Podcast 23: How will VR/AR/MR work with gamification in HR and learning?

Welcome to this week’s A Question of Gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the chief Gamechanger at Gamification Nation, and this week’s question is a good one. How will VR, AR, MR, and what on earth is the difference between all those, and Gamification play nice? It’s a question that comes up from time to time. Because in learning, and in HR, we find that a lot of people have no idea what all the buzz words and all of the… they have an idea, but maybe not a full understanding of what the buzz words stands for and how they can all work together or where they’re all separate beasts that you should be treating differently. So, the purpose of today’s podcast is to answer the questions of what are these different reality things? Does that combine well with Gamification? Does it not? Should you just do one and not engage with the other? Or, how do you best integrate it into your suite of learning related solutions for your workers, or HR related solutions for your workers? Or whichever way you see fit on using a mix of these things in the workplace.

First things first, let’s start with the terminology. VR, or virtual reality, is where you typically today need a headset like an oculus rift or a google cardboard or any variety of quality devices in between or above. Basically, what that allows you do to is to escape into a virtual world. Now, in a virtual world, or in virtual reality today, most of the time we need to exclude what is going on around us and we step completely into that virtual space. Which is a great tool for, for example, when you need to simulate environments that people might not be use to. For example, flight simulators are an experience that we could call virtual reality today. Although, we could argue that you could actually play all of it as a mixed reality play because if the person is sitting in the middle of it and touching real equipment but the visuals are displayed on a screen, you’re combining virtual reality with reality and giving a lifelike experience even though it’s not for real. Simulations, for years have been, in a space in my view, where you find virtual and reality kind of blending together and giving feedback to each other.

Virtual reality was designed, originally, with the idea of games. A lot of games, like escape rooms, can be played in virtual reality, but some of the cool games today are completely virtual reality based. If you are not sure what to test or what to try out there’s two I would recommend trying. First of all any roller coaster experience, if you’re not too afraid of roller coasters that is. And the other one is the play saber where you basically do a massive drum kind of set up and you’re trying to keep up with the beat in virtual reality, which is pretty awesome. Or an escape room, of course, where you’re in a virtual reality playroom and you need to unlock clues in order to get out. Virtual reality is typically, still today, with headsets which blank out reality.

Augmented reality, most of us will have at some point heard of Pokemon Go or at least… you know, maybe not played but at least heard of Pokemon Go the game. Which, basically, brought augmented reality into our everyday, mass presence as such. It’s where you combine the camera use of your smart phone with, lets say, fictional characters like Pokemon. And you combine real life and whatever is on your screen together to take some funny pictures, to catch them where they are, where you could be.

Further than that, augmented reality is developing and some of the really cool type of material that’s coming out is where it is much more seamless so that you don’t even need a smart phone anymore. Which you might have holographic screens popping up. You may have heard of HoloLens, where actual human beings are holograms and you can pop up wherever your hologram needs to be for that time. It’s basically combining reality with some form of digital augmentation. A digital improvement to make your experience better. Whether that’s a statistical kind of feedback board. Whether that’s actual creatures that you catch in wild. Or whether that allows you to engage in the real world with an app or that gives you further clues. So augmented reality, by the very, I suppose nature of it, is mixed in nature. It increases the experience you have, based on what you see around you with other digital elements, and makes you experience it from a different angles. And you could add, you could say, it adds a dimension that we didn’t have before. Creatures popping up, before you would have to have a physical creature to pop up. So you’d have to plant all these Pokemon’s in forests that you’re walking in to find them and catch them. Same general idea of a treasure hunt but a different use case.

Mixed reality is typically where we say we combine either virtual reality or augmented reality with what we already know today, which is what’s all around us. Whether that is real life, whether that is online experiences that are 2D. And 2D meaning that it’s just you and the screen, you and the book. Just a simple interaction, not 3D where you have the potential to view it from multiple angles. Well it can be 3D actually, thinking about it. You know, you basically combining an experience. So that you’re pushing a bit of virtual, a bit of augmented, a bit of reality, a bit of online, a bit of offline. It’s basically creating an experience that goes into, what I call, a multi model effect. That’s including sound. That’s including visuals. That’s including texts. That’s including whatever you can find around you that you can physically touch, and smell, and feel. As there’s a mixed reality experience so there’s a lot of things that you can combine together.

How do they play nice with Gamification or does Gamification work for it, and vise versa? In reality both virtual reality, augmented reality have been used originally to create games and to creates engaging experiences, let’s say. By the very nature, from the very start up, it is built to work well as a game. Which then means it can work really well in a gamified experience.

What I would say, and where it becomes a bit of self control limits, or self control oriented, is that you have to think about, “What is it that I’m trying to achieve? Will adding virtual reality, augmented reality, or mixed reality play enhance the experience for my user?” As in, make it better for the end user to understand something, to experience something. Simulations on an expensive equipment like airplanes, submarines, boats, obviously there is a great use case for that and has been for years. Which is why, those industries, it’s actually normal practice. The same with oil and gas. A lot of the risks involved in exploring and even the risk manoeuvres and emergency procedures can be played out quite well on virtual reality. The same with emergency procedures for any kind of transportation. They work really well and they enhance the experience for the end user who has to manage people in an emergency scenario. It lets them experience how they react, because our brain doesn’t differentiate whether it’s real or virtual. What we see in virtual reality and what we see in reality is no different. The experience from the personal perspective is the same.

More and more tools are coming out on the market, and are also becoming more and more mainstream, in terms of pricing so that it don’t need to break the bank anymore in order to make them realistic. Where you can build virtual experiences without having to think of the budget of a blockbuster game or a blockbuster movie to say that. And those tools are also entering more and more in the E-learning space but also in the onboarding space. In onboarding, I think, there’s a clear example. The first day in work you know nothing. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know where to pitch up, what to do. Having a virtual tour, if that’s augmented, if that’s virtual reality, could enhance the situation for the new recruit. Give them the feeling of, “Okay, I know where I’m going”. And you need to make the visuals, obviously, as life like and as real as possible.

The same with virtual learning experiences where people can actually interact with a number of people in a variety of locations. For example, in the world of medicine what we’re seeing is that some operations are being streamed into a virtual space so people can have a look in and a lot of nurses and doctors who may not be familiar with the specific, very specialist operation, can see how other experts, other doctors, are doing it. What can also then happen is you can give real time feedback, or answer real time questions, or help a person in this situation.

Augmented reality has found it’s way, quite neatly, into engineering and manufacturing maintenance. Why? Because with the help of let’s say, an augmented reality headset or through a smartphone, you can connect with what you’re looking at as a maintenance engineer and experience okay… or show somebody at base, who may have more access to a data base, a knowledge base, a question bank. Or you need a second opinion and say, “Look, I’m thinking this is the right approach. What do you think? Do you confirm?” Or “I’m stuck here, I really don’t know how to get out of this situation, can you help me fix it?” From a very practical perspective it saves time.

In the past, what you would’ve had to do in that situation is document the current set up. Go back to the office. Go look it up. Go back in. Whereas now you can actually stream this to somebody and they can give you help on the phone, in real time. So that’s a major cost saving and saving trips in transport, trips in time generally speaking. Again, from a cost saving and from a risk perspective, a lot less risky than let’s say letting somebody try it and hope for the best. That’s a definite good example of a use case of where augmented reality, with instant feed back and I would maybe say, not necessarily game mechanics but instant feedback as to why are you doing this at this moment, ask questions, make people reflect back. But also, feedback as, “okay, I See also this. Have you considered that?” To make sure that the person can do the best possible job, in the moment, for your organisation.

It will, you know… in the onboarding use case, of course, it’s about making sure that the person feels comfortable going into your organisation, finds their way quickly to where they need to be, and can already familiarise themselves with an environment. Where this is, again, very applicable is where you have local doctors, local nurses, who come in and only do a couple of days of work in several places. They may be temporary staff. They may be agency staff. You just need to get them up to speed as quick as possible. For that augmented reality and virtual reality can give you a quick orientation of where people need to show up, what do they need to do, where’s the nurses station, where’s the doctors room, how do I find all the various parts that make my job easier and make me productive much quicker?

From a productivity prospective and a cost perspective there is good uses in learning. Good uses in onboarding. And then, also good uses in actual productivity. I would see those three as key use cases for all the Rs, or all the different mixes of reality. Virtual, augmented and mixed. And yes Gamification.

I would say, use it sparingly so… in these virtual environments the tendency is just because you can, you add it in. Now, my thinking is that it’s only relevant in some situations. The engineer example, where the engineer is looking at a problem. Effectively he needs the problem fixed as soon as possible. Putting in game mechanics that ask more questions, that make it harder for him to unlock the solution, that’s not going to help him. But, lets say a feed back loop where somebody else in the office green lights, for example, how he’s thinking of proceeding. A quick check list that he can call up, where he can basically say, “Yep. Tick, tick, tick. Done.” And then he gets a high five score or something like that. That’s doable. That’s useful. And that gives the person confidence that, “Okay, I’m doing the right things. I’m following the right kind of procedure.” That type of thing is useful, but always think of it from the perspective of, “Will this game mechanic, whichever one you choose, enhance the experience or stop the flow of what the person is doing?”

A lot of the time because you can doesn’t mean you should. And that’s what we see more and more with Gamification, is that a lot of game mechanics just get sprinkled in just because, “Yeah, the system can do this so we should show it off and we should do it.” And I usually say, “Well, maybe take this one out. Take that one out.”

What works well is if it enhances the confidence of the person. If it enhances the experience or knowledge of the person. You could have knowledge based questions. You could have feedback loops, which are typical good scenarios to run when you’re looking at learning, when you’re looking at onboarding and for productivity is the confidence building, the making sure that the person is actually gradually getting better. And the reflection afterwards is something I would build in and I think that’s where, I suppose, self refection and self improvement comes from, can be Gamified, and can be a very useful tool to make sure that the person remembers to do the same thing the next time. Or they reflect back on, “Well, actually, I handled that part of the situation really well in virtual reality. But on this I got so scared or so emotional or so confused, that I didn’t know what to do.” Again that’s feedback. It needs to be talked through, and in most companies, when they use simulations quite often, you do have a debrief. You do have a session where all the team sits together and talks it through.

The same in medicine. What often happens when people look at operations together is that there is a debrief. That there is even somebody, away from the operation in that virtual space maybe, talking things through to the people with the headsets. But not necessarily audible for the team that is working through the operation.

There are many good solutions that can combine virtual reality, augmented reality, and Gamification quite neatly. To then have an absolutely amazing experience for your end users.

I already hear some people thinking, “Oh, but what kind of budget do we need for this?” What it really depends on how far you want to go and how detailed the experience needs to be. I know platforms that you can start building virtual reality experiences on that can start from only 1,000 pounds onwards. But then you do need a person, in the team, that can build it for you. That is very savvy. That is good with graphics, good with physics, etc.

The two most common used systems for most virtual reality are Unity and Unreal, where you can build game experiences out of the box. More and more bespoke platforms have started coming up. Sinespace offers virtual worlds. LearnBrite offers training worlds and training experiences. It’s one that we’re working with. There is ways of creating worlds with avatars. Another one, if you’re in the education space, Edorable, very useful tool that lets you create live experiences which have a virtual component.

In terms of augmented reality some of the tools out there are Zappar, which give you a nice studio to build good experiences. Again, even that one, last time I checked their pricing it was around 50 pounds per month, per person to have a license not prohibitive in my view. Again, you need some people in your team that can create some great graphics, that can make it work and understand these tools. There is a bit of a learning curve. The other one that I like quite a bit is Metaverse, which is free to use, which allows you to build augmented reality experiences and they allow you to duplicate and clone some of the experiences out of the box.

When it comes to putting virtual reality or augmented reality on your learning management system, I can hear most of the virtual reality purist cringe and say, “No. You should never even contemplate that. It should always be an application or it should always be a stand alone experience.” And whilst that’s great, as long as that then feeds your statistics and analytics absolutely go with.

Some of the solutions on the market that are more tailored towards work place and use cases already have the analytics built in, but also the use case built to work exactly for the purpose that you’re trying to design it for. Explore the market.

If you’re looking for advise on what to do or are trying to explore opportunities where you’re mixing different realities by all means, talk to us. We looked at new technology quite a bit. We may not know the ins and out of every single tool on the market, but we do keep a close eye on what’s developing. If you want us to design an augmented reality experience, we have done some. From treasure hunts to little quizzes that have an augmented reality component. We did a launch campaign for someone where you had to, in a very Pokemon Go style way, find different items through scanning different elements.

We have worked on a project that hasn’t seen the end of their production time. Where we wanted to, basically, created a virtual reality experience of health and safety training and equipment training in a care environment. Where you put the actual carer into the shoes of the patient. That’s quite impactful, where you have to actually sit in a sling or be transported from a bed to bath. And you learn to experience from different angles. We were playing with the ability to distort reality, based on the responses that a person with specific ailments may have. It’s the type of thing that we’d love to get more involved in. So, if you have those types of projects in mind let us know. Those are more time intensive because they do take us, to understand what you have, to quite a deep extent. But also, every part and parcel of the design is bespoke. All the graphics, all the interactions, all the physics, etc.

That wouldn’t have been the cheapest. If you’re looking at the cheaper end of the market, look at the existing tools and try to adapt them to suite your situation and look for what fits best. It’s always a question of budget. A question of skills in your team and how long you have to deploy it. Because timeframes for any virtual reality project aren’t typically longer than, let’s say an augmented reality project. You’re talking six weeks minimum to six months and nine months. If you are really looking for a experience that mimics reality, in a virtual space, you are talking multiple providers working together to make that happen. That’s when you are entering the realm of the bigger budgets, so think six figures, as opposed to, a few quid.

I hope this answers the question, “How will virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and Gamification work together?” And I hope it also demystifies the terminology around it.

If you like our podcast, by all means, share it forward on the social channel that you’re listening to it and give us a good rating. We do get ranked better on different providers of channels by new rate as well. If you have a question that you would like me to answer. By all means, send it in and we’ll discuss it in a future episode.

Thank you for listening.

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