Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have held a particularly high appeal for several years now, but until recently the production cost of such projects has been generally considered too high for training. New solutions have emerged that will allow rapid democratization of authoring 3-D interactive training thanks to negligible costs and extraordinary simplification of content creation.

In this interview, Debbie Richards responds to basic questions about the use of augmented reality and virtual reality.

BB: When would you choose augmented reality for an interactive or immersive lesson, and when would you choose 360 degree virtual reality?

DR: I would choose augmented reality mainly for performance support. For example, you have developed a training course, someone has taken it, now they're out in the field and they need some just-in-time information. Augmented reality is a great solution for that. I've also used augmented reality in facilitated classrooms. I'll be doing a demo next week in which we're going to apply augmented reality in an escape room exercise, as a breakout session. Participants will go around the room and discover clues using augmented reality in order to solve a puzzle and escape the room. Immersive learning can easily be included as part of a blended learning approach.

For virtual reality, suppose you've got a situation where you want learners to have an immersive experience. For example, teaching how to perform a procedure. Virtual reality works great for that. You can place learners in a virtual environment and have them work through a virtual experience. They can develop and test their muscle memory, they can explore the environment, and they can find information. In a workshop I'll be teaching at Learning Solutions 2020 and Realities360, I'll be using Adobe Captivate 2019, which allows us to import 360 degree images or 360 degree videos. We'll create a virtual simulation with interactive hotspots and questions. It puts learners into a virtual environment so that they can have self discover, and they can experience the 360 degree environment without having to physically be there. Learners can be in a virtual environment while they're sitting in a classroom or in their living room at home.

BB: Could you give some more examples of the types of applications where you would use AR and VR?

DR: I'm getting ready to work on a project where we're going to do a virtual walk through of an office for new hire orientation. Before someone starts their new job they can take a virtual walk through the office; they can see where everything's at and you can give them some orientation to the facility and information about it. Another example that we're doing in VR is a training piece on parking lot security. The learner experiences walking out to a virtual parking lot. They'll learn to be aware of their surroundings. There's going to be things going on in that environment. If they look around, they'll be able to see and recognize those things, and there will be prompts and information.

In another example, we're working on a project teaching how to assemble a window in a manufacturing environment. In VR the students can practice that assembly virtually, and they also have to get the task done in a certain amount of time so there's a time element involved as well. We can record that and play the performance back, and share that with them.

BB: Do you have any examples of use of AR?

DR: Yes. Using AR as performance support, imagine taking an online class on how to operate a forklift. On an actual forklift, we have markers that the person will scan. When the learner scans one of those markers, they will view a portion of a video that has to do with safety requirements. When they scan another marker, they'll experience using a quick safety checklist, to make sure that they're ready to operate the forklift.

BB: What are the skill sets needed on the development team for AR, and does VR require a different skill set?

DR: With AR, it does depend on the software that you're using to develop the experience. There are higher end software packages that require some programming skills and some ability to understand things that are a little more complex. In my Sunday pre-conference workshop at Realities360, the AR tool I'm using is one that, if you know how to use another eLearning tool, you should not have any trouble. The process is actually in building your content, building what you want the learner to see and what you want that person to do. You will set up that content, and then the learner will output either a document that has an AR anchor on it, or a way for the person to activate the augmented reality experience. There's not a high level of skill that's required to do that in augmented reality. In the part of the workshop where we discuss making an Adobe Captivate 360 VR experience, if you've got a little bit of knowledge of Adobe Captivate, that's enough—you don't really need more than that. Again, if you have a knowledge of basic eLearning tools you'll be able to use what we'll be sharing in in the session. These are fairly low-level tools and will make it possible for you to create a pilot or create basic VR and AR experiences.

Want more?

Debbie Richards will present a full-day pre-conference workshop on Sunday, March 29 at the Realities360 Conference and Expo: "Practical Solutions for Creating Simple 3-D AR/VR Interactive Lessons". In this workshop, you will learn how to create simple VR/AR content by leveraging budget-friendly tools (Zappar Zapworks and Adobe Captivate 2019) to develop your own simple applications, giving you a jumping-off point for building your VR/AR development skills even further. You will also learn how to add 360-degree images and videos to a virtual reality project, and how to add hotspots, labels, and questions to create interactivity in a virtual reality project. We will also discuss the various hardware and software packages useful to support your project. Participants will need a laptop with ZapWorks Studio downloaded and installed, the free-to-download Zappar app on their mobile device, and Adobe Captivate 2019. Registration for this workshop is open.

Debbie will also participate in or deliver two concurrent sessions during the conference itself:

217 - Panel: Lessons Learned from Early Adopters of AR

517 - Preparing Your Company for an Augmented Reality Learning Program

Registration for the Realities 360 Conference & Expo is required in order to register for the pre-conference workshop.