A few weeks ago I was doing a social media training and a couple of participants started talking to me about "augmented reality" and how it was going to change learning and work. I'd never heard of the concept and actually had a hard time picturing what they meant, so I tucked it away as something to explore further when I had more time. Now, via this article from Jeremiah Owyang, I see why they were so excited.
What Is Augmented Reality?
The best definition I could find for augmented reality is that it's "a combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene
generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional
information." This video is a great example.
In it you can see a phone being held up to view a street. Through the augmented reality program in the phone, real estate data appears next to each house, including the price of the house, its address, etc. If the house is for sale, then a link to call the real estate agent also appears. You can click on it to initiate the call.
This video is even more interesting from a business/networking perspective.
The presenter is able to create a public profile that connects him to whatever social networks he wants, including Twitter, Slideshare, Facebook, YouTube, etc. As he presents, attendees can view him (and other participants) through their phones and see each person's profiles and connections. In this example, you could also rate the presentation via your phone.
Implications of Augmented Reality for Learning & Work
Although still in extreme infancy, you can see where there are some really interesting possibilities here with big implications for learning and work.
First, as if we needed another reminder of this, memorizing facts, data, etc. will become even LESS important in a world of augmented reality. We can already look up just about anything we want. With augmented reality, the data that we need would be integrated into the physical environment where we needed it with no need for searches.
Consider this example of how augmented reality could be used in manufacturing. The worker would wear a special headset that would do the following:
- Directs the worker to a pile of parts and tells her which part to pick up. This is currently done by displaying textual instructions and playing a sound file containing verbal instructions.
- Confirms that she has the correct piece. This is done by having her scan a barcode on the component.
- Directs her to install the component. A 3D virtual image of the component indicates where to install the component and verbal instructions played from a sound file explain how to install it.
- Verifies that the component is installed by asking her to scan the component with the tracked barcode scanner This checks both the identity and position of the part.
No doubt as systems grew more sophisticated, they would include access to troubleshooting information, etc. that would virtually eliminate the need for the kinds of procedural training that currently goes on in many companies.
I suspect these developments would accelerate the trend toward commoditization of work and, therefore, the capacity to send it to places where labor is the cheapest. It will also impact our notions of "knowledge work" and, I think, create even more "blue collar" knowledge jobs.
Because of the impact on skill requirements in jobs, this will necessarily impact training, both the types of training we do and how we deliver it. We've already been moving in the direction of performance support systems and this adds a new layer that could take us in some entirely new directions.
Augmented reality has a long way to go before it becomes a major force in the workplace, but I don't think it's too early to start thinking about how it will impact what we do and how we do it.
What are your thoughts? How do you see augmented reality impacting the learning business? How do you see it being applied to work?