Category Archives: Interactive training

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The VR/AR Boom Is Here: Join the Step Change

Every forward-thinking, ambitious organisation should be aiming to ride the crest of the technological wave. Yet too many are shying away from the seemingly daunting arena of virtual and augmented realities.

The reality is that not engaging with VR/AR now—just as the field starts to boom—could be an even bigger risk to your business strategy.

Join a booming market

After a long time in the making, the VR/AR market is currently at tipping point: Deloitte Global predicts that 2016 will be VR’s first billion-dollar year. Over at Goldman Sachs, they’re estimating the VR/AR market to grow to $80 billion by 2025—the same as today’s desktop PC market.

We occasionally meet innovation and digital managers who are yet to be convinced that they’re overlooking a fantastic area of opportunity for using VR/AR for training, and client and staff engagement within their organisation. But as momentum gathers, any company that hangs back is at risk of being left behind. Given the pace of change, and the speed with which some companies are moving ahead with VR/AR, clawing back the lost ground could prove challenging.

Who’s investing in VR/AR tech, and why?

The chances are, your competitors are already investing in this field, or are at least thinking about it. In the US, more than one-third of manufacturers use VR hardware and software at the moment or plan to implement it—along with AR—in the next three years.

Manufacturers and industrial businesses tend to be ahead of the game. Uses for the technology in these environments is more immediately obvious perhaps, as both VR and AR are ideal tools for product design and prototyping. Car manufacturers in particular have been big investors in the market. 

VR and AR are now becoming increasingly accessible as a result of their rising availability and falling purchase cost.

VR offers an immersive 360-degree experience within a virtual environment, with its content traditionally being delivered via a high-end computer and tethered headset, such as the Oculus Rift. Although, we’re already seeing VR take the leap into headsets powered by modern smartphones.

The origins of AR have always utilised the in-built camera of a mobile device to overlay computer-generated images onto a real world environment, often allowing the user to interact with their surroundings. Simplistic versions of AR form the basis of popular smartphone games like Pokémon Go. More advanced versions of AR are now being delivered through smart glasses and headsets such as those from DAQRI and Microsoft HoloLens, which utilise transparent visors to visualise their output display—largely useful for industrial applications.

Future development will see the best of both VR and AR merging into a new form of immersive mixed reality, often delivered through portable headset devices, and suitable for all purposes.

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Organisations of all kinds can reap huge benefits from getting involved. At PAULEY we create immersive, interactive experiences and VR-based tools for competitive advantage and competency training. Using VR to teach your employees new skills and refresh old ones has marked a step-change in the effectiveness, engagement and memorability of training. It’s especially useful for giving trainees virtual “access” to dangerous, remote or unavailable equipment, and allowing them to learn theoretical subject matter through hands-on learning.

Marketing is another hugely accessible area of growth for VR/AR. Developing 360 videos and virtual tours can showcase your business products, environments and plans to clients around the world. Plus, the recent runaway success of mobile AR game Pokemon Go proves that a wide range of consumers are keen to engage with new technologies, if they’re made accessible to them.

Other benefits for AR and VR lie in encouraging team and project collaboration. A major area for growth is in immersive, real-time video, which will virtually place people together in the same space. Companies such as 8i are driving this movement forward with their amazing “volumetric videos” which creates 3D footage of people that viewers can see from every angle. This trend could also be why Facebook are investing in VR (they acquired Oculus in 2014, for example).

Imagine if team members from around the globe could join a videoconference and interact with hologram-like versions of each other, sharing the same view of a virtual model or infographic.

How to get started in VR/AR

So how can your business harness the power of VR and AR to achieve its business goals.

Your team may not need a specific VR/AR strategy, but might choose to include it within the existing IT strategy. The import thing is that it’s being discussed in terms of your organisation’s vision and available resources.

Your budget might allow for a VR room with state-of-the art tech, or simply a few Samsung Gear VR headsets. But both ends of the scale allow everyone in your company to experience the potential of VR.

Bear in mind that the near future is likely to see mobile technologies and the growing popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) dovetail with the growth in VR and AR. Integrating the two is likely to be a central focus of your strategy.

PAULEY have been helping a range of clients start to engage with VR/AR, and we’re always happy to give a demonstration of what the technology can do for you. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with us today!

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Traditional Learning Is Going Immersive, Virtual & Augmented

Schools and other teaching environments are still biased towards making learners listen, read and write in order to take in new information. But the reality is that few of us are inspired—or able—to learn from word-heavy PowerPoint slides or the sound of a lecturer’s voice. Immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), touchscreens, and 3D content can change how we learn for the better.

There are four main types of learners: auditory, visual, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic. Most of us are a mixture of these, but we each tend to have a preferred method of learning new things.

As babies and children, we decipher the world around us by looking at it and interacting with it, so it’s no surprise that those tendencies stay with us for life. Estimates vary, but the vast majority of us are primarily visual and kinaesthetic learners.

Around 40% of people tend to be visual learners, which means that they learn by seeing and visualising mental pictures. A similar percentage of people are thought to be kinaesthetic learners, who conquer concepts by applying all their senses and learn best with hands-on approaches, and approaching problems by trial and error.

Once you understand this, it becomes obvious that immersive technologies are an incredible asset to the vast majority of learners. These immersive methods of interaction break down the barriers between the learner and the content. The popularity of smartphones and tablets is testament to the personal connection and immediacy of the interface. Touchscreens, are all intuitive and don’t require any technical knowledge for the learner to get involved.

Children now play—and learn—more through touchscreens than more traditional toys. And this is something that teachers are starting to realise, too. According to a recent TES survey, 1 in 10 teachers would most like to see VR or AR headsets enter the classroom beyond any other technology, a two-fold increase from last year.

The benefits of immersive technologies for kinaesthetic learning

It’s often hard to properly understand something you have never directly seen or experienced, and for the kinaesthetic learner it’s vital. Unfortunately, this learning style is much neglected in traditional classroom environments.

VR and AR are perfect ways in which to execute hands-on learning. Its multi-sensory experiences allow learners to develop their own personal interpretation of a concept and make connections to other ideas and concepts. These kinds of kinaesthetic activities strip down concepts to something which all learners can understand, without equations or complex and wordy descriptions.

Importantly, this approach also encourages learners to be proactive and do things for themselves—an important life skill.

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The benefits of immersive technologies for visual learning

In VR, learners are surrounded by computer-derived visuals, and in AR, they experience visual information overlaid onto the world around them. So visual learners can really benefit from this high-tech approach.

Images find their way more easily into our long-term memories, especially for primarily visual learners. When paired with a concept, visual learning helps our recall of information.

Neuroscience research also suggests that many of us can learn faster using visual images, with visuals being processed much faster than text in the brain. Plus, visual cues tend to trigger emotional responses more readily. Strong emotional reactions are a major factor influencing information retention.

Immersive technologies for all learners

Although this blog focuses on the benefits of immersive technologies for visual and kinaesthetic learners, such experiences can also be shaped to appeal to auditory and reading/writing learners as well. With VR goggles or AR smart glasses, learners can view, listen, read, and carry out activities at the same time.

The other key aspect of immersive learning is that the experiences can be made stimulating and fun. Finding ways to immerse leaners in a physical experience that represents even the most theoretical subject matter proves immersive and enjoyable, driving trainees to take charge of their own learning. Participation learning makes the process interactive, fun, and as a result, more memorable.

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The role of immersive technologies in workplace learning

For people working in physical, hands-on environments that are constantly changing—engineers and construction workers, for example—VR/AR training can be especially relevant and effective.

And we’ve seen this in action. With our award-winning immersive courses and virtual reality suite at the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton, we’ve already modernised and converted over 4,000 pages of traditional paper based courses into engaging learning experiences.

By wearing a VR headset or accessing 3D content on touchscreens, trainees are able to familiarise themselves with the workings of a train, right down to the nuts and bolts, in a safe and effective learning environment. Such experiences just wouldn’t be possible on the railway tracks or through traditional paper-based and classroom training techniques.

The high levels of interactivity required by engaging mentally and physically with a virtual environment drive accelerated learning, higher results and pass rates thanks to increased memorability. Meanwhile, consistency and quality have been enhanced.

If you’d like to find out more about how VR and other immersive technologies could transform training within your business, get in touch for a chat.

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Bridging the Rail Industry’s Skills Shortage with Innovation

There is a growing skills shortage across the UK within the various fields of engineering, science and manufacturing. Nowhere is this more evident than the rail industry. Cutting edge training technology using virtual and augmented reality can help to recruit new workers into the rail industry, get them up to speed rapidly and encourage them to remain within that organisation for the duration of their career.

The truth about the skills shortage

In NSARE’s Traction & Rolling Stock (T&RS) Skills Forecasting report 2015, issues such as an ageing workforce, low numbers of graduate workers and apprenticeships, and lack of gender diversity were flagged as major concerns for the future of this part of the rail industry.

The study identified that:

- Of the current workforce, 3% are apprentices and less than 1% are engineers under the age of 25.

- Women make up 4% of the existing workforce.

- Around 35% of workers are set to retire between 2015 and 2025.

In the T&RS sector alone, the report forecasts that 8,000 new workers are needed over the next decade. So how can the rail industry find these people, recruit them and train them effectively? At PAULEY, we’re taking on that challenge.

Engaging new employees using innovation & interactive technology

Our bespoke and award-winning immersive courses and virtual reality suite at the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) in Northampton have already modernised and converted over 4,000 pages of traditional paper based courses into engaging learning experiences.

Now, learners can physically experience the pitch and roll of vehicle dynamics, and reach inside an engine to identify individual nuts, bolts and bearings in a safe, fully digital environment. As a result, training costs and speed to competency have been reduced while consistency and quality have been enhanced. Learners now have on-demand access to training whenever they need it, on a variety of devices.

“It was essential for us to adopt this kind of innovative technology,” says Simon Rennie, General Manager at NTAR. “It provides not only the impact factor required for a flagship training organisation, but also delivers highly portable content that can be delivered consistently and at high quality at multiple locations. The approach has allowed us to invest predominantly in content (as opposed to hardware) and it has been a pleasure working with PAULEY who have provided intuitive and hugely engaging learning material.”

For each traditionally classroom-based training course that’s digitised and brought online, £10,000-£25,000 will be saved by avoiding cross-country travel, automating course content and reducing the need for depot-based use of trains and machinery.

We’re also keen to help convert people from the automotive and aerospace industries, and to find new ways of working with the Armed Forces to encourage highly qualified personnel leaving the military to consider—and suitably train for—a career in rail.

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 Only the best for new recruits

The poaching of staff is an enduring issue, and proof that rail organisations need to stay ahead of the game. Cutting-edge training technology will help keep your staff engaged and committed to your organisation. Plus, being seen as innovative and forward thinking by outsiders will make any organisation more desirable to young people planning to enter the industry.

And once those new recruits are captured, accelerating their induction (especially for apprentices and new entrants to the rail industry) is an easy way to save costs and effectively plug the skills gap.

New entrant effectiveness can take over 18 months, but a mix of online and hands-on training can transform the way recruits are engaged from the very first moment they enter the rail industry. A gamified approach makes learning fun and, as a result, more memorable. Times are changing, and endless hours in the classroom wading through folders of printed manuals are no longer an effective way to motivate or teach tech-savvy trainees from the “gaming generation”.

For rail organisations investing in new training technology, value-for-money is paramount. But at the same time, the quality of learning experience is vital to the success of the project.

A gamified approach to even the most theoretical subject matter will make any experience immersive, enjoyable, memorable, and drive trainees to take charge of their own learning.

If this is something your organisation is considering, get in touch for a chat or to arrange to see a demonstration of what we can do. You can also check out our brand new AR & VR Resource Centre for the latest applications related to STEM subjects. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Virtual Reality: A Leap Forward in Aerospace and Defence Training

The Global Innovation Index has just ranked the UK as the second most innovative country in the world. But are we in danger of losing our edge?

Engineering skills across a number of industries are being lost as the workforce ages and too few trainees are recruited. Closing this skills gap as soon as possible is clearly vital. And cutting edge technology—such as virtual and augmented reality—could play a large part in achieving this.

The defence engineering skills gap

The UK’s aerospace engineering and manufacturing businesses make up nearly a fifth of the industry globally, but a number of recent reports have drawn attention to the shortfall in critical engineering skills within the aerospace and defence sector.

But with an estimated shortfall of 55,000 engineers, this skills gap in systems engineering is worrying for the future of the industry. The workforce is ageing and a vast number of talented, new recruits are desperately needed.

What’s causing the problem? Many have blamed the decreasing numbers of students studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), which is resulting in a shrinking pool of potential candidates.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Skills and Demand in Industry 2014 annual report shows around a third of employers blaming a lack of practical experience and technical expertise in school leavers.

The reports states that 59% of aerospace engineering employers are seriously understaffed and were often critical of their new recruits. Almost half of those employers surveyed bemoaned the fact that skill levels simply didn’t meet reasonable expectations

More training required

It’s clear that more suitable training is required that will allow new recruits to “hit the ground running”. This is a realisation that the Government seems to be attempting to tackle with its Degree Apprenticeships.

The recently announced Defence Systems Engineering Masters Level apprenticeship (part of the BIS Trailblazer Apprenticeships programme) is a three to five year programme of blended vocational training and traditional academic study. It’s designed to create rounded professional systems engineers.

The Defence Growth Partnership skills group has developed the aerospace and defence training programme, led by Allan Cook, chairman of Atkins, a team of defence employers and the Ministry of Defence.

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Virtual reality for eLearning is starting to take off, with increasing demand emerging from training and development organisations. There are 16 National Skills Academies in the UK, which work within their sectors to provide quality-assured training and share best practice.

We’ve recently finished converting a wide range of slide- and paper-based learning materials into eTraining solutions for the brand new £7 million National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR)—a joint venture between the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE), Siemens and the UK Government.

Some of our most immersive courses place trainees into amazingly accurate virtual environments using the Oculus Rift VR headset, in what’s a first for the rail industry.

Virtual reality—and increasingly augmented reality—can bridge the gap perfectly between vocational “hands-on” training and academic learning. VR programs mean that students and new recruits can learn best practice in handling complex machinery from an easily managed and safety critical classroom setting.

The high levels of interactivity required by engaging mentally and physically with a virtual environment drive accelerated learning, higher results and pass rates thanks to increased memorability. Plus, complex, expensive and difficult-to-access systems don’t have to be made available to trainees until further down the line.

Importantly, advanced simulations for aerospace and defence training can be part of the recruitment and onboarding process. Incorporating virtual reality not only allows trainees to accumulate important knowledge quickly and safely, but also creates excitement and raises engagement in technical topics.

Engineering is a fulfilling and fascinating career, but sometimes it remains hard to inspire young people to get involved. The opportunities for immersive eLearning and gamification can inspire the Minecraft generation to become the engineers of tomorrow… keeping UK plc. at the forefront of the aerospace and defence industry.

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The Benefits of Turning Paper-Based Courses into Interactive Digital Content

eTraining, otherwise known as eLearning, is a booming industry. Still not on board? You might be surprised to hear that you don’t need huge resources at your disposal in order to play catch up…

The worldwide market for eLearning is estimated to have grown from $35.6 billion in 2011, to $56.2 billion in 2014, and is forecast to double by 2015. From distance learning university courses to MOOCs, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and workplace training tools, the landscape is continually changing.

The corporate world is still lagging behind, despite the fact that companies who use e-learning tools could potentially boost their productivity by as much as 50%, according to an IBM report.

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96% of employers say that on-going learning has a positive impact on job performance, and 87% say that it also affects compensation and salary (Lifelong Education and Labor Market Needs, An EvoLLLution Research Report, 2012).

One big trend is the change is the technology we’re using to access eLearning. Even in the workplace, we’re rapidly switching off desktop computers and moving to mobile devices. According to IDC, the number of PCs will drop down to 13% in 2017. Meanwhile, tablets will increase from 11.8% in 2013 to 16.5% by 2017, and smartphones will increase from 59.5% to 70.5%.

And this isn’t just in our personal lives. In the workplace, there’s a gradual but clear shift towards Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – whereby individuals take their own mobile tech into work.

Why eTraining is an unmissable opportunity

Ask any company why they haven’t yet invested in eTraining, and they’ll tell you that they haven’t got the budget. Sadly, they’re missing out on the opportunity to save money in the long-term.

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As surprising as it sounds, investing in eTraining is highly effective in reducing long-term training costs for companies – especially for those with a geographically widely distributed workforce.

Effective digital training removes the need for employees to give up chunks of their working day and travel long distances in order to stay up-to-date.

Other benefits include:

  • Interactive solutions result in reduced training time and lower costs
  • Health and safety eTraining available 24/7 results in a safer and more productive workplace
  • Clear investment in training makes staff feel more valued
  • Any-time, any-place access and gamification encourages employee responsibility for self-improvement
  • Immediately updatable content prevents you being out-thought by competitors
  • Employee development can be easily tracked and analysed in real time
  • Content is consistent and policies are easily updateable
  • Key messages become more memorable, thanks to the addition of interactivity
  • Employees and contractors can prepare for a site visit off site and ahead of time
  • In-house brand identity is strengthened
  • Lower paper use and reduced travel cuts your company’s carbon footprint

The good news: you don’t have to start from scratch

The idea of transitioning to eTraining may initially seem insurmountable. But we specialise in taking existing paper-based resources or presentations and converting them into interactive, multi-platform eLearning solutions.

We’ve always believed in inspiration through education. Our background in education and digital multimedia means we’re perfectly placed to lead this evolving sector.

Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation today! Get in touch by calling 01908 522532 or email info@pauley.co.uk.

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Gamification: 4 Ways to Turn Work into a Game

  • Gamification is the process of applying gaming tactics to everyday systems to increase engagement
  • It increases the strength of your brand with customers and clients
  • It boosts employee skills and satisfaction

Even if the term ‘gamification’ is a buzzword of the moment, the process is far more than a hot trend. The concept — redesigning routines, tasks and interactions to be more game-like – will not be going away any time soon.

Executed well, gamification encourages interactivity, engagement and improves productivity as well as the memorability of anything from product demonstrations to training tools, recruitment, and social media marketing. It can change behaviours, develop skills and enable innovation.

1. Viral and word-of-mouth marketing

There is a sector in which creativity can make the smallest budget go a long way. The right idea can enable you to reach a much wider audience than normal and work as a tool to actively engage with you and your business. The daily Google Doodle is a great example of how retro graphics and straightforward game-play can be a hard-to-beat engagement tool.

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2. E-learning for your workforce

A report published at the start of 2013 by Gartner suggested that 70% of large global companies will have at least one gamified application on their learning management system by 2014. At PAULEY, we’d like to see more companies moving away from paper-based training tools for competency management to a digital interactive experience that is more portable, more incentivising and memorable, more traceable, and more cost effective over the long term. Gamifying training can also provide real-time feedback for skills-based training.

3. Building online communities

If you are trying to build up the strength and community of an online forum for customers and clients, or even employees, the right kind of gamification can promote participation by offering rewards and improving the status of those taking part. A common tool involves using labels and badges to offer kudos to users for reaching specific goals, depending on whether you want them to generate discussion, respond to votes or offer opinion.

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4. Product demonstrations and marketing

We love helping our clients to create product sales tools with the wow factor. And gamification can be integrated into this kind of marketing, too. Game mechanics offer added value for existing customers and capture the attention of new ones. Being creative is vital: how could you encourage people to interact with and explore your product in new ways? Even the band Linkin Park gamified the release of their latest album, creating a Facebook game with prizes which included limited-edition tracks and artwork.

Incorporating game dynamics and mechanics will drive desired behaviours, whatever it is you want your customers, clients or employees to do. To get the outcomes you want, we always consider the following:

  • Intuitive, balanced design – simplicity is key, acting to directly connect activity with reward. The gamified product should work seamlessly and clearly on all the devices you want it to, from iPads to smartphones and PCs.
  • Linked to natural behaviours – gamification should be a natural extension of typical routines and behaviours to keep users engaged, blending collaboration, reward, variety and surprise.
  • Earn valuable data – ensure that the process generates data which meets your business objectives and gets you what you want. It should also offer you the ability to anticipate improvements and resolve problems.

At PAULEY, we can help you to create meaningful, interactive tools for your business. Get in touch and we’d be happy to chat.

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PAULEY Showcases 3D E-Learning at Space Situational Awareness Conference

  • PAULEY sponsors first Space Situational Awareness Conference
  • Collective efforts to ‘clean up’ Low Earth Orbits is essential
  • Virtual 3D environments could help tackle the problem

PAULEY were delighted to sponsor the inaugural Space Situational Awareness Conference 2013. 

We were invited to showcase our virtual reality visualisation of space using our Oculus Rift developer kit. The 80 international delegates, from research laboratories to government departments and private companies, were queuing up at our stand throughout the two days to take the immersive trip into space.

We garnered some great feedback over the two days of the conference. But why might accurate visualisation of space be such an important asset in the years to come? And how could we help?

Situational space awareness gains urgency

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As Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity wins plaudits for its portrayal of astronauts fighting for survival after a devastating mid-space collision, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the complex machinery orbiting beyond our atmosphere.

The central plot of the film – in which debris from a destroyed satellite sweeps catastrophically around Earth – isn’t that preposterous. While the movie may portray spacecraft to be much closer than they are in reality, we are launching new objects into orbit all the time.

And collisions do happen. In 2009, the satellite Iridium 33 collided with an out-of-service Russian satellite, creating thousands of pieces of debris. While most of that debris is now thought to have burnt up in the atmosphere, the ISS had to perform an avoidance manoeuvre two years after the event.

“Situational space awareness can no longer afford to be ignored,” says our founder, Phil Pauley. “It’s essential that R&D, industry and military organisations continue to join forces.”

Out of sight, out of mind?

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In this modern, interconnected world, so much of what we do depends upon space satellites, from communications to weather forecasting, navigation and defence. There are around 1,000 active satellites in orbit today, with a net worth of €100 billion. They must be protected.

But there are threats to this status quo, in the form of naturally occurring space weather (predominantly solar flares and cosmic rays), asteroids and comets, and man-made space debris.

The debris issue is a growing problem. Causing most problems in low Earth orbits, debris is found where the majority of satellites used for observations, communications and military surveillance operate.

20,000 items of ‘space junk’ larger than a mobile phone are being tracked, and half a million smaller fragments are circling our planet. Travelling at speeds of 5 miles a second, they can do a lot more harm than you might think.

Just because we can’t see space debris from Earth, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tools such as ours could help accurately visualise the extent of the situation, make it real, and create ways to address the problem and help find solutions.

This month’s conference was recognition of the fact that something must be done. Despite political, military and international boundaries, it seems that those invested in space must start working together to take collective responsibility for debris.

Moving towards collective responsibility

Suggested approaches include launching ‘clean-up’ missions to collect large, disused and hazardous objects. Rockets armed with harpoons, robotic arms or nets could collect space junk and then either launch it out into a less crowded orbit or swing it back into the Earth’s atmosphere to burn up.

How PAULEY could help

Screenshot_2013-11-15-09-14-24The UK and international space industry is growing rapidly, and our reliance on the information gathered and distributed by spacecrafts and satellites is booming. There are plenty of challenges and opportunities ahead.

Much discussion at the conference centred on finding ways of incentivising a consistent process of cleaning up. Do we look at implementing a kind of global space traffic control, perhaps, using our technology to allow us to see what’s happening remotely?

Industry, government and business, some of whom we met at the SSA 2013 Conference, are keen to find new ways of training those involved in the industry, to visualise crafts in space, and to begin astronaut preparation in immersive e-learning environments on Earth.

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Should Next-Generation Education Use Oculus Rift?

“This technology is going to revolutionize the way we live, learn, work, and play.”
– Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR

It might be time to move virtual reality out of that ‘cool things that never came to fruition’ box. The Oculus Rift is coming to town, and it’s bringing with it not only a revolutionary approach to gaming, but applications that stretch into education and e-training.

Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey certainly views his device in a broader context: “Virtual reality provides more freedom for content creators than any other form, and allows us to simulate other art forms like movies, books, or traditional games. In that sense, it is the ultimate medium.”

Here’s four ways in which we think VR could become the ultimate educational tool.

1. Escaping the classroom
Research has shown that game-based learning exploits the natural competitive instinct in order to motivate, encourage and reward productive behaviour in the classroom. So surely VR could make this an even more powerful learning experience?

Naysayers insist that few educational games based on standard computers have made it into schools. Some suggest that too many adults associate video games with the propagation of violence, sleepless nights and an unhealthy obsession with artificial worlds and avatars.

But World of Warcraft has been successfully translated to the classroom, ‘gamifying’ the school day to increase productivity and pupil satisfaction. Similarly, a modification to online simulation game Minecraft is being used in over 1,000 schools to create hypothetical scenarios and reconstruct history.

The opportunities are boundless: PublicVR, for example, have created a virtual forest in which students can record measurements and make observations on tree species, canopy closure and tree biomass. It’s just one excellent example of VR-based experiential learning.

2. Learning from a distance
Imagine being able to join in with a lecture from one of the world’s top scientists from thousands of miles away. You’d be wearing a pair of goggles and have headphones in your ears and you’d only see each other as avatars. But would it be as engaging as being there in person?

Research suggests so. This type of digital teacher-student interaction could be even more valuable than the real thing by utilising ‘augmented gaze’. This involves digitally manipulating the avatar of the presenter to make constant direct eye contact with every participant separately.

Behavioural studies show that this simple strategy increases attention, naturally regulates conversation, and heightens physiological responses. The presenter or teacher becomes more influential and more persuasive as a result. We read this as better education for all.

3. Skills-based training
Practise makes perfect, but it’s not always practical. At PAULEY, we’ve created interactive and cost-saving e-training tools for companies who can’t always access the ‘real thing’, whether it’s checking the safety of train engines or training police officers to use new hardware.

VR really comes into its own in this arena, and hardware such as the Oculus Rift provides the closest thing to reality we can currently achieve in digital terms.

It’s no surprise that gory operation game Surgeon Simulator 2013 has already been adapted for Oculus Rift. Could something similar be used to train surgeons and health care professionals in complex surgical procedures?

4. Meditation & reassurance
Primary school teacher Mathieu Marunczyn has been using the Oculus Rift to help manage students with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).

He’s found software such as BlueMarble has a remarkable ability to calm down students – something he’s dubbed ‘digital meditation’: “The student was immediately engaged and was calmly yet actively exploring the world he became immersed in. He was no longer physically ‘acting-out’ and I noticed that his whole body became more relaxed.”

The technology could also be used to help children and adults with learning difficulties, or disorders such as those on the autism spectrum, to practice social exchanges and real-life situations in safe, controlled environments. Access to a fine-tuned 3D environment would allow people to repeat certain processes – perhaps the recognising of emotional cues, or the correct way to interact with a sales assistant – until appropriate behaviours are achieved.

Here at PAULEY, we think that experiential learning through VR and digital technologies is justifiably on the up. The benefits are numerous for streamlining efficiencies across multiple sectors. Why shouldn’t we imagine a not-too-distant future in which a Ray Mears-esque avatar leads students on virtual school trips through jungles and across mountains?

Let us know what you think.

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