The Case for Going Virtual Part 2

Posted 06/18/2020 by William Hubbell

In our last post I began making the case for going virtual, covering virtual tours and retail use cases. Today, I’ll focus on two other use cases that go beyond fun and games and have tremendous utility and value: Training and Education.

Training

VR and AR offer unique opportunities for education and training. With VR, you can offer “hands-on” experiences to students and trainees without actually needing to offer anything physical for them to put their hands on. With the introduction of these technologies, training becomes scalable in a way that the limitations of the physical world don’t allow. These technologies also offer experiences that give more detail than even the highest resolution monitor, letting the users interact directly with a model of a human heart, for instance.

Medicine

A program called the Stanford Virtual Heart allows medical trainees to interact with a model of the human heart in a way that has never been done before. Trainees can suspend this virtual heart in mid-air, blow it up to larger-than life sizes to see exactly how it works, pause it in motion, and examine how various defects and problems impact the functioning of the organ. This kind of training gives medical trainees a kind of physical and intimate understanding of the function of the organ that text and diagrams never would be able to.

The same organization is also experimenting with using VR to prepare patients for a difficult cardiac catheterization procedure, by sending home a VR headset with the patient. The VR program is groundbreaking in its ingenuity:

“The tour guides users along the exact path that is taken on the day of their procedure, including visits to the pre-op room where they receive anesthesia, the Cath Lab where they fall asleep and the recovery room where they wake up after the procedure. Throughout the tour, patients can access relaxation programs that spirit them away to enchanting natural settings, where they are given mindfulness techniques to soothe themselves during moments of stress or anxiety.”

This use of VR is fascinating because it does a couple things: first, it walks the patient through the steps of the procedure, so they know what to expect, eliminating the fear that comes with the unknown. Then, it also gives the patient tools to regulate their anxiety, by training them in mindfulness techniques that center and calm the patients. This dual-pronged approach is unique in that it uses both simulation and training. No doubt patients who arrive on the day of their surgery will be more prepared for what’s to come than those who went without.

Engineering

Augmented Reality has use cases for training in the industrial world as well as the medical world. Vuforia by PTC is at the forefront of industrial applications of AR technology, providing training overlays for many different industries, from automobiles to aerospace to heavy industrial machinery. Using Microsoft’s Hololens visor, PTC has been able to create a variety of applications to not only help train workers on step-by-step procedures, but also help them create these training programs themselves.

Similarly, aerospace companies such as Airbus and Lockheed Martin use Augmented Reality technology to assist workers in the construction of machines such as the F-35 fighter jet. These complex construction processes are made far more efficient and clear for these workers with the use of these technologies, eliminating mistakes and increasing productivity many times over.

Education

The field of XR for education is new but is being developed with a significant amount of academic research. Applications for language learning, chemistry, biology, and physics have shown significant potential, and others are being researched and tested.

Language learning poses a well-known challenge: immersion. A student can spend as much time studying and practicing a language as they like, but everybody knows that immersion in a place where the language is spoken - diving into the deep end - is the surest and fastest way to functionally learn a language. Books and podcasts and apps can only do so much to approximate this kind of immersion. However, a virtual environment is the next most immersive setting behind actually being there, and studies are now showing that such XR experiences can markedly improve results for people who struggle learning a second language. Such experiences are also more cost-effective than sending a student to another country, which requires travel expenses, room and board, food, and other expenses.

Chemistry can be another expensive subject to teach, requiring a lab and materials. Chemistry also often poses safety hazards, which can be their own kinds of expenses. However, a simulated VR chemistry lab can be cost-effective in the same way that an immersive language setting would be: no need to buy materials, and definitely no need to account for safety hazards. Another exciting way to approach learning chemistry through XR is through AR representations of molecules, an application which already has a few iterations. In this way, the conceptual becomes kinesthetic, and different kinds of learners can find the teaching techniques which suit them best.

MIT has been testing unorthodox, mixed media approaches to XR education, including applications for biology and physics. On the biological side, they’ve developed a program called Cellverse, in which students collaborate to learn. In Cellverse, one student uses VR technology to immerse themselves in the internal world of cells, while another “navigates” with a tablet to help the VR-using student label and understand what they’re seeing. In this program the students work together to diagnose and cure the cells in question, turning a potentially boring subject into an exciting adventure of a task.

In the realm of physics, MIT has also developed an application called Electrostatic Playground, a full-room, multi-user VR experience. In this playground, users can “see and touch physics.” As in Cellverse, this simulation makes the conceptual and complicated intuitive and practical. Very difficult concepts around electromagnetism can be visualized and interacted with without needing expensive or dangerous electronic equipment - and it’s fun.

Finally

You may be shocked to learn that these applications are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to XR. Though perhaps it may be more appropriate to say that these are the seeds of what’s to come. As always in computing technology, today’s most advanced and expensive XR technology will become outdated and affordable in time. The applications being developed now and the principles of their design will be the foundation of the most advanced XR experiences that the future will take for granted.

At TechGuilds we’re excited about being a part of this future. Already we’ve broken ground with Peek, the first web-based XR application that is fully integrated with Sitecore. While its features are exciting - an easy-to-use interface for content creators, all content consolidated onto one CMS, integration with Sitecore’s marketing features, full cross-platform XR experience with no app to download, no extensions to worry about  - the most exciting part of it for us is seeing how far Peek users can take this technology and use it for their business, organization and institutions. As TechGuilds is dedicated to innovation, we love to work with clients to create innovative solutions to problems. With Peek WebXR a lot of the technological limitations are eliminated, and give rise to the limitless possibilities of creating the XR experiences of tomorrow. What we’ve covered in these two articles is just a sample of the use cases that have been imagined by today’s tech leaders - and together, we can imagine so much more.

 

For the Sitecore customer, Peek brings the possibilities of XR a huge step closer with a much smaller learning curve and much more modest investment.

 

Related: We are offering Peek WebXR licenses for free - find out more