Do You See What I’m Seeing?

Leveraging technological advances to bring learning to the point of application—when it is needed most.

You stare at your work. You are uncertain what to do next. Working on the manufacturing shop floor, you are assigned to a work center to assemble parts, and something has gone wrong. You had formal training on this type of situation weeks ago. It was an interesting class with a knowledgeable instructor that went over a lot of information. But now you are lost. Staring blankly at what is going on in front of you, you desperately search your memory to recall what it is you were supposed to do. Now you are starting to panic!

We are all aware of the research around the degradation of training recall over time. I am certain you can think of a time when you could not remember details from a past training session, class, or online course. The time when you need the information is most likely not at the moment you walk out of the training, but when you must apply that learning.

At Plex Systems, we are exploring how to leverage technological advances to bring that learning to the point of application— when it is needed most. As an enterprise resource planning tool (ERP) for manufacturing firms, Plex offers learners the opportunity to use our software at the same time they are making things—whether it is stamping metal, assembling parts, or bottling beer. They need real-time training that doesn’t delay production.

Ready to Wear

To bring real-time training to our users, we are exploring various wearable technologies—augmented reality such as Microsoft HoloLens, virtual reality such as HTC Vive, mixed reality such as Google Glass, and many other tools. “Smartglasses” make sense to us because most of our users must wear safety glasses or helmets. Converting existing required equipment into connected machines, we take the accessory from something that is simply worn to protect the eyes to a powerful tool enabling the wearer to access data and real-time training content.

Conceivably, if you were in the situation described at the beginning of this article and wearing a HoloLens or a Daqri helmet, you could instantly pull up documentation or a training video directly on your visor. Applying content in that moment. Righting the wrong. You also could see real-time information overlaid on top of your real world. Colors, numbers, text, and other on-screen data could inform you of what to do next or where things are not going to plan. Yeah, kind of like RoboCop.

When the on-screen instructions are not sufficient, call someone. They can see what you are seeing at the exact same time. They can walk you through the situation, and even write or draw on your real-world workspace! That trainer could be in the office, in the factory, or in headquarters thousands of miles away.

Beacons of Information

Beyond what is worn, we also are exploring beacons, which can tell when you are near and serve up relevant information to your phone, tablet, or headset. So when you step up to a machine, you get real-time training information on that machine. Walk to another area—and beacon—and you get new information for that time and place.

There are so many exciting new tools and technologies that can be adapted for training coming out or evolving every day. The way we deliver and receive training is going to drastically change in the next few years. It may not use the tools we are playing with today, but the centuries-old method of everyone sitting in the same room to be lectured to is most likely not going to be the method of the future.

Neal Rowland, PMP ITIL Expert, PMI-ACP is the lead crowd surfer for The Crowd Training and curriculum manager at Plex Systems in Michigan. He is presenting and demonstrating the technology discussed here at Training’s Online Learning Conference September 25-27 in New Orleans.

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