Virtual and Augmented Reality – Hollow Trend or Awakening to the Future of Learning?
The increasing gap between the rate of technological advancements and business productivity is unprecedented. Despite the hollow promises of the past 28 years, the resurgence of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) may have the most powerful impact on bolstering learner experience and improving employee performance.
A much needed awakening to the future of learning to keep pace with the dramatically shifting workforce, workplace and marketplace is vital to maintaining a competitive edge.
Do you recall which 1999 Fantasy/Sci-Fi film showcasing VR and AR was reviewed by one critic as ‘extremely violent, extremely preposterous and extremely entertaining?’
The scene opens with neon green digits streaming on a black screen. We overhear a phone conversation between two secretive male and female voices. Police appear and breakdown the door of the dilapidated hotel room that houses the woman (‘Trinity’). We see Trinity is seated at a computer when one of the policeman yells “put your hands on your head” and points a gun at her. The intensity of the atmosphere escalates as the police wait for her response. The policemen advance towards Trinity who is trained in extreme martial arts and she strikes one of them to the floor. As the ensuing scenes unfold, we learn that an enigmatic mentor (‘Morpheus’) is leading a skilled hacker (‘Neo’) down a shadowy techno rabbit hole and discovers that his didactic reality is a computer simulation. In turn, this realization motivates Neo to band with a human resistance group and manages the simulated reality like an Xbox video game by exploiting its glitches to his advantage.
This is a gripping, engaging, highly interactive “computer-based multimedia environment in which the user becomes a participant with the computer in a ‘virtually real’ world”. Matrix is the film and its content is not so ‘preposterous.’ Much of the future of learning will hinge on some facet of VR and AR. The more behavioral and neuroscience research reveals about how the human brain works, the better we will understand the cognitive power and potential of the relationship between computers and the brain, and how VR and AR may optimize that convergence.
This technology is already being used across a wide-range of industries and is proving to be a natural extension of digital learning strategies. Entertainment, sports, military, healthcare, aerospace, commercial aviation, advertising, banking, construction, automotive, real estate, tourism, and retail industries are leaning into VR and AR to transform their workforce and workplace. This is clever given VR and AR’s promise to revolutionize the learner experience and boost human capabilities.
Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report reflects seismic changes in the world of business. This new era, often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, has fundamentally transformed business, the broader economy, society and marketplace. It is widely known technology advances are outpacing our ability to keep pace.
VR and AR hold the potential to realize the operational benefits of Big Data and Data Science by delivering analytic insights and recommendations to the user in a way that is immediately actionable. Which component needs to be fixed and how do I best fix it? What is the area around the tumor that I need to remove to speed recovery? What are the best routes to take to improve on-time delivery?
VR “lets you swim with the sharks” while AR lets you “watch a shark pop out of your business card.” ~Cramer 
The digital revolution is driving a dramatically shifting workforce, workplace and marketplace. One of the biggest challenges is understanding the future of work since the rules are unwritten. While the rules for using VR and AR are still being written, clearly this technology is no longer a hollow trend or cool buzzwords. The time is ripe for companies to awaken to the future learning and take advantage of these digital technologies to improve operations, human capability and fortify its competitive edge.
I would like to thank my co-author Bill Schmarzo [@Schmarzo], CTO, Dell EMC Services (aka “Dean of Big Data”) author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and “Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science”. Bill is responsible for setting strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings for Dell EMC’s Big Data Practice. He is also quite a prolific blogger.