Technology changes the world. More specifically, it changes how the world operates and evolves. Like moving from taking days to plow a field with a horse and plow to turn the soil to using massive tractors that can get the job done in a few hours. Or using a digital clock wired into a set of augmented glasses instead of a sundial to measure the length of a shadow. Technology serves to make the world a better, more accessible place to live in. With the advent of extended reality or XR technology, a rapid change was made in how people saw the world around them and how they moved in it. More recently, companies are realizing the benefits of using augmented reality to train their employees with better results, not just initially but well into their employment.
AR is a technology that uses graphic images to enhance or supplement the world around us. It has the unique ability to find its way into the most unlikely of places. With unique headsets designed for hands-free training or on a smart device for immediate information access, it's highly accessible and can be used anywhere at any time.
Augmented Reality at Work
Augmented reality is cropping up in industries that sometimes don't make sense but take a closer look at it and it's evident that AR belongs there. In retail, for instance, using AR simulations can provide the customer with the ideal product and hasten and brighten their interaction with the company, or let retail workers participate in real-world customer scenarios before being allowed to engage with them. It gives more precise measurements and can display blueprints or 3D models in construction. It's giving students the ability to access information and experiences they might not otherwise be able to due to a lack of funding. Even in social media, where cat and cartoon filters are all the rage, it's proving beneficial in helping connect people to one another in simple, meaningful ways. It's branching into farming and has almost become an art form in its own right.
If that doesn't convince you, here are 6 ways augmented reality is modernizing employee training.
1. Training Costs- Yes, there is an upfront cost to using augmented reality as a training tool. First, purchasing a smart device or AR lenses for the business can be steep but think about it in the long run. Training employees takes time, which equates to money, making it a precious commodity no matter where it's used. But this comes down to the basic benefits of augmented reality. Augmented reality has been proven to reduce training time in multiple disciplines, showing higher retention rates than older methods. Beyond that, it reduces the number of errors made on the actual materials used to train. Less product materials are wasted, less errors are made, and less time is necessary to train a person in a given discipline or process. Over the course of a device's life, augmented reality can easily end up saving a company more money in the training department than the initial investment.
2. On-Demand Training- Previously, when training employees, employers or superiors were required to have a hands-on approach with just about everything. From stocking products, to changing lightbulbs and measuring beams, teaching people common practice for the company took time that most employers don't have because they're also needed elsewhere. Augmented reality allows for a more hands-off approach. Employees can learn company procedure, how to do standard work within the company, and even work on complex processes without the help of their boss or trainer. This gives them more confidence and creates a better working environment.
3. Remote Assistance in the Probationary Period and Beyond- Generally speaking, when a person is in their probationary period at a new job, they're given 90 days to prove their usefulness, adjustment to the job, and capability of working independently with relative success. This is a necessary part of beginning a new job but can be costly and take time if the employee constantly needs more reinforcement or information on how to do a specific task. Using smart devices, the employee can scan a code and review the process necessary on their phone without having to speak with their manager. Employees can have real-time learning experiences without waiting for their supervisor to have a minute to spare.
4. Safety- This is a big one and is twofold. First, trial and error play a huge part in getting a job done, which can lead to major injuries in some fields. But being able to complete a task again and again before moving on to practical application makes it so that the employee is confident in their abilities to do the task with little error. Less trial means less error, which means less injury, and less money spent on worker's compensation. See? Saving money in the long run!
The second part is that augmented reality devices can be attached to other tools made specifically with safety in mind; hard hats, night vision goggles, etc. Safety devices already implemented with AR technology combined with the real time learning experience drastically reduce the number of work-related injuries.
5. Language Translation- Now this one is a bit odd but hear me out. A common barrier in the workplace is language and communication. Especially with the ability to gain employment somewhere not of a person's origin. Imagine having an employer and trainee who don't speak the same language. This could pose very serious safety problems, especially in construction or medicine. Or say an employee is given a manual that details the exact standard operating procedure they're supposed to follow, but it's in Spanish. They only read English. Augmented reality would take this barrier away, offering easy exact translations of what's written simply by hovering a smart device or lens over the words, or give real-time written translations of spoken words. The employee can complete the task, get their training completed, and still have a positive work experience all around.
Long story short, it all really comes down to a transfer of knowledge and how that knowledge is shared. From one person to another, augmented reality is making it easier for one person's knowledge to become another's. And not just today's knowledge, but information that has been shared from generations of scientists, factory workers, and agriculturalists. It took time and effort before to share and teach, but this access to shared information is helping the world's knowledge pool grow. It's not necessary to be a trained mechanic to have a basic understanding of how an engine works, though the certification certainly doesn't hurt. Now with AR, people can share their set of knowledge with each other quickly and efficiently.
Augmented reality has become a preferred method to train employees in everything from retail to mechanics to the military because it offers faster, more in-depth training with less employee error and better retention rates. With AR, employers can be more hands-off with their trainees, and employees can gain the confidence that only comes from doing a task repeatedly before doing it for real for the first time. This modernization of the work force will create better, safer environments for nearly every profession possible.
About the Author: Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor is a freelance writer and avid researcher- a jack of all trades, but a master of none. She graduated from the University of Hawai'i with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. She has since found her love of Extended Reality and the possibilities it brings to the world, as well as gardening, cooking, and writing. Anna lives in Interior Alaska with her family.