Extended reality, latest tech breakthrough for training

In an environment in which it seems that new technologies are emerging at the speed of light, industry is faced with keeping the breakneck pace of operational advances and advantages.

This phenomenon is especially true with the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. However, on the heels of AR and VR is extended reality (XR), which combines real and virtual environments with computers, wearables and more, to collect and analyze data.

Paul Daley, senior eLearning specialist with ConocoPhillips, described his company’s progress in applying emerging technologies as a “toe in the water.” The onset and ripple effect of COVID-19 has not helped this progress.

“We had a proof of concept that was planned and was built up by 2019. Then came 2020,” Daley recalled. “No one had any appetite to tell the boss that it would cost a lot of money to fix it. So the proof of concept is not forthcoming.”

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As COVID-19 has abated, Daly said, things have changed.

“There have been efforts operating from the ‘top, down’ and the ‘bottom, up,’ where the ‘bottom, up’ was an existing training program to improve things,” he explained. Daly joked that it was a very extreme but practical ‘we’re going to drag around this trailer and show you what happens if you cut your finger off’-type proposal.

“But they wanted to see if VR could create a more memorable experience, because everyone has seen how to chop off their fingers for the last 10 years. This was a project that we had a lot to shop around and find an economical way to Do this.

Daley said the company chose to implement an “off the shelf solution” to its VR and XR needs, “which was a way to reduce development costs.”

In the ‘top, bottom’ solution, Daley said, the ConocoPhillips CIO who noticed the advantages of VR “was able to write a check and get some development.”

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Not all about the Benjamins

There are a number of challenges to successfully bringing emerging technologies into the field besides financial pressure.

Some of the challenges to introducing VR and XR, Daley said, “come down to bad timing. In these cases, the business needs to get back to what it does, not what it doesn’t do and, sometimes, that’s just Study,” he said, laughing.

“We have this great technology and we want to deploy it. Even culturally, I would say, you’re in training mindset and still kind of afraid to want to see that, for some reason,” said Daley. “You have to go through that, and it can be a ‘baby steps’ kind of thing, because they want to take the multiple choice, get the checkmark and move on.”

When it comes to safety, XR technology allows managers to ensure that workers are properly performing tasks like inspections, disconnect/connect and other responsibilities that are essential to safety, said Susan Spark, Learning Technology Manager with Schlumberger, XR Technology.

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“You can measure the force in which they hold the tool to prevent it from bending; they really make the right gesture with their hand, and much more. It’s a completely different mindset from his structural design,” she said during the Industrial CSR Global Summit, which took place recently in Houston.

Spark noted that learning management systems (LMS) are “a more than two-decade-old mindset,” and compared the use of LMS to installing a governor on a Formula One racecar.

“What you can measure in XR is so much more – to the point where we really have to be concerned about and have the discussion about data ethics and data privacy,” she concluded.


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