was born. People could now look around themselves and feel totally immersed in the 3D environment. 3D was eventually done digitally, setting the stage for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality—all of which use 3D tech to help provide realism.

Virtual reality
Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that uses computer-generated images and sounds fed into goggles or glasses that shut out the real world and create a completely immersive, artificial environment. Think of Star Trek’s holodeck and you’ll get the idea. VR is big in the gaming world. Oculus headsets are probably the best-known consumer VR headsets, which cover a person’s entire field of vision to provide a completely immersive entertainment and gaming experience. The important distinction here is that the experience is completely immersive—you are surrounded by a new world full of sights and sounds that are not based in reality.

Augmented reality
Unlike VR, augmented reality (AR) is not completely immersive, but basically superimposes computer-generated images over real life images on a tablet or smartphone. Pokémon GO is an example of an AR game, and a wildly popular one at that—it was downloaded over 500 million times in 2016, the year it was released. By the beginning of 2019 there were over 1 billion downloads worldwide. Spark AR is an app used on Instagram and Facebook that allows users to impose filters on their faces for photos and video calls. Facebook is really getting into AR game, recently announcing that it is building AR glasses.
Both VR and AR alter the user’s perception of reality, but to differing degrees. The main distinction is that with AR, part of what the user is seeing is real.

Mixed reality
Continuing along the VR-AR spectrum is mixed reality (MR)—basically AR on steroids. MR still allows users to see the real world, but also lets them superimpose, interact with, and manipulate digital images such as holograms. A great example is Microsoft’s Hololens (now in its second generation and marketed with the slogan “mixed reality is ready for business”). Hololens is a mixed reality headset/head-mounted display unit with cameras and projection lenses that allows users to see the real world with manipulable digital images superimposed. Hololens also includes audio speakers that can generate binaural sound (mimicking the way we hear and are able to pinpoint where a sound is coming from) and understands voice commands. It can run various apps including military, medical, communications, and gaming applications.

Why is 3D/VR/AR/MR reality better than “real” reality for training?

Unless you’re Neo from the Matrix, simulated reality has a lot of benefits over real reality, especially for manufacturing training.

1. Safety. This is the number one benefit of simulated reality training over actual on-the-job training. Working with industrial machinery and electricity can be extremely dangerous but a fact of life is that rookies make rookie mistakes. In occupations where the stakes are very high, in terms of danger to oneself, others, or even very expensive equipment, simulated reality training provides a safe environment in which to learn.

2. Cost-effectiveness. 3D/VR/AR/MR has come to the point where it is extremely realistic, so it provides a life-like learning experience, without the cost of shutting down a production line, or creating a physical simulator. Large physical simulators are not only costly, they can require a lot of space to house, and are not scalable.

3. Flexibility. Trainees using simulated training can train any time, and from anywhere—there’s no travelling, hotel or meal expenses, and no need to host a permanent training space.

4. Reduced admin burden. Some simulated training programs come with administrator programs to administer large numbers of trainees, track and analyze their progress and generate custom reports, freeing up admin time.

5. Data. Digital training programs generate data that provides valuable insights into employee competency, allowing manufacturing executives to make data-driven decisions about staff deployment.
Check out Simutech Multimedia’s latest 3D module for training on troubleshooting industrial sensors.

And that’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Join us next week for Part 6 as we continue our series on trends in manufacturing training.

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