Extended reality, latest tech breakthrough for training

In an environment in which it seems that new technologies emerge at the speed of light, the industry is faced with maintaining the breakneck pace of these operational advances and benefits.

This phenomenon is especially true with the adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology. However, hot on AR and VR’s heels is augmented reality (XR), which combines real and virtual environments with computers, wearables and more to collect and analyze data.

Paul Daley, senior eLearning specialist with ConocoPhillips, describes his company’s progress in applying emerging technologies as a “toe in the water.” The onset and ripple effect of COVID-19 did not help progress.

“We had a proof of concept that was planned and built up to 2019. Then 2020 came,” Daley recalls. “No one had the appetite to tell the boss that it would cost a lot of money to figure this out. So that proof of concept didn’t go forward.”

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As COVID-19 has subsided, Daley said, things have changed.

“There were efforts from the ‘top, down’ and ‘bottom, up,’ where ‘bottom, up’ was an existing training program to improve things,” he explained. Daley joked that it was a very extreme but practical “we’re going to drag this trailer around and show you what happens when you cut your fingers off” type proposition.

“But they wanted to see if VR could make it a more memorable experience, because everyone has already seen how they cut their fingers for the last 10 years. This was a project that we had to shop around a lot and figure out an economical way to to do it.

Daley said the company chose to implement an “off the shelf solution” to its VR and XR needs, “which was a way to bring development costs down.”

In the ‘Top, Down’ solution, said Daley, the ConocoPhillips CIO, who observed the benefits of VR “being able to write a check and get a development.”

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Not ‘all about the Benjamins’

There are a number of challenges to successfully bringing emerging technologies into the field in addition to financial pressures.

Some of these challenges to the introduction of VR and XR, said Daley, “come down to bad timing. In those cases, the business has to go back to what it does, and not what it doesn’t do and sometimes that’s just learning” , he said, laughing.

“We have this great technology and we want to deploy it. Even culturally, I would say you’re in the training mindset and still afraid to see that, for some reason,” said Daley. “You have to move past that, and that can be kind of ‘baby steps’ because they want to take the multiple choice, get the check mark and move on.”

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When it comes to safety, XR technology enables managers to ensure that workers complete proper tasks such as inspections, lockout/tagout and other responsibilities essential to safety, said Susan Spark, Learning Technology Manager with Schlumberger, XR technology.

“You can measure the strength with which they hold the instrument to avoid bending it; they actually make the right gesture with their hand, and much more. It is a completely different spirit of its structural design,” said during the Industrial XR Global Summit, held recently in Houston.

Spark observed that learning management systems (LMS) are “a more than two-decade-old idea,” comparing the use of LMS to installing a governor on a Formula One racecar.

“What you can measure in XR is so much more – to the point where we really need to be concerned and have the discussion about data ethics and data protection,” she concluded.


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