When Deloitte introduced its Deloitte Leadership Academy (DLA) in 2008, it did so with a realistic assumption: People don’t jump at the idea of more training.
Of course, this wouldn’t cut it. As one of the Big 4 firms, Deloitte’s business model relies not just on being the best, but remaining the best. And this could only happen if their people stayed current on new skills and emerging trends.
To address this, the DLA team incorporated gamification principles into its learning management system. Users could personalize their profiles and earn badges. As a result, the DLA service experienced a 37 percent increase in the number of returning users each week.
But what about companies whose workers conduct complex, hands-on procedures? For the most part, a company like Deloitte can get away with gamifying its existing content, which consists mostly of videos, slideshows, and PDF files.
For a driller on an oil rig, an aircraft maintenance technician working on a plane, a soldier in the military, or a surgeon keeping up with the latest medical devices, two-dimensional training materials don’t cut it. And what about transportation workers overseeing the use of autonomous vehicles in a new age of automation and intelligence? These professionals need interactive and ultra-realistic 3D training opportunities to remain in top shape for their clients, customers, patients and citizens at large.
Traditionally, these hands-on training programs happened in the classroom or at dedicated training sites. This on-site approach is not cheap. In 2018, U.S. companies spent $29.6 billion on travel, facilities, and equipment for training purposes.
And that was after they tried to cut costs. In 2017, the same line item cost $44.5 billion. So, if your organization falls into this category of companies, how can you accomplish the seemingly competing objectives to:
- Provide high quality, interactive training for your workforce
- Gamify your content to increase engagement and knowledge retention, and
- Enable your employees to complete training from anywhere in the world, on any device while retaining the high-fidelity graphics required
In our opinion, these objectives are more than just possible - they’re complementary. The problem is the persistent uncertainty around what exactly gamified, mobile training for skilled workers constitutes.
Your organization can start exploring the possibilities of remote, interactive 3D training content by understanding:
• How current classroom training tools, such as operator training simulators, make it difficult to scale learning and development
- How the publicity around virtual reality, its costs, and materials scared companies away from the wider world of interactive 3D content
- How entities from the U.S. government to private companies in industries, such as energy and aviation, use technology from the gaming and entertainment industries to create lifelike simulations for training purposes
- How high fidelity, 3D content is no longer tethered to dedicated workstations or VR headsets, giving companies access to interactive, ultra-realistic content through the cloud
- How remote access to interactive 3D training content not only saves money, but also saves lives, enhances productivity, and advances important technology
Training and development is undergoing a shift alongside the transformation happening in the world of work. As business leaders determine the best way to keep their workforce ahead of the curve, they’ll need an understanding of how to bring together the best from the worlds of cloud computing, 3D technology, and instructional design.
Expanding beyond the classroom and the training simulator
Education may be an old concept, but professional training as we know it today is a rather recent invention.
The notion of teaching workers how to perform tasks, en masse, would have been inconceivable to people hundreds of years ago. Yet the advent of industrialization, urbanization, modern warfare, and rapid technological innovation made the traditional ways of passing along knowledge through apprenticeships and individualized learning untenable.
Classroom learning was the preferred method for a long time. Previously, trainees would learn alongside inexperienced workers, lowering the productivity of fully-qualified workers who’d have to step in to explain a process or fix a mistake.
On the other hand, classroom learning meant rounding up all novices and sticking them in one room to learn together, at a safe distance from the workers on the production line.
For industrial companies, classroom training wasn’t enough. Workers needed hands-on experience operating machinery and supervising different process systems. That said, real-world training posed countless risks.
As a solution, operator training simulators (OTS) were introduced. The OTS is a system that ties into an emulator of the plant’s Distributed Control System (DCS).
Put simply, new employees received classroom training on PCs with software that looked exactly like the software they used in the field. That software would be tied to a system that carried out the same functions executed by the plant’s actual control system. Only without the risk.
OTSs have been a staple of industrial training, particularly in the oil and gas industry where they’ve been a favourite for over 20 years. With simulators, trainees learn main process models and control and safety systems. They also obtain hands-on experience dealing with operations like startups and shutdowns, plant upsets, and emergency situations.
Simulators are also prevalent in the airline industry. The flight simulator market is projected to hit $8.03 billion USD by 2026.
These simulators are credited with improving safety rates over the past several decades. Flight simulators are closely regulated and categorized based on the skills they’re meant to teach and fidelity to specific plane models.
The challenge is that simulators are extremely expensive. Flight simulators cost anywhere from $8 million to $20 million9. Meanwhile, an OTS can cost manufacturers up to $1 million. In these high stakes industries, these simulators are a necessity and in some cases, a legal requirement. But these figures have led business leaders to start looking at ways to streamline costs, not by eliminating simulators but by supplementing them with emerging technologies. In fact, these emerging training technologies have empowered other companies who were traditionally shut out from the pricey simulator market.
And which emerging training technology has claimed most of the hype?
That said, while virtual reality brings the potential for promising training applications, it’s far from a comprehensive solution.
HOW VR BECAME THE BOOGEYMAN OF REMOTE TRAINING
Virtual reality as we know it today started with the stereoscopic viewers of the nineteenth century. During the twentieth century, VR enthusiasts built on each other’s work, creating brilliant iterations like the Sensorama and the Sword of Damocles, a head-mounted display (HMD) device so heavy it had to be suspended from the ceiling.
By the 1990s, virtual reality was reduced to a dream fuelled by movies like The Matrix. In the real world, it failed to generate enough value. The low-quality graphics and high latency did not justify the exorbitant costs of early headsets.
And then Oculus Rift, the famous VR headset company, took off. In response, Facebook legitimized the technology by buying the company for a reported $2 billion in 2014.
As cultural critic Virginia Heffernan put it, “Virtual reality was an abject failure right up to the moment it wasn’t.
Since Oculus Rift’s take off, the industry experienced a VR renaissance. Other companies produced their own VR hardware with each new entrant claiming its unique slice of the market. HTC Vive, in particular, has become a notable name in the VR training space, while products like Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR served as “VR lite” to introduce people to the tech.
Nevertheless, despite its relatively recent status as a commercially viable technology, VR has monopolized the conversation around interactive 3D experiences. Without question, VR presents exciting opportunities for training, but it is incredibly cost-prohibitive for the majority of companies and not easily accessible for most end users.
Developing high-tech VR training simulators can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and the costs vary depending on the complexity of your industry.
STARTING COSTS OF CREATING A VR TRAINING SIMULATOR ACROSS INDUSTRIES.
In addition to creating digital content, VR training simulators bring additional costs in terms of equipment and maintenance. If VR headsets or dedicated workstations are damaged, lost, or stolen, training is put on hold.
But perhaps the most interesting narrative around VR-powered training is the idea that it eliminates travel costs. In many cases, pricey VR equipment remains secured in one location. Employees who want VR training often have to travel to these dedicated facilities.
Walmart, the most famous example of a retailer using VR training, started off with VR training exclusively in its dedicated Walmart Academies. Recently, it announced it would purchase VR equipment for over 4,600 stores. With the headset alone costing upwards of $300, the company will be shelling out a significant amount of money.
In other words, unless you’re a mega retailer with a market cap of over $300 billion, virtual reality for training purposes is cost prohibitive.
Finally, your training is only as valuable as its utility to employees. If employees resist a piece of technology, the transference and retention of knowledge is next to impossible. For VR, one malady in particular presents a roadblock for even the most motivated worker: virtual reality sickness. Currently, 40 to 70 percent of VR users experience motion sickness. With some VR applications, this number shoots up to 100 percent.
If you want to deliver a rich learning experience, you need cutting-edge, cost-effective, and safe tools to get you there. That said, while no company should break the bank or make their employees sick for training’s sake, training shouldn’t have to be a choice between health, cost-savings, and your company’s long-term growth.
The answer is taking a holistic approach to technology-assisted training. Rather than adopting an all-or-nothing approach that strictly relies on simulators or virtual reality, companies must think outside the box and discover ways to offer high-fidelity training simulations beyond dedicated hardware and workstations.
One way to do that is by thinking beyond dedicated hardware and workstations and tapping into the valuable network of personal devices. Today, the global mobile population consists of over 4 billion unique users, and the bring-your-own-device market is expected to hit $367 billion by 2022.
Companies can deliver ultra-realistic, interactive 3D training modules directly to employee devices by streaming directly through the cloud. But to do so, they’ll need to first work with the digital 3D masterminds to create the immersive training content they need.
The U.S. military goes to Hollywood
Simulations are nothing new for the U.S. military, but making them visual and interactive is a relatively recent exercise.
Since the Cold War, the government has used supercomputers to run a number of different scenarios and predict potential combat outcomes. As impressive as this technology was, its usefulness was mostly restricted to high-level strategic planning.
In 1999, this changed. The Army announced its plan to give the University of Southern California $45 million to create a research center for advanced military simulations, called the Institute for Creative Technologies.20 The entertainment industry was creating visually compelling content, and the Army wanted it to engage its people. As the Institute’s creative director, James H. Korris, explained:
They wanted to add some Hollywood creativity into their world. The reason they first thought about taking this journey was that when they put people in these simulators, they kept getting bored. Just being able to come up with characters with a rooting interest, having a decent antagonist, all the things that are second nature for people here in L.A. -- those were part of a tool set that represented a different point of view.
Why did the military invest millions of dollars in a campus over 2000 miles from the Pentagon? Because the kind of talent capable of re-creating vivid scenes, particularly combat scenes, was highly concentrated in California. Consequently, anyone interested in creating interactive 3D content would need to travel to where the creators lived.
This is no longer necessary. In technological years, 1999 might as well be a century ago.
In 1999, audiophiles were still struggling to download music files and movie lovers were picking up VHS tapes at Blockbuster. Enterprises were communicating by telephone or physically travelling to sister offices for meetings.
In 2019, music is available on demand, countless titles can be streamed on a nearly bufferless internet, and companies routinely work with cross-border teams using videoconferencing tools. All of this thanks to stronger broadband technology and a boom in personal device usage.
These advancements have empowered 3D content creators to untether themselves from dedicated workstations. At one point, working on a 3D project in a tool like AutoCAD or Rhino with a cross-border team was a pipe dream while sending extremely data-intensive 3D files via email was a nightmare.
But today’s digital agencies have the power to create, iterate, and collaborate on 3D graphics projects using interactive 3D streaming tools based in the cloud.
What’s just as exciting is how traditional workflows have been sped up through the introduction of powerful game engines like Unity and Unreal.
Game engines like Unity and Unreal have accelerated 3D content creation workflows
Game engines are to game design what word processors are to document design. They speed up the entire workflow by acting as a “bridge between [the] content and the underlying hardware”.
This is exciting news for game designers and instructional content developers alike. High quality 3D content could be designed once and used across multiple platforms, and standard tools for shading, collision detection, acoustics, path planning, and more could be incorporated using one main suite of tools. Game engines gave interactive 3D content designers a graphics engine, physics engine, audio engine, AI engine and more all in one platform.
Today, Unreal Engine and Unity are two of the most popular engines for game developers. They’ve since expanded into enterprise applications like training simulators. Prior to the availability of commercial game engines, a company interested in creating what’s now known as “serious games” - games for non-entertainment purposes like training - would have needed to fork over the money for a large team of programmers and developers to create the necessary content.
Or they’d need the resources to commission the opening of a $45 million research center at a prominent university. While sophisticated content creation still calls for skills content creators, game engines have significantly reduced the amount of effort involved. Creative agencies are ramping up their in-house talent as more companies reach out with interactive 3D content projects. In recent years, the demand for 3D graphics skills grew 42 percent faster than the overall market while demand for real-time 3D skills was 601 percent higher.
While both Unreal and Unity’s game engines can deliver exceptionally high quality projects, there are a few factors to keep in mind when choosing between the two.
• TIME & EFFORT REQUIRED: Both Unreal and Unity enable digital artists to create ultra-realistic 3D visuals. That said, Unity requires more work and skill to reach the level of Unreal’s “out-of-the-box” solution.
• DISTRIBUTION PLATFORM: Unity was built for mobile platforms, so content creators in enterprises or agencies may want to choose it for such projects. Unreal works across platforms as well, but you may not need the high processing power.
• TEAM SIZE: The general wisdom is that a relatively large team is needed to take advantage of Unreal’s full potential, while Unity has more features for smaller teams including a larger asset store.
• SOURCE CODE ACCESS: Unreal makes their source code available to all subscribers (subscriptions are free) while Unity only provides access with the Pro and Enterprise plans. How important this access is depends on your design team and your budget.
Both game engines have produced incredible projects for virtual reality and interactive 3D streaming projects across a range of industries.
PG&E’S UNITY-BUILT SIMULATOR REDUCES JOB TIME AND COSTS BY 62 PERCENT
The GE Becker VRP-600-CH Pilot is an important valve control tool in the natural gas industry. Every 5 years, technicians take the machine apart for preventive maintenance. A typical Field Service Representative has responsibility for 20 pilots in their territory. Due to the complexity of the machinery. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) faced high error rates, expensive training costs, and a high volume of support calls during re-builds.
To address this, PG&E hired an agency to create an interactive 3D training simulation that would allow technicians to practice each step of the complicated process before ever laying hands on the actual pilot. Every movement was included in the training simulation, down to selecting the right tool before each step. The training simulation was designed to be streamed to technicians’ devices, so they could practice wherever was most convenient. Moreover, classroom instructors could easily demonstrate steps without students crowding around a single computer.
The result? Job time and other associated costs were slashed by 62 percent. Rework was reduced by 37 percent since more technicians could complete the maintenance properly the first time. Above all, users found the interactive 3D simulation incredibly useful. Trainers said it cut training time in half while technicians expressed gratitude for the user-friendly alternative to confusing training manuals.
CAE HEALTHCARE IMPROVES ULTRASOUND TRAINING WITH UNITY
CAE Healthcare is a division within CAE, the globally recognized company which delivers training tools and programs for healthcare, civil aviation, and defence industries. The company used Unity to create CAE Vimedix, a high-fidelity simulator designed to teach technicians how to perform cardiac, lung, obdominal, and OB/GYN ultrasounds. The Unity designed graphics create the AR component of the manikin-based system, empowering technicians-in-training to practice ultrasound probe handling, making diagnoses, and more.
The U.S. Navy builds two 400-foot combat ship replicas with Unreal Engine
Cubic Global Defense, a defense and transportation company, creates training technology for the United States and a number of allied forces around the world. When they first started hiring developers with Unreal experience in 2012, these new team members encouraged them to try a beta version of Unreal 4, which was subsequently released in 2014.
Since the official release of Unreal Engine in 2014, Cubic Global Defense has used the technology to rapidly accelerate its workflows. It enabled the team to create an interactive 3D model of two 400-foot Littoral Combat Ships to facilitate training for the U.S. Navy’s engineering plant technicians. The project included 50,000 assets and 30,000 interactive components. Naturally, the simulation had to be an accurate replica down to the last detail. In addition, every element of the system needed to react they way it would in the real world.
Not only did this project end successfully, it legitimized the use of game engines for ultra-realistic 3D military projects where getting the details right is essential.
TRAINING NON-HUMANS WITH UNREAL ENGINE-DESIGNED SIMULATOR
Mechanical Simulation develops ground vehicle simulators that mimic real-world car behaviors like tipping or skidding under specific conditions or braking times on wet surfaces. The obvious use case for this technology is accident reconstruction, but a new usage has emerged: training autonomous vehicles to safely navigate complex environments.
Increasingly, customers were adapting Mechanical Simulation’s product to integrate with car models and environments they’d designed within Unreal Engine. Recognizing the trend, the company jumped to enhance its sophisticated simulation solution with high-fidelity visualizations and complex scenes. As a result, the company could focus on its core offering - the solver - while still providing the high fidelity graphics their customers desired.
Training autonomous vehicles within virtual worlds before testing them on closed tracks is a safer approach. By combining their powerful simulation solution with an immersive 3D environment, Mechanical Simulations could offer a comprehensive training solution.
It’s no longer necessary to travel across the country to find the talent required to create interactive 3D content. But when one problem is solved, another three crop up. The most recent challenge is figuring out how to conveniently share these 3D experiences to users around the world.
The unleashing of interactive 3D content for training use cases
When 3D software tools opened the door to immersive make-believe worlds, it shut the door on another type of freedom: mobility.
If today’s workforce consisted of people working at fixed locations with colleagues in the same building, this may not matter much. But the world is a markedly different place.
Firstly, remote working arrangements have become exceedingly popular, especially as employers struggle to recruit and retain top talent. And it’s not just a bonus for employees it’s beneficial for employers as well.
Remote working arrangements allow employers to save money on real estate, particularly in expensive downtown offices. In fact, the average real estate cost savings is roughly $10,000 per employee.
Moreover, a study out of Stanford University found that the productivity gain from letting employees work from home was equivalent to a full day’s work. Plus, the attrition rate among home-based employees decreased by 50 percent.
Even the employees who come into the office are bringing a little bit of home with them. Eighty-seven percent of companies depend on employees bringing their own devices from home to access business applications. This bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend has generated $350 of value per employee per year. In fact, the entire BYOD market is expected to hit $366.95 billion by 2022.
As discussed earlier, VR is not an inherently mobile technology. Companies that use it, like Walmart and McDonalds, must transport their workers to dedicated work sites, incurring the travel costs that VR technology was meant to eliminate.
Currently, the technology exists to unleash 3D content from dedicated devices like VR workstations to consumer devices like laptops, tablets, and even smartphones without reducing the quality of the graphics.
In the automotive industry, brands are inching into e-commerce vehicle sales by offering interactive and photo-realistic 3D auto configurators to their customers. Prospective buyers can log onto the site, select their parts, interiors, and paint colors, and create a real-time rendering of their dream car. No programming knowledge required.
Real-time 3D streaming through the cloud has proven useful for interactive marketing, and it resents exciting possibilities for interactive learning as well.
Contrary to popular belief, automaking is still a very human process. While robots manage tasks like painting and welding, human autoworkers still manage a significant portion of tasks including installing motors and placing bolts and brackets on the suspension. Why? The robots simply aren’t dextrous enough.
In 2018, HTC Vive partnered with Volkswagen Group to facilitate digital reality training for its employees around the world. The primary objective was to familiarize new workers with the factory layout and its machinery before they stepped foot in the physical environment. Workers could get an up close and personal view of different equipment and view 3D demonstrations of how they operate.
CIVIL AVIATION TRAINING
A strong bond exists between simulation training and high-fidelity graphics in the aviation industry. Moreover, simulators used for pilot training are closely monitored and regulated by national aviation authorities. Pilots-in-training practice under a variety of conditions within artificial flight environments, a significantly cheaper and safer alternative to training with actual aircraft.
But for all the benefits of flight simulators, they are still incredibly expensive. The increase in air travel and the resultant need for more pilots has spurred the need for innovative training solutions. As a result, the flight simulator market is expected to reach over $8 billion USD by 2026.
Traditional flight simulators aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but there’s an opportunity to streamline the learning process. For instance, a limited supply of multi-million-dollar flight simulators creates a bottleneck when it comes to training new pilots. On the other hand, pilot students can begin learning the layout, features, and functionalities of a cockpit long before they ever step foot in a simulator. In this way, the time spent in expensive simulators with trainers is used more effectively.
For aircraft maintenance technicians, training has largely been limited to supervised work on actual aircrafts. Despite the oversight, this presents potential risks to the safety of the plane.
In addition, training time is limited. While government regulations require technicians to spend a certain number of hours in training, the variety of a worker’s training largely depends on the availability of a specific aircraft or trainer. Furthermore, a technician may learn a specific procedure only to never see it again for months or years until it crops up in the field.
Mandated training isn’t enough. Workers operating highly technical machinery responsible for transporting hundreds of people need access to high quality refresher materials.
Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible for workers to brush up on important skills in between mandated re-certifications unless they book classroom sessions or schedule time with dedicated VR devices at specific training sites.
In conversation with Eamonn Powers
LEARNING EXPERIENCE ARCHITECT & DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMS
AT FLIGHTSAFETY INTERNATIONAL
– PureWeb: What are the trends you see related to cloud streaming for flight simulators?
– Eamonn: Generally, the industry distinguishes between low-level simulations and high-level simulations. With high-level simulation, you’re literally re-creating the cockpit of the airplane. I doubt you’re going to see any streaming simulation in that respect, because we actually use the aircraft components there. We simulate the environment and trick the aircraft into thinking it’s flying.
Where cloud training will play a role is in distance or in-class training. There’s an inherent complexity to how an aircraft flies. I think when anyone outside of aviation thinks of training, they’re thinking of flying the airplane. In reality, we’re not doing that. We’re going through procedures and task training. Flying the airplane is really almost not that necessary. To learn the complexities of starting an aircraft – flight simulation is not really required. The reason that simulation still makes sense is because of the way pilots these days communicate with the aircraft, which is primarily through the aircraft’s avionics system.
There’s enough complexity in those avionics features and how they talk to the airplane that creating linear training paths to say, “You will do it this way every time” is not something we want to do. We don’t want to tell people there’s only one way to do something when there’s ten ways to do it.
The thing is as soon as you say “I can do this task 4 different ways” it removes the ability to do it in a linear fashion. You need some type of simulation, so the controls you’re using operate under certain environments that are complex and interrelated, which is where game engines help.
We’re in a space where we’re figuring out “how can we practically do that?” Our clientele are used to phones and iPads and laptops. To say to them, “Hey, you need a computer that has this much RAM and this many memory cards that run this tiny bit of simulation that we think is necessary...” That’s a tough sell.
We have a real delivery problem on our hands in the sense that we believe the market is telling us that it wants mobile, digital flexibility, if you will, in terms of taking in the material. But the complexity of the required learning content makes it that even the most simple of tasks are really hard to get on a mobile platform and obviously we’re getting into the space where maybe it’s not that hard. And FlightSafety is trying to be a leader in that regard.
– PureWeb: How are you using game engines to create these complex, non-linear training environments?
– Eamonn: At the moment, all our gaming engine stuff is essentially research and development. We probably have ten people in our 5,000-person enterprise working on this. We are literally at the start of this. But the technology is such that with five people working on this, we don’t need to create an 80-hour game. What we really need is 50 tasks accomplished in a specific manner.
But we need those tasks to have enough flexibility for our learners to understand how each system interrelates with others. We can do that right now with five people on two or three projects. It’s proof that we can do it, and then ultimately scale up.
We started with Unity and at the moment we do not have the coding expertise to say we are going to build all of this in Unity. We have several 3D modelers, and we have several texture people. We have people who have experience in artistry. What Unreal allowed us to do, with its node-based infrastructure, is it allowed people to build things based on what they’re already capable of.
We’re now hearing “how does this work?” “how do we implement this?” “How are we going to build this when it’s beyond five people?”
– PureWeb: How do you see cloud-based, interactive 3D training impacting training for maintenance technicians?
– Eamonn: The use case in the maintenance world is a good one. Maintenance technicians are very kinesthetic in their daily work. The pilot is sitting in a seat 99% of the time when they’re operating. Maintenance technicians have to very much interact. There’s an inherent interactive and 3D element to a maintenance tech’s work.
We also have what we consider low-risk pilot projects in the regulatory environment. Where if we get turned down by the FAA it isn’t a significant financial burden. The first thing we are going to try and get approved is the aircraft walkaround. What we are saying to the FAA is, “We have this piece of technology that improves the training experience because it proves how large the aircraft really is. It’s possible trainees have never seen how big the aircraft is.”
Rather than them having to read in a book that the wingspan is 90 feet long, and then wonder “how long exactly is 90ft”, they can now see it. There’s that problem we can immediately solve.
We are going to build all of this in Unity. We have several 3D modelers, and we have several texture people. We have people who have experience in artistry. What Unreal allowed us to do, with its node-based infrastructure, is it allowed people to build things based on what they’re already capable of.
We’re now hearing “how does this work?” “how do we implement this?” “How are we going to build this when it’s beyond five people?”
– PureWeb: Is there an opportunity for “hybrid learning” to improve the flight training bottleneck? Perhaps by prepping trainees to learn as much as they can before they get into a high-fidelity simulator?
– Eamonn: The bottleneck happens in ab-initio training - the zero to hero training. The potential pilot who doesn’t know how to fly an airplane at all to being trained up to a proficiency to work at an airline and fly people.
There’s research on improving the readiness of learners whether that’s PC simulations or VR. There’s also an opportunity to start focusing on competency-based training methodologies and metrics instead of number of hours. Can we get ourselves to a place where you know how to perform a task consistently and accurately?
And with virtual worlds and game-based learning principles, it’s easy to see the exact reason we want to get into this space and to prove that the technologies are useful. For example, this pilot was able to do this procedure or maneuver accurately this many number of times making it so they don’t have to do it for 20 hours. Just 20 times over a period of time to make sure that retention is there.
The reason time measurements are a thing is that it serves as a net to capture all the training experiences that happen informally along the path of training.
Much like aviation, the industrial world is risky business and proper training for workers is essential. To keep plants running smoothly, prevent worker deaths or injuries, and avoid environmental disasters, manufacturers rely on operator training simulators to give their workers as much risk-free practice as possible. Consequently, the operator training simulator market is expected to hit $20 billion USD by 2025.
That said, simulators alone are not enough. They must be realistic enough that workers can transfer the training experience to their actual work experiences. To this end, simulator companies have begun incorporating realistic 3D visualizations into their modules. In this way, workers have an accurate idea of how to activate pumps or open and close valves.
LONG-HAUL TRUCK DRIVER TRAINING
Trucks moved over 70 percent of the U.S.’s tonnage freight in 2018.52 With a healthy demand for truck drivers and an aging driver population, transport companies need the tools to train new workers for the long hours and at times stressful job of long-haul truck driving.
Digital reality training for truck drivers is making companies consider a wider talent pool. Carriers have strict standards about the drivers they hire, but in some cases, they’re more willing to accept new truck driver training school graduates who can prove their abilities with VR training.53 Currently, UPS uses VR to provide enhanced safety training to its drivers. Trainees practice identifying potential road hazards and navigating different environments.
In the medical world, clinicians scramble to keep up with advancements in medical technology. At one point, surgeons needed to perform a procedure 20 times to be considered proficient. That number has since shot up to 50 to 100 times due to the increasing complexity of devices. As a result, devices designed to improve patient outcomes are sometimes jeopardizing them. Despite the fact that they aren’t recorded on death certificates, medical errors are the third leading cause of death.
In some cases, surgeons are reliant on medical device reps to show them how to use specific devices during a live operation, sometimes asking a colleague to Google how to use a device in the middle of a procedure.57 To make matters worse, insufficient training with specific tools has compromised the availability of promising devices. A study for a device designed to cure high blood pressure found that the device had no discernible benefit. Further analysis showed that almost a third of the physicians in the study had only used the device for this complex procedure once before. FIfty percent hadn’t used it more than twice.
With interactive streaming technology, a surgeon can view a high-fidelity, interactive 3D tutorial on how to use a medical device. And they can view this tutorial at home or in their office on any device. They don’t have to wait until they’re in the midst of a procedure to refresh their memory. Plus, medical device companies themselves can provide more comprehensive education and training for their customers who will successfully use the equipment on patients.
Digital offers substantial benefits for combat and non-combat scenarios alike. For special operations, virtual reality gives special operations forces, like the Navy SEALs, an opportunity to practice missions in careful replicas of a target’s compound. It also helps soldiers practice navigating foreign territory, identify and disarm improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and learn cultural customs to successfully interact with civilians in foreign territory.
In 2012, the U.S. military fielded its Dismounted Soldier Training System which gave soldiers the ability to train in a number of different environments. Instead of requiring battalions to make the expensive trip to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana, they could train in a simulated environment instead.
Since then, it’s continued building on its suite of digital reality training tools. In 2018, it published a whitepaper on its Synthetic Training Environment, an interconnected system that would allow soldiers to conduct “multi-echelon/multi-domain” missions.
Walmart is using VR to train its employees across 5,000 locations in three key areas: new technology, soft skills, and compliance. Workers, or “associates” as Walmart calls them, can learn by doing without fear of failing.61 In addition, the Oculus headsets loaded with customized software let Walmart prepare associates for one-in-a-million scenarios, like natural disasters, that are hard to mimic in traditional training settings, but important to prepare for.
In the wider retail industry, digital reality offers countless possibilities. They can provide realistic simulations of high stress situations, so that employees know how to respond. Possible scenarios include long lines, massive crowds, an angry customer, or a robbery. It can also help retail managers practice prioritization and rapid decision-making when handling a busy store on freight delivery day.
These companies are ahead of the curve. Now, their focus is figuring out how to weave these tools seamlessly into their larger training infrastructure. For many companies, this means tying interactive 3D training into existing learning management systems (LMS).
The benefits of offering interactive 3D simulators through a Learning Management System (LMS)
By 2025, the learning management system (LMS) market is expected to reach over $22 billion USD.64 It’s no wonder then that roughly 85 percent of companies have an LMS for employees.
Learning management systems leapt from the academic world to the corporate training world for good reason. They centralize all of a company’s training content, easily track learner’s progress, reduce the need for classroom training, and also help organizations keep workers up to date with compliance requirements.
At the same time, learning management systems have their limitations. For starters, most LMS tools are a dumping ground for a potpourri of learning materials. There’s certainly valuable content available, but very few employees will take the time to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Further adding to the problem is the lack of tailored, interactive content. As we illustrated earlier, while employees understand the importance of lifelong learning, it’s not the first thing they jump to do on their day off or when they get home from work. To realize a significant return on investment, organizations must make their LMS modules engaging, immersive, and interactive.
Interactive 3D content is a solution to this problem, specifically because it animates traditional text-based learning and pulls the user into an immersive educational experience. One of the biggest criticisms employees have for training platforms in general is that they don’t connect lessons to the real world.
With an interactive 3D experience, trainees can apply customer service techniques for managing an angry customer, learn how to disassemble and reassemble a complicated piece of equipment, or watch a photorealistic video of how to use a new piece of medical technology.
Another criticism of LMS tools is the lack of mobility. Today’s workforce consists of digital-first employees who want their training tools to be accessible across all platforms. What’s more, they expect these experiences to be just as user friendly and high quality as the desktop version. Therefore, making any interactive 3D experience or simulation available to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is essential for increased engagement with an LMS. When sourcing the right LMS, organizations must weigh the importance of several criteria, including the intuitiveness of the user interface, the ability to customize and personalize the tool to align with corporate brand guidelines, the sophistication of reporting and analytics tools, and more.
A critical requirement for companies who want to integrate interactive 3D content is resource compatibility. Your LMS should allow you to offer an immersive digital reality experience directly within the platform. Isolating your interactive 3D simulators to a separate website robs it of the features employees expect like progress tracking and social sharing. Moreover, it undermines your organization’s efforts to keep all training materials in a centralized, easily accessible location.
That said, even if your LMS allows the addition of this content, integrating it can be rather difficult. You’ll need experts who understand how to:
• Take a look at your LMS’ APIs and understand the key modes of communication and data flow
• Review your existing workflows to determine how you integrate with LMS
• Ensure you can still launch the simulation sessions in real-time, and
• Capture and submit the results of the simulation to the LMS
This is where working with a fully managed interactive 3D streaming service is essential.
Why your real-time 3D training simulator must be fully managed
There’s a compelling training use case for interactive 3D streaming, operationally and financially. But how exactly does your company get started with this technology? And once you have the necessary 3D assets, how do you:
• Choose a cloud computing provider
• Carry out the necessary configurations
• Ensure your data pipeline is secure
• Integrate it with your LMS, and
• Distribute your training content to employee devices through the cloud?
The short answer is: You don’t.
No office space works directly with their utility company to sort out how they’ll provide heat and light to the building. In a similar vein, it doesn’t make sense for companies to manage the nuts and bolts of cloud computing and configuration for their 3D streaming projects.
If you’re sourcing an enterprise-level, interactive 3D streaming platform, it must be fully managed. In other words, your provider should:
• Configure your chosen cloud solution (e.g. AWS, Azure)
• Handle the coordination of streaming session connections
• Schedule training user sessions to available servers
• Orchestrate the dynamic scaling of servers to meet user demand
• Find a suitable streaming application or protocol that prioritizes security and protects your proprietary data
• Set up your chosen streaming application and train your team on how to use it
• Manage security and authentication, system monitoring and logging, fault tolerance, and more
Running a reliable, enterprise-grade solution takes more than firing up a few servers in the cloud. It requires a dedicated team of people, with experience in the space, who can manage the technical details beneath the hood while you focus on designing accurate training modules.
In addition, your platform must have data security fused into its DNA, not thrown on as an afterthought. To this end, any interactive 3D streaming solution should keep your company’s source files secured at the server level while only streaming the rendered 3D images.
Furthermore, an effective enterprise solution is purpose-built for efficiency. A cloud solution alone offers tremendous cost savings by only charging you for what you use. That said, you want to avoid unnecessarily high long term costs by working with a distribution platform designed to keep cloud computing costs low without affecting your graphics’ fidelity. Overall, interactive 3D training delivers end-to-end value for corporate learning and development goals including:
In 2018, training staff payroll costs were $47 billion, up 13 percent from 2017.69 With an interactive 3D training platform that offers video, text, and audio tools, trainers and safety experts can log in from anywhere in the world to provide guidance and feedback to new employees moving through the 3D simulator.
ENHANCED TRAINING EXPERIENCES
Employees, particularly in the oil and gas industry, prefer interactive 3D simulations over baffling user manuals. Workers managing and maintaining complicated machinery have access to interactive 3D demos of how to perform steps, down to the most minute details, limiting frustrating re-dos or support calls.
FASTER, QUALITY TRAINING
With digital reality platforms, companies can speed up their training timelines without compromising learning outcomes. Training is often held up due to scheduling time with a limited supply of expensive training materials, like multi-million-dollar flight simulators. Interactive 3D content can introduce trainees to different environments and equipment, so that they start the learning experience earlier and don’t need to spend as much time with limited resources.
POWERFUL INSIGHTS INTO EMPLOYEE CAPABILITIES
An underreported benefit of interactive 3D simulators is the ability for trainers to identify frequently made mistakes. By observing walkthroughs in real time, trainers in high-stakes industries like aircraft maintenance or oil and gas can view which steps trainees often miss, allowing them to update their curriculum to re-focus on critical topics.
REAL-TIME FEEDBACK AND SUPPORT
With the inclusion of standard meeting room functions like audio, visual, and text communication, trainers can watch in real time as users navigate different scenarios like installing a specific aircraft part or operating the drawworks on an oil rig.
Accessibility from any device
Finally, an interactive 3D simulator should be accessible from any device, without reducing fidelity. Trainers can monitor employees from anywhere in the world, reducing travel costs while trainees can access ultra-realistic 3D content at home, on the train, or while travelling.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS IF YOUR COMPANY IS NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET?
Mobile accessibility is a huge value add for many companies. But your organization may not be able to use a cloud-based solution. In some cases, your organization may not permit access to the cloud at all.
Nevertheless, there’s inherent value in interactive 3D streaming. While employees may only be able to access training streams on site, your employees still have access to on-demand training whenever they need it, allowing them to brush up on important skills. Furthermore, you avoid the upfront equipment costs and long-term maintenance responsibilities of virtual reality equipment.
For instance, off-site oil rigs may not have the luxury of a reliable internet connection. Regardless, oil rig workers work in risky environments on a daily basis, where experience can mean the difference between a tragic accident and business as usual.
On-site workers can view photorealistic renderings of their equipment, especially under various weather conditions, to give them an idea of how techniques change in different circumstances.
On-demand, 3D training also gives oil rig workers a chance to familiarize themselves with the equipment they use. The entire safety of an oil rig often relies on workers recognizing when something isn’t right. For instance, in drilling operations, drillers must monitor the conditions of a borehole and watch out for issues like lost circulation, which could lead to blowouts.
The presence of meeting room features allows trainers to observe countless trainee walkthroughs, allowing them to identify common mistakes among workers and improve training around tricky procedures. It’s a positive feedback loop that can prevent potentially fatal accidents.
There’s also an opportunity for hybrid deployments. While the lack of internet access on site makes an on-premise solution necessary, companies hiring workers for oil rigs can still offer training through the cloud.
Currently, the drop-off rate for entry level oil rig employees stands at about 40 percent, given the remoteness and difficulty of the work. With interactive training streamed to their device, employees feel prepared before they even step foot on the rig. In addition, recruiters have a low-cost way to assess whether a candidate actually wants to work in that environment before they’re fully hired.
Finally, interactive training allows energy companies to be nimble during the “booms and busts” prevalent in the industry. When they lose experienced workers, they can ramp up quickly without compromising training. Furthermore, experienced workers don’t spend valuable labor hours bringing new workers up to speed.
Measuring the ROI of cloud-based training simulators
One of the first challenges of legitimizing any new use case is proving its ROI. In the world of training, this introduces complexity, since there are countless variables business leaders can measure, including enhanced productivity, cost savings, increased product innovation, improved retention rates, higher employee morale, and more.
Lee Company, a building systems company, used digital reality to reduce the number o repeat visits from technicians. As a result, the company saved over $500 per month per technician due to reduced labour and travel costs. For every dollar they’ve invested in their digital reality training technology, they’ve saved $20.73
Similarly, Newport News Shipbuilding, used digital reality to reduce inspection times of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers by 96 percent.
Of course, digital reality for training purposes is an emerging use case, meaning specific numbers for each field aren’t available. Moreover, there are many companies who don’t diligently track their ROI, making it difficult for other companies to learn from their experience.
Consequently, companies interested in transplanting the digital reality training success stories from other industries to their own must determine what criteria they wish to measure. They can do this by using the standard training ROI formula as a jumping off point:
Finally, it’s also important for businesses to assign the right digital reality technology to the right training uses cases. For instance, while virtual reality has exciting use cases in retail, medicine, and oil & gas, it may not be the best fit for a mobile workforce trying to refresh their knowledge on their own schedule.
That said, there are also instances where interactive 3D streaming must work within a larger digital reality training ecosystem. For example, in medicine, VR may be more suitable for situations where practicing motor skills are essential.
And of course, there are other digital reality situations to consider, including augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (XR) solutions.
Overall, a holistic approach that incorporates trends in remote working and mobile technology is the best way to introduce hyper-realistic, interactive 3D training to your workforce’s training suite.
It’s time to give employees an omnichannel training experience
Today, companies focused on offering an excellent customer experience embrace an omnichannel strategy. It’s time to extend this experience to their most valuable assets: their employees.
An omnichannel experience - whether for employees or customers - is distinct from a multichannel experience. While a multichannel strategy delivers content to multiple, discrete touchpoints, an omnichannel strategy ensures seamless integration across all touchpoints.
With this approach, your interactive 3D training experience can be consistent across all devices. By offering it through the cloud, your employees can start their training simulation from their mobile device and pick up where they left off later through their laptop.
The emergence of a mobile workforce and the demand for interactive complex training modules are dovetailing into a perfect opportunity for interactive and educational 3D content. With the right tools and a fully-managed interactive 3D distribution platform, your company can make the most of this opportunity.
PureWeb: The best cloud solution for scalable training simulation streamed to any device – anytime, anywhere
PureWeb is making interactive and immersive 3D technology available to everyone through our photo-realistic cloud streaming and collaborative visualization solutions.
Our interactive 3D streaming platform is ideal for real-time 3D training simulators made accessible for employees globally and easily accessed from any mobile device, computer or web browser. We are a fully-managed cloud streaming service designed for deploying and delivering interactive 3D experiences at scale.
Our proprietary streaming platform has several key differentiators, including the ability to dynamically scale up or down based on demand, and our direct integrations with gaming engines like Unreal.
OTHER KEY BENEFITS INCLUDE:
- GLOBAL STABILITY AND RELIABILITY: Cloud servers available in any region, any time of day, delivering high-quality, high fidelity 3D applications, and a consistent user experience across any connected device
- ANYWHERE, ANYTIME ACCESS: Stream to any modern web browser (no downloads needed).
- CUSTOM INTEGRATIONS: Integrate into your existing workflows and technologies, including enterprise resource planning software (ERP).
- LIVE COLLABORATION: Enable interactive livestreams and on demand video chat between home buyers and builders/realtors in real time, all within a collaborative meeting space.
- FLEXIBLE DEPLOYMENT OPTIONS: Leverage scalable, cloud streaming and/or on-site solutions when Internet access may be limited, or added security is a requirement.
- COST-EFFICIENT: We can deploy multiple users to the same high performance GPUs in the cloud, effectively cutting cloud usage costs by as much as one quarter.
Contact us to learn more about how PureWeb can help bring your interactive 3D show homes to buyers anywhere in the world, anytime, through real-time cloud streaming and our fully-managed service.