“Augmented reality” might bring to mind the habits of baby boomers using chemicals, and the World War Two generation using alcohol, to create conditions where they see things that are not really there. Famously so, such as with the “dts” that are said to plague people trying to give up excessive drinking. This is not what we mean by augmented reality in training.
What is “augmented reality” ?
Augmented reality does change reality, at least as presented during training. Augmented reality changes the environment, on demand of the learner. Augmented reality does not just describe a situation and then tell people what they should do, or first ask and then tell. Augmented reality is a form of virtual reality. Augmented reality creates new situations for training. Unlike problems described verbally, augmented reality aps and programs, and, for that matter, full-fledged virtual reality, show the problem, they do not just tell the problem.
The history of augmented reality goes back much further than the technology we use today. Roman soldiers trained with dummies, filling in for enemies. Knights from the Middle Ages charged circular targets with their lances. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation, and many other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, have used a type of shooting gallery since the 1930s. The trainee walked down a simulated ally. Targets popped up unexpectedly. The trainee not only has to be able to hit the target, but has to know when not to shoot. You want agents to be able to shoot and hit thugs with machine guns, but not shoot school children. Most new trainees end up shooting simulated innocent bystanders and missing some armed criminals. Neither is a good result when dealing with real people. In a simulation it becomes a learning experience.
Video games in the 1980s are credited with helping American, British, and French pilots adapt to, and become expert in, the world of high tech warfare in the 1991 Gulf War. The immediate military results of this war alone show the advantages of a foundation in virtual reality and, then, simulated training – itself a substantial advancement on older technology. The pilots knew what to do with real jet aircraft. They effectively achieved blended learning, safer and less expensive than going right to practice with the real thing.
Modern augmented reality brings one more element to the table, one more element from its remote electronic nature. You can take it with you outside of the classroom. The greatest classroom lecture or instruction has to take place at a scheduled time. Outside of recording, the lecture stays in the classroom. In an economic world increasingly globalized, some employees might not even be able to attend the class. Do you want people to have to take time off from your Paris office to attend in person a class in New York, however valuable? What if the weather does not cooperate and the New-York airports are closed due to record snow fall?
Hands on practice, with the instructor being present, is also limited. If nothing else, it has to done at a time convenient to the teacher, and the student. The distance learner can pull out a device and review details of a lesson. He or she can even learn the lesson at their convenience, when a busy work schedule allows. Augment reality can offer advice, when needed, as to how to handle difficult situation.
A really well designed program can let the user pick what element the program adds to reality. It can be programed to offer a problem, and then offer results designed to reflect how the user decides to handle the problem. Currently, the most common use of augmented reality is for technical and mechanical training. A training program in computer maintenance produces a virtual image of a computer for the student to work with. Virtual reality programs can use holograms, something straight out of science fiction, projecting three dimensional images in space.
Technological problems will tend to have a yes/no answer. Something works or does not work. Some possible technological problems may find drastic ways to not work – primarily destroying the technology. Most, however, will work or not work. Even really wrong solutions will not cause a fire, or worse. The student will be able to realize that something is wrong and correct the problem. The program can even tell the student – if this happens, do this . . . very quickly.
Augmented reality can be used to provide advice for less drastic situations in human relations. If you are boss and have to counsel a problematic employee, what signs might you look for to see if the advice is getting through to the employee. I say “might” because though people have common characteristics, every person is different. The idea of counseling is to stop problems before they becoming damaging – to the employee, to the company, and to the boss.
Augmented reality brings a few more tricks to the game. GPS locators in mobile devices let the programs be adjusted to different geographic areas. For one basic example, the New York office can be sent programs in English. The Paris office can get programs in French.
Augmented reality is not just another word for distance training. People from offices thousands of miles apart with similar training needs can benefit. People from the same office, with different training needs, can benefit at least as much. Augmented reality works from the solid foundation that, to be truly effective, training has to be personalized. Personalization increases the “buy in” of learners to the program. This ability to personalize makes augmented reality a major part of any current training program which seeks to produce an effective work force. There is still a place for the classroom. There is still a place for hands on practice. You want people to do, not just learn, however effectively, how to do. Augmented training recognizes that though, as the old saying goes, there is no I in team , there are quite a few me’s in team. Augmented reality strengthens individuals, at the main office, or on the road – it is mobile, after all. Augmented reality lets them become more effective parts of the group effort.