Extended reality, latest tech breakthrough for training

In an environment where it seems that new technologies are emerging at the speed of light, the industry is faced with keeping pace with these advancements in performance and benefits.

This situation is especially true with the adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. However, hot on the heels of AR and VR is augmented reality (XR), which combines real and virtual environments using computers, wearables and more, to collect and analyze data.

Paul Daley, senior eLearning specialist with ConocoPhillips, described his company’s progress in using emerging technologies as “toe in the water.” The onset and negative impact of COVID-19 did not help that progress.

“We had proof of concept that was planned and had been building in 2019. Then 2020 came,” Daley recalled. “No one wanted to tell the manager that it will cost a lot of money to clarify this. So that proof of concept didn’t go forward.”

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As COVID-19 has subsided, Daley said, things have changed.

“There were efforts that worked from ‘top, bottom’ and ‘bottom, top,’ where ‘bottom, top’ was the training program that was there to improve things,” he explained. Daley joked that there were extremes but it worked “we’re going to drag around this trailer and we show you what happens when you cut your fingers’-type suggestion.

“But they wanted to see if VR could make something more memorable, because everyone had seen the way to cut off fingers in the last 10 years. This was a job that we had to buy more and find a cost-effective way to do it.”

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

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In a ‘top-down’ solution, Daley said, the ConocoPhillips CIO who saw the benefits of VR “was able to write a check and move forward.”

Not ‘all about Benjamin’

There are many challenges to successfully bringing emerging technologies into the field without financial pressure.

Some of those challenges to introducing VR and XR, Daley said, “came at a bad time.” In those cases, the business should go back to what it does, not what it doesn’t do and, sometimes, that’s just learning” he said with a laugh.

“We have this great technology and we want to use it. “Even culturally, I would say, you’re training your mind and you’re afraid to want to see that, for some reason,” said Daley. “You have to go through that, and that would be ‘baby steps’, because they want to make more choices, get a mark and move on.”

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When it comes to security, XR technology allows managers to ensure that employees properly complete tasks such as inspection, lockout/tagout and other security-critical responsibilities, says Susan Spark, Schlumberger’s learning technology manager, XR technology.

“You can measure the strength with which they hold the tool so that it does not bend; they actually do the right action with their hand, and much more. It’s a completely different concept of its structure,” he said during the Industrial XR Global Summit, recently held in Houston.

Spark noted that learning management systems (LMS) are “a twenty-plus-year-old concept,” and compared using an LMS to putting a governor in a Formula One race car.

“What you can measure in XR is huge – to the point where we really have to worry and have a conversation about data ethics and data privacy,” he concluded.



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