“Within the L&D profession, there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what exactly augmented reality (AR) is, what it can do, and how individuals and companies can implement it,” writes Debbie Richards in her recent book, Seeing the Possibilities with Augmented Reality. Richards, who specializes in helping L&D organizations with strategies for technology adoption, is one of several speakers at the Guild's upcoming Realities360 Conference & Expo. She will address the business challenges of AR, and the challenges eLearning specialists face in recommending and supporting adoption of AR within L&D.

What do you need to know about augmented reality?

First, AR is not, in and of itself, about learning—at least not in the same way that eLearning has been in the past, or in the same way that virtual reality eLearning games are. Instead, it might be best to think of AR as a component for blended learning strategies. Augmented reality can:

• Provide performance support within the 5 Moments of Learning Need, most particularly during learning events (whether classroom, virtual, or at the time of performance);

• Support “Just-In-Time” learning and mentoring;

• Support collaboration and remote assistance between technicians, customers, and subject matter experts (or any combination of these) in problem-solving and repair activities.

Second, integration with your project management process is an essential part of adopting and implementing augmented reality. As you will see, there is an expansion or refinement of the classic ADDIE process. There are added and modified components that relate directly to project management steps and to involvement of enterprise stakeholders and IT. The expanded process is abbreviated “ADDEDD.”

Third, AR provides “information on steroids,” including access to subject matter experts and stakeholders with knowledge of sensitive enterprise information and technology. As a result, there are security concerns that may not come up in other eLearning development projects.

AR and business strategy

There are many emerging use cases for AR. Surveys of enterprise organizations in the last 12 months reveal a growing awareness of the business value and return on investment (ROI) of AR. We are already seeing this in service businesses, sales and marketing, manufacturing, medicine and health care, and banking and finance. The number and types of organizations benefiting from AR application grow weekly.

For consumer-facing AR, we have already seen how augmented reality technology contributes to the value of Google Maps, advertising, and technical support. Sometimes the ROI is in “goodwill,” but often it manifests as revenue, market share, and profits.

For applications within the enterprise, AR often shows up as a component of mixed reality (MR) strategies that employees can leverage through activities in their work, such as training and productivity. These pay off in several ways, including:

• Improved business processes;

• Improved safety and reduced risk;

• Improved customer satisfaction;

• Remote assistance, inspection, and repair, resulting in greater equipment and system reliability;

• Better data visualization;

• Improved opportunities for collaboration;

• Sales team and sales campaign improvement.

These are all worthwhile outcomes and the time to payoff, as well as the cost of development, are lower than those for immersive virtual reality. In the list above, the size and quality of the outcomes are often more favorable for AR than for traditional training strategies due to the immersive nature of AR.

ADDIE must evolve into ADDEDD

Poor integration of AR at any step of development, or in any aspect that degrades the user experience, will result in less favorable outcomes. If the deployment of AR is too cumbersome; if the development team or the employees lack relevant skill sets bearing on development and use of AR; or even if it takes too long to download the AR app, AR can make things worse.

For this reason, ADDIE must evolve into ADDEDD, with due attention paid to project management aspects.

Here is a thumbnail of ADDEDD (and this must not become a linear, step-by-step process):

Analyze. What do learners need in order to be successful? What is missing from current approaches? What does AR need to solve for?

Determine. What are the technologies and tools needed in order to achieve the goals? What are the tradeoffs?

Design. What is the AR scenario? What is the narrative? How is learning science helping us?

Experience. How will you integrate AR into a full course, and what is needed before and after the AR experience? How can analytics be leveraged?

Develop. Prototype early and identify how AR data affects the learning experience.

Deploy. What is required for delivery (software, hardware, systems, infrastructure)? Who and what must be included on the client side so that deployment at scale is seamless?

It is essential that IT and enterprise stakeholders are involved in key elements of ADDEDD, with particular attention paid to where any sensitive information will reside.

In the design and development stages, paying attention to the details of the viewer/learner experience is essential—including where and how the AR data or features will appear in their line of vision. Remember that the interactive pieces will have xAPI support for analytics purposes, but you will have to think about these from the beginning.

The development effort is where prototyping and determining where sensitive information will reside. Prototype early. Prototype as often as needed to support seamless deployment.

From the editor

Debbie Richards will present two sessions at Realities360 on the topic of augmented reality:

Session 606: BYOD: Augmented Reality 101

Session 702: Preparing Your Company for the Augmented Reality Learning Program

On the more technical side, Jeff Batt will offer a pre-conference certification workshop that takes participants through development of mobile AR applications for iPhones and Android devices.

P04: BYOD: Creating Mobile Augmented Reality Experiences with Unity

This article provides more details about the software and hardware requirements relating to Jeff’s workshop.