Augmented reality and virtual reality, AR and VR for short, are often lumped together as one and the same; however, the two are actually completely different technologies — each with its own-use applications.
What is AR?
Augmented reality applies to the real world and simply adds to it. AR doesn’t inhibit the sights, sounds, and smells of the real world around users; it adds to it, layering on top of the reality they already see. It generally requires a mobile app or program with camera access to add the elements users don’t see. The most popular use of AR came in 2016 with Pokémon Go. The game allows players to see and catch Pokémon characters in their own backyards or on the street via their mobile phone, location, and surroundings.
What is VR?
Virtual reality on the other hand completely takes over the world of the user, immersing them in a seemingly different dimension. It takes users out of their world and drops them into a new one, completely designed by the technology. VR generally requires a headset of some kind to block out users’ original surroundings. It’s a new kind of interactive content, allowing users to be absorbed into the technology and engage in a more immersive way.
AR and VR are still only starting out but are expected to grow exponentially over the next several years and be worth $2.8 billion by 2023. One of the most increasingly popular and useful ways these technologies are being used is for educational purposes, especially in the workplace.
Although many companies are beginning to wonder whether AR or VR is better for educating their employees, the question they should be asking is: which will work better for their business? Because each technology has a unique offering, they should not be considered against each other, but rather as different options for different needs.
The case for AR in workplace learning
AR is an extremely effective tool when it comes to onboarding and instructional purposes.
Many organizations are beginning to integrate AR into their new hire onboarding processes. The technology can help recent hires learn about their new environment and get up to speed more quickly. For example, a new hire could use an AR app to tour the company and get the lay of the land during their first few weeks on board.
AR would simply overlay the information on top of different areas of the office and provide the necessary information in real time to users. It would map out who sits where, what they do, who their clients are, how to connect with them, and even what hobbies they participate in, dependent on where the camera is aimed or where the user is in the office.
Professionals have long been searching for a way to close the gap between the learning and application phases of a job. Currently, they are two separate processes — learning coming first, application following. AR allows the two to intersect with real-time instruction for tasks at hand.
AR superimposes information over a given job and provides direction for how to complete it. For example, a user who wants to change the locks on their front door without hiring a locksmith can pull up the AR app and receive instructions from their camera view. AR has even made it into the medical industry. AccuVein for instance, uses AR to help healthcare professionals find veins in their patients.
The case for VR in workplace learning
The National Training Laboratory published a survey that rated “practice by doing” as the number two most effective way to learn and more importantly, retain, information. VR is most useful when it comes to training and experiencing a job, especially in high-consequence or even high-risk occupations.
Jaimy Szymanski, a founder at Kaleido Insights, noted, “People can be really immersed in these new training environments for situations that either are very unique or are very dangerous.” VR technology allows companies to simulate scenarios without having to manage the risk of putting inexperienced personnel on the job. For example, the police and armed forces have begun using VR to train for active shooter situations, allowing them to learn how to manage the situation without the imminent threat of being shot for real.
VR has also proven incredibly useful for sports training because athletes can view themselves and other players in 3D and physically replay the situation, fully understanding how their bodies will work in a real-life version of the scenario.
Even Walmart has jumped on board by deploying VR training to all employees. The program simulates possible customer interactions, problems, or dangerous situations that could arise and have even helped prepare for the Black Friday rush by exposing employees to the chaos before the actual day in a low-risk way.
Which is better for you — AR or VR?
Because the applications for each technology are so different, it’s impossible to determine if one is inherently better than the other overall. AR and VR are important and effective in their use cases. The question is, which will work best for your particular needs?
In scenarios that require informational, instructive tools, AR is likely the most operative choice. Conversely, when it comes to training and a need for real-life situations without real-life threat, VR is the obvious option.
Regardless of which technology is best for your company, there’s no question that AR and VR are becoming widespread and vital tools in workplace learning.
Brought to you by Guest Author: Amanda Peterson
Amanda Peterson is a contributor to Enlightened Digital and software engineer from New York City. When she’s not trying to find the best record store in the city, you can find her curling up to watch some Netflix with her Puggle, Hendrix.