Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), also known as immersive mixed reality, have been making great headlines for video gamers. But the technology is also making significant strides in helping businesses in many industries handle critical tasks, like employee training.
Business owners and department managers today should highly consider AR/VR and immersive mixed reality for training new employees, and to keep existing employees’ skillsets sharp with periodic retraining of newer production tools and resources.
Simply put, the future of almost all learning is going to have some type of virtual component. The Covid-19 pandemic made this clear as both professionals and students reshuffled their work and studies online and even remotely.
There are other benefits as well. Today’s immersive mixed reality technologies are beyond lifelike, so it allows for effective and exact training of many complex skills. VR headsets create an audio-visual experience and can be paired with physical sensors and tools to create an entire body training environment. And while this offers a certain “wow factor”, it also means it can be beneficial for potentially risky training.
For example, the U.S. continues to lead the world in the design and deployment of virtualized modeling and simulation (M&S) technologies for several industries, such as military and defense. These technological innovations have been used to support strategic operations and training of all facets of the military.
It is estimated that unclassified open-source contracts for virtual and augmented simulation training for the U.S. Army alone totaled $2.7 billion in 2019, increased to an estimated $3 billion in 2020, and is expected to rise to more than $19 billion by 20271.
And it’s not just a hope and a dream, there are already significant ROI accomplishments for the technology. For example, Lockheed Martin Corp. has been developing how-to manuals that include animations for assembling spacecraft components. This has reduced the time required to interpret assembly instructions by 95%, along with an 85% reduction in overall training time and a more than 40-percent boost in productivity2.
The Need for Virtualization
Sure, on the surface these are significantly large investments. However, these expenditures pale in comparison to the traditional training costs as virtualized technologies do not require costs for travel, expensive munitions, fuel, or any other overhead costs typically associated with a standard training program. Furthermore, there are also reduced risks for soldiers and air-personnel in training as they virtually use weapons, operate a variety of vehicles, or practice team, squad, and full unit tactics in a complete range of simulated environments with adaptable scenarios and landscapes.
Virtualized technologies are still not created equal, though. This is important because today, many existing untethered immersive extended reality (XR) systems lack visual realism, precise blending of virtual and real world, scalability and flexibility required for truly immersive multi-user environments. This is primarily due to limited compute capability, battery capacity and very restrictive thermal envelopes of existing standalone XR devices such as HMD, Tablets, Smartphones, and these challenges will persist in the foreseeable future.
Where Virtualization Makes a Difference
These limitations also extend to immersive modeling and simulations environments for training of employees requiring increasingly joint, coalition, distributed, complex, intense, and specific environments to develop necessary training readiness. Optimum XR systems need to support ultra-realistic, high-fidelity visuals; precise fusion of the virtual on real world in a multi-user, multi-platform environment and flexibility of environment rehearsal in variety of employment situations. However, existing immersive operational training environments are very siloed, too slow, too expensive, and not adaptable enough to prepare for modern day manufacturing or design skillsets.
Among the many reasons why this technology is successful, the cloud native XR platform overcomes the limitations of existing untethered immersive systems. It provides an open, interoperable, scalable unified and shared XR infrastructure for ultra-realistic simulations in any industrial setting. It combines the best of gaming technologies/concepts with traditional simulator capabilities by leveraging cloud computing and 3D Artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver a ubiquitous, reconfigurable, on-demand and immersive training system for multi-user environments.
The platform utilizes server-class Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) on cloud/on-premise/edge to achieve high-fidelity rendering of complex 3D content, and real-time alignment and tracking of virtual models/scenes over real-world objects, and support multi-user multi-platform environments.
Other technical breakthroughs include:
- Ultra-low Latency High Fidelity Rendering: Provides unparallel realism of training by leveraging ultra-low latency remote rendering on cloud/on premise in full fidelity and wirelessly streaming the solution to affordable commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) devices – HMD, Tablet and Desktop.
- High Precision 3D Artificial Intelligence (AI) based Spatial Mapping: Uses high-fidelity remote spatial mapping with high fidelity 3D scene reconstruction, scene segmentation and 3D object recognition using 3D vision and deep learning-based AI with precise fusion of the real and virtual worlds to create advance visualization and sophisticated picture of battlespace environments.
- Cloud-based agile development, deployment, and operations (DevSecOps): Uses Kubernetes for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI-CD) and auto-scaling in a modern private/public/edge/hybrid cloud ensuring resource optimization and sharing.
The average U.S. company spends over $1,000 on training per employee each year – costs that can significantly add up over time. Immersive mixed reality can help cut costs and reduce overall overhead expenses to preserve the bottom line over time, despite the obvious initial investment.
Business owners and managers in virtually every industry with a manufacturing operation today are realizing the importance of gaining a competitive advantage by implementing these cutting-edge technologies and practices. The innovative nature alone will help boost employee recruitment and retention.