VRARA Training Committee to Present Industry Research Results and Best Practices at the VR/AR Global Summit

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Co-Authors/Contributors: David Trainor (Sentireal), Matthew Wallace (VRSim), Sara Blackstock (VRSim)

The VRARA Training Committee have conducted a survey to capture the industrial landscape for one of the major use cases for Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality – namely training and development of employees. A total of 108 people responded to this survey and provided valuable insight into how VR, AR and MR (collectively XR) are becoming an integral part of industry-based training. A number of interesting trends have emerged from the survey responses. In this article we’ll explore these trends by considering the responses to the individual questions in turn.

Initially we were interested in seeing what training roles and activities were represented by the survey respondents:

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The vast majority of the respondents already have some active role in the training process. Managers, Influencers and Decision Makers were well-represented and the training technology Developer community featured strongly too.

Next, we were interested in seeing what experience the respondents had in utilising XR within their training activities:

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Over 90% of respondents indicated that they had already used XR in training or would consider doing so in the future. Of course the nature of the survey would naturally attract a high proportion of respondents with an existing interest in or enthusiasm for immersive training, but this is still a gratifying result nevertheless. The few respondents that said they would NOT use XR in training cited cost, lack of content, device availability and benefit/value/cost relationship as the reasons for not using the technology.

Next, we were interested in seeing what devices and software the respondents a) used b) had tried and c) use most regularly:

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These three questions highlighted the relative popularity of the VR medium for training, compared with AR and MR. With VR-based training, mobile VR solutions and the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets featured strongly. With AR-based training, newer mobile AR software frameworks from Apple (ARKit) and Google (ARCore) have started to gain a significant foothold. Dedicated AR glasses did not feature strongly in our survey results but Microsoft’s Hololens device proved a popular choice for MR-based training.

Next, we were interested in how often the respondents used VR or AR in terms of hours per week:

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Here we can see that the significant majority of respondents (69.6%) spend 5 hours a week or less actively using VR, AR or MR. This may correlate with the concept of using these technologies for short “bite-sized” training experiences rather than prolonged training activities.

While usage rates will vary widely depending on circumstances and training budgets, the training market needs to increase adoption by demonstrating the effectiveness of VR, AR, or MR as training media. This not only includes incremental hardware improvements, but also a concerted effort on content improvements to deliver simulations worthy of a trainees immersion. Significantly, trainers will be given valuable insight through the use of big data across time and trainees.

Next, we were interested to what extent the respondents thought that certain attributes were strengths or weaknesses of VR and/or AR, when applied to training activities.

This series of questions revealed that respondents rated immersion, presence and simulation capability as key strengths of VR-based training and rated showing information in context and presenting expert information as key strengths of AR-based training. Interactivity and progress-tracking were highlighted as strengths of both VR and AR.

Next, we were interested in what activities the respondents felt would a) most benefit and b) least benefit from XR training:

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Clearly the survey respondents feel that manual skills and mechanical/industrial operations will especially benefit from XR-based training, with the realistic simulation capability of VR and the interactive real-time guidance provided by AR/MR being particularly relevant. In certain skilled trades, XR has made significant inroads into the training communities, such as coatings application or welding. For example, some level of training with VR/AR is the defacto standard for welding training throughout the United States.

Although process-driven activities scored particularly highly on this question, some creative activities such as art and precision crafts also feature strongly, indicating that XR-based training does have a role in activities that are not necessarily driven by process and compliance. However other creative activities such as art and activities involving human relationships, such as organizational leadership and management, are indicated as weak areas for XR-based training.

Next, having identified some strong and weak applications for XR-based training, we were interested in the opinions on weaknesses of the media and technologies themselves:

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Understanding where the perceived weaknesses or deficiencies lie in current forms of XR-based training is key to addressing those issues in future versions of the training technologies. Clearly the survey respondents feel that cost is still the major barrier to introducing or increasing the use of XR within training programs.

Reduction in headset costs and innovative business models around content access should help to address this. Availability of the technology has also been highlighted as an obvious weakness, suggesting that hardware providers should consider future manufacturing and distribution processes and software providers should consider subscription and distribution models beyond the “app store” format. In discussing barriers to entry and expansion, the potential relationship between barriers should be considered. For example, cost might not be considered prohibitive if greater libraries of content or potential for re-purposing training solutions existed.

Resistance to change is also highlighted as an issue, suggesting that the efforts of the VRARA Training Committee in evangelizing and promoting XR training are still well-placed! Finally, lack of relevant content was highlighted by the survey respondents. Considering the results, the concept of relevance should also be extended to consider the depth and proven validation of the efficacy of that content.

The overall set of results for this survey question echoes the earlier sentiments citing cost, content, availability, and overall value proposition as barriers to entry/expansion within XR-based training.

Finally, we were interested in what types of company/organization the respondents felt would use XR training most successfully:

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Respondents have clearly prioritised some types of organization that have a longer and better-known association with immersive training and simulation, including the military, emergency response organizations and organizations dealing with safety-critical processes. Interestingly schools also featured heavily in the responses, indicating a crossover in the “enterprise training” and “education” sectors. It should be noted that the value proposition in these sectors is improved by factors outside of the immediate value proposition of VR, AR, or MR. Education budgets, worker compensation, rework cost and employee health costs serve as a constant driving force to explore innovations that can deliver in terms of safety and efficiency.

The VRARA Training Committee would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to this survey. It’s produced a very interesting and insightful snapshot of the XR industry as it relates to enterprise training markets.