As the VR hardware is becoming affordable and software platform becoming robust there is a huge push rather urge to creating VR content and monetize.
While VR technology is being seen as one of the game changers in how training is imparted to professionals, I foresee a couple of challenges that Learning and Development as an industry vertical bring with it.
Move beyond novelty
People are still riding on the novelty of medium than on the aspect of learning. Though there are research papers presenting theories of learning by viewing images/animations/video than reading, a solid case study is yet to be established. The wide use of VR across the different industry has started only 5 years back and that too in a limited way because of the hardware. Currently, the wow factor of this medium is what’s enticing the new user base and they pick it up for training. However, it is to be understood that VR is still only a medium of imparting training. The rules of instructional design still need to be followed for a better education that does not have a negative impact. It is yet to be tested and measured the real success of using Virtual Reality as a medium of training.
More than just engagement
As per the theories of Instruction Design when a learner is made to do the task, again and again, the speed and magnitude of learning are much more. With the trackable controllers in VR hardware users are able to interact with the environment and objects in virtual space. However, their interactions are governed by the capability of the hardware. It’s like teaching a Painter to sketch using a mouse. If that person was to be Digital artist, the mouse makes more sense as a tool.
The way VR is being projected as a completely immersive and effective medium is a bit far from its actual realization. May be it will take a decade more.
Modes of Interaction — Natural vs Mapped
The best part of Virtual Reality is that it is digital, giving us the power to do activities either by sitting at one place, point and do or perform it on a place.
It is possible to track the human hand using 6DoF controllers and with Vive trackers we can track different joints too. This makes it possible to map skeleton of user in virtual environment. This works best for Virtual Training where full body interaction is of prime use. E.g. going around in the factory, aircraft marshals, sports etc. However majority of the places where VR training is being used are having fine hand and finger interactions. And current set of hardware do not provide that dexterity. Leap motion does have a finger tracking ability and so does some VR gloves, but then they are in experimental stage are aren’t ready to be used in actual industrial environment.
We can say that since the hardware is yet to arrive at a state which makes it possible for the human to naturally interact with an object as they do in real life, we are not able to provide similar dexterity in Virtual Reality. But then it does not also mean that we map certain buttons and dials on the hardware just like that to natural interaction and then expect the learner to remember the actual interaction than the buttons on a controller.
Photo Realism vs Illustrative
Photo realism refers to the quality of rendered image as close as the photo captured using camera. The light, shadow, colour, and depth that are naturally present in the photograph are also present in photo realistic rendered scene. Training applications are mostly dynamic in nature hence the scene also needs to be rendered real time. The current best way to achieve these are PBR (physics based rendering). There are work around of using illustrative render in different visual styles to communicate the essence of scene. Or it can be done by creative use of 360 video and photos.
Sound is one of the important factor of making the experience immersive. To achieve true immersion developers will have to attach sound to almost all the physical objects that are interacted or in affecting the environment due to its nature (by motion or wind). That’s too much of audio processing to be handled by current computer system. Hence, to optimise the processing developers often strip down the sounds to only environment and those objects that are interacted.
Kumar Ahir is an independent consultant working in the field of Immersive Technologies and Design. He’s been evangelizing the new Immersive Technologies and Design by actively doing workshops on Design Thinking, Design for AR and VR, Prototyping for Mixed Reality technologies. He aims to create a better Design Ecosystem for Immersive Technologies. He has co-founded 2 companies so far.