The future of work and virtual reality are two of our favourite topics at mwah. at the moment. Following on from Rhonda Brighton-Halls two excellent articles ‘We need to talk about the future of work’ and the ‘Reality of Inclusion’, I was curious to research further. Just how quickly could these changes in technology impact all sorts of industries and employees and how might it solve some of our current challenges?
Real-time collaboration is happening often at speed, across-geographies and with colleagues in remote workplaces. It is changing the way we think about who can be on a team as we can include people who physically cannot be in the same workplace.
Virtual workspaces and the rise of distributed teams will play an important role in the future of work. Imagine the impact on people with disability, or with other reasons for preferring or not being able to attend the workplace. They can literally be transported into the team meeting via their headset!
Education and training
Virtual reality for training and education is one of the most exciting areas of change. To enter a virtual lecture theatre and take part in an interactive lecture with your professor/trainer and fellow students will be a powerful addition to the current remote courses available today. A huge challenge for teachers today is not only location but engagement with their students. VR will allow for immersive, engaging experiences to help spark the imaginations of students. There’s no ‘muting’ yourself in VR.
Mwah. is leading the way in rethinking learning, and one important part of that rethink is through our VR partnership with Equal Reality. There are many examples of how this works, but the one we’ve been talking about this week is allowing people to ‘feel’ the impact of intimidation or exclusion rather than just read or hear about it. It allows for a much deeper and more personal conversation. It invites a step change in appreciating personal responsibility, rather than just ticking the box that you’ve read the company policy.
The Immersive Learning Laboratory at the University of Sydney is just one of many cool examples. Here you can take a course that sends you on a journey to space instead of reading about it. Imagine traveling through a human body as they experience anxiety or visiting the neighbourhood in which your customer lives.
Edgar Dale introduced the Cone of Experience and theorised that “We retain around 10% of what we read, yet 90% of what we experience ourselves”. That sounds about right to me!
In the words of one our customers in a workshop on ‘Exclusion’, the Virtual Reality scenario “made it feel very real with respect to understanding the impact of certain situations on individuals.” The possibilities are endless and we could truly challenge the current level of knowledge retention and understanding within the classroom, workspace or boardrooms.
Reduce medical errors and improve Healthcare
Medical students can now take courses that allow them to examine the human anatomy through VR simulation. Much better than using real people while students are in the early days of their training.
There are great new ideas too. For example, Floreo uses VR to deliver therapy to Autistic children and tailor it to their sensory complexities. Virtual therapy has also been shown to reduce chronic pain by 25% versus a control pain distraction method. Terminally ill children often cooped up in a hospital ward, will be able to put on headsets and play in simulated worlds. Others will be given opportunities to overcome their fears through mixed reality scenarios.
There is also a plethora of chatbot and apps. Woebot is one example – an intelligent chatbot (and recently launched app) that supports people suffering from mental health issues. It helps them reframe negative thoughts to solvable problems using cognitive-behavioral therapy. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and we do know that talking helps. Though not a replacement for traditional therapy, I love the idea that Woebot would always be with you and ready to chat and offer options to help you move forward when no one is around.
Raise awareness for Humanitarian Causes
Filmmakers and documentary makers use it to raise awareness of experiences in war, sexual assault, chronic fatigue, homelessness and many more. It could be used to help evoke greater appreciation and empathy in world leaders and decision-makers as they ‘experience’ situations for which we need them to be more connected and more committed to influencing FOR change, such as in the Syrian refugee crisis.
The criticism here is that Virtual Reality in this medium invites both visual and aural immersion but without the user having to face any of the consequences of being in that world. While it might be a poor alternative to facing reality, it could bring an opportunity to get closer to a cause, any cause, where there was none before.
Support in making huge financial decisions
Businesses are already emerging that allow us to walk through our future property from the comfort of our chair.
Realar is one example of a company that has developed an app that allows us to walk through our home in a life-sized version before it has even been built using Apple’s Augmented reality Kit. They are “revolutionising the way Architects, designers and dreamers can interact with their 3D models” and this can all be done on our mobile devices. Much less expensive than building a real 3D model. Developers are using this constantly evolving technology to define a new way to create, engage and interact – in this case, for the benefit of house hunting.
Imagine being able to virtually try on a dozen outfits in different colours and patterns. You could test drive your car or visit your wedding venue to decide if it aligns with your dreams. This will be the next stage of retail. See, hold, modify, experience products & places, either in a physical store or from your armchair.
Enhanced innovation in manufacturing
Robotics and technology have long been used in manufacturing to reduce manual repetitive tasks. They improve efficiency and safety but the virtual world takes this to another level.
If we consider the factory floor to be the real environment where workers operate machinery and view information on dials and screens. Virtual reality will be utilised in the factory floor planning. Huge pieces of equipment & machine tools can be virtually placed in a potential space and the customer/ user can see how it might work and look in a specific environment (much like in Real Estate) before making a massive financial commitment. Using VR systems users will interact with virtual objects and understand how the machinery could enhance their production line or workspace.
These opportunities solve real-world problems with technology. They enhancing the possibilities for product development, enabling more effective design and increasing safety.
Are you ready?
The technology could reduce buyers remorse or divisive purchasing errors and it could eliminate returns or disputes. Does it, however, improve or possibly complicate the customer experience? This will affect next years plans for hiring and training not only your retail teams but in every level of your organisation. Is your customer experience aligned to your employee experience? Are your team moving forward in parallel or will the industry leave behind the people expected to steer the ship?
Virtual reality might not be your workplace reality yet but setting your employees, or yourself, up to succeed with the technological changes ahead could make or break your business.
If you think VR training could help your team, we’d love to hear from you and we will create the next journey together.
Virtual Reality (VR) enables you to fully immerse yourself in a computer-simulated reality. Using a headset you can experience being in an environment different from the real world, such as to travel through space.
Augmented Reality (AR) on the other hand adds a virtual layer to the real world. Last years best example would be Pokémon GO or your favorite Instagram puppy ears filter. This year we are using it to tackle real-world problems.
Mixed Reality (MR) is an experience blending the physical and digital reality, thereby allowing you to interact with and manipulate projected objects as if they were real.
Extended reality (XR) – Umbrella term for Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the intelligence showed by machines through learning and problem-solving. This is constantly evolving but current everyday examples of AI are voice assisted technologies (such as Alexa, Siri or Bixby), Face recognition technology in the new iPhones and Intelligent conversational agents (chatbots).
Intelligent Chatbots – the difference between manually programmed chatbots and intelligent chatbots is that Intelligent chatbots will learn from conversations and handle any situation that arises. A basic chatbot is only as useful as the information or answers entered into it by the human programmer.
HMD – Head-Mounted Display. A display device is worn on the head or as part of a helmet.
6DoF – Six Degrees of Freedom is what makes Virtual Reality so immersive. It allows the user to have full rotational movement around a fixed point (i.e. look around, move forward and backward), hence everything behaves as in the real world.
Eye tracking – A process of measuring the position and movement of eyes. It’s a key element for creating a more immersive and intuitive experience.
References and Further Reading
Floreo Tech – Autism