Human Resources, Training Technology

The Promise of Augmented Reality for Training

Most of us have found that it’s easier to learn something you can see first-hand. Reading instructions from a manual is only so helpful. Adding a few images can make a big difference, and actually observing a task being performed first-hand is even better. Because of this, many organizations record their training events so those being trained can pull up a video to see someone demonstrate a task whenever they need to. Of course, many people have also benefited from the wealth of training demonstration videos available on sites like YouTube.

“These days, nearly everything you need to learn has been documented by amateurs (or pro-ams),” says Clive Thompson, writing for Wired. “Want to know how to remove a stripped screw, to achieve a high-volume ponytail, to do basic statistics? YouTube’s got you covered. The even more surprising thing is how many forms of knowledge turn out to benefit from being recorded visually—including ones we typically think of as text-only.”

Thompson believes augmented reality (AR) has the potential to revolutionize training the way online video platforms like YouTube did over 10 years ago. “As with YouTube, ­people assume AR will deliver flashy, exciting cultural creations,” Thompson writes. “But I think it’ll be more mundane—and thus more powerful. As with YouTube, we’ll discover that AR’s utility is in helping us master fiddly real-world tasks.”

Thompson points out that AR learning will only truly take off if it’s easy for people to create content as they do now with sites like YouTube. He notes that AR authoring tools like JigSpace are already emerging to provide that capability. Still, Thompson’s article primarily focuses on individuals teaching themselves how to do everyday tasks in their personal lives. It’s likely businesses will have sufficient resources to start generating solid AR content already, even if these tools are only just emerging for peer-to-peer sharing.

AR has the ability to not only show visually how to perform a task, but it will allow participants to actually engage in that task virtually. And if seeing someone perform a task is superior to reading about how to do it, performing that task is superior to seeing someone perform it.