Category Archives: Virtual learning

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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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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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Blending Reality in Classrooms for the Benefit of All

Long gone are the days of rote learning around the blackboard with the teacher holding a half-broken piece of chalk. Classrooms have become more hi-tech, with interactive whiteboards now a standard centrepiece for group learning, and increasing numbers of teachers eager to experiment with the latest touchscreens and mobile devices. Could virtual reality (VR) be the next big thing?

VR training has already been widely adopted by commercial companies, games developers and the military. Even in the medical field, more devices and apps are catering to improving the skills of doctors and surgeons using both virtual and mixed reality.

Interest in VR is growing exponentially into other sectors, such as education, because of the rapid technological advances in the hardware (see this recent blog for our review of the field). Portable headsets are now making immersive experiences possible in everyday settings.

The advantages of VR in education

Researchers in the field have already seen the benefits of VR in schools.  It seems, when used correctly, that this approach can strengthen the overall learning experience.

It’s often stated that the typical person can remember 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see and up to 90% of what we do or experience. That gives some clue to the revolutionary effectiveness of VR—what we call active participation learning.

Advantages include:

  • Simplifying learning by more direct communication of concepts and less symbolism, reducing the cognitive load when students are learning.
  • Enabling the student to have a completely personal learning experience.
  • Increasing attention span as a result of doing something enjoyable and motivating.
  • Providing the ability to see and experience things/places that couldn’t otherwise be accessed.
  • Encouraging group activity and interaction—and even global link-ups.
  • Offering students a boost to their digital literacy and computing skills.
  • Boosting a teacher’s ability to be creative with content in a brand new medium.
  • Improving opportunities for students who struggle to make sense of traditional forms of communication, e.g. children with dyslexia.

VR for teaching science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

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There are huge opportunities for VR across the breadth of education but STEM subjects may be set to benefit the most from immersing students in content.

The success of Minecraft goes some way towards demonstrating this. This videogame—which involves creating structures inside 3D environments—made the leap into schools as educators realised its potential. Minecraft has been successful in improving visual-spatial skills and collaboration between students as they build scale models and “walk through” the structures they have created.

VR takes that one step further by immersing students in a virtual world. In a VR environment, students can walk around mathematical graphs and 3D surfaces, explore examples of complex engineering up close, and experiment in a laboratory without fear of doing anything dangerous or costly. It is possible to take a tour through the human body, from the perspective of a blood cell or molecule.

The World of Comenius project, for example, is using Oculus Rift headsets and Leap Motion controllers to deliver educational content. Still in development, the final program may include experience such as playing around with atoms at the quantum level, meeting people from history and exploring their world, or swimming around inside a cell.

The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Initiative has created a VR experience in which students can snorkel down the Conasauga River to explore its biodiversity and the issues of pollution and conservation.

Immersive 360-degree videos are proliferating on Facebook and YouTube, giving viewers a sense of depth in every direction. New consumer gadgets such as Samsung’s Gear 360 camera will make creating these types of videos straightforward for anyone, too.

Short documentaries are already being made specifically for viewing in VR, which temporarily transport the viewer into complex and difficult situations such as civil unrest in Hong Kong and the Ebola epidemic.

A new kind of learning experience

Using VR in education may actually alter the way in which we learn as it blurs and redefines the boundaries of formal education. Experiences can start to reach far beyond the classroom.

VR is a way to not only consume content but also to create content as part of the learning experience. Students can get involved with programming, problem solving and exploration of this new technology.

New VR learning platforms will offer teachers and students the ability to create avatars and create multi-player sessions to achieve a previously unattainable level of socialisation and outreach.

VR technologies such as 8i will allow 3D videos of teachers to be seen in VR—allowing students not only to see and listen to them, but also to walk around them and feel that they are sharing the same room. This remote, emotional connection would be ideal for tutoring at a distance, virtual classrooms and eventually live streaming conversations.

In the future, as augmented reality (AR) becomes accessible the opportunities are even more exciting, because students could visualise holographic-style media overlaid onto their real world surroundings.

Making VR a reality

It’s true that the vast majority of VR and AR technologies already on the market—or soon to be released—are relatively expensive pieces of kit, mainly targeting developers. Yet, as uptake increases, prices are set to become more affordable.

Low-cost routes into VR are available through simpler devices such as Google Cardboard that can be purchased for around £10 and make use of normal smartphones. Google’s Expeditions initiative is aiming to bring “virtual field trips” to every classroom.

At PAULEY, we’re passionate about integrating new forms of virtual, augmented and mixed reality into education to give pioneering educators an exciting opportunity to accelerate learning. With VR, here are truly no boundaries to where we can go and what we can learn.

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PAULEY Takes Gold For Innovation at Learning Awards 2016

At PAULEY, we’re delighted to have won the highly coveted gold award for Innovation in Learning along with the National Training Academy for Rail (NTAR) at the prestigious Learning Awards 2016 run by the Learning and Performance Institute.

The Learning Awards—held on February 4th at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane—celebrated and honoured the best of the best in the learning and development industry. Recognised as the L&D sector’s premier awards ceremony, this year saw a record 400 entries from all over the world. Now in their 20th year, the Awards are judged by an independent panel of industry experts looking for exceptional vision and depth in providing learning solutions with a proven business impact.

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Beating Refined Data Solutions, Filtered, Ernst & Young LLP, Johnson & Johnson and What Goes Around to the top spot, our award-winning solution combines touch screen technology, CAD and Oculus Rift virtual reality.

In the official programme, we were praised for making “an impressive contribution to the delivery of learning”. The judges commended our ability to combine different technologies to make “cutting-edge, engaging and realistic learning”. They also praised how our solution successfully integrates and accelerates learning in the workplace and is very scalable due to the use of affordable equipment, available to everyone.

We created powerful VR interactive online courses from over 4,000 documents to create a unique, game-changing learning experience with the aim of engaging and inspiring the next generation of rail industry engineers and apprentices being trained by NTAR.

We reformatted existing paper-based and PowerPoint slide course materials to NTAR branding and made them suitable for use on 90-inch touchscreens, desktop PCs, laptops and mobile devices such as tablets. Some courses create VR environments using Oculus Rift hardware—a first for the rail industry—meaning that trains can stay on the rails where they are most needed.

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Simon Rennie, NTAR’s General Manager, had previously said that our innovations “demonstrated intuition and innovation in developing and delivering an interactive and immersive training experience, which adds greatly to how NTAR will bring alive its training.”

After winning the award, he added: “It was essential for us to adopt this kind of innovative technology—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.”

We believe that winning this award demonstrates that we are the industry’s front-runner for transforming paper-based content and dull eLearning into a highly immersive learning experience that is far superior to classroom learning and that delivers tangible business results.

Our win goes to show that 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR. We expect to see many more learning providers beginning to experiment with this technology as it becomes increasingly accessible.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can help you innovate your learning, get in touch for a chat today!

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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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Digital Trends to Watch in 2014

1. Gamified learning

We’ve written a lot about gamification this past year as a way of increasing engagement within digital applications. Gartner predict that more than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies are expected to have deployed at least one gamified application by the end of 2014.

More sophisticated devices, such as Oculus Rift, will start to bring immersive experiences into more everyday use, making for memorable learning.

2. Wearable tech

It all kicked off in 2013 with wearable tech, with devices appearing from all over, designed for all kinds of purposes. Hopefully 2014 will be the year we’ll start to see a cluster of polished products come into mainstream use. It’s been speculated that Google Glass is set for public release later in 2014, although no announcement has yet been made.

The Pebble smartwatch (funded by Kickstarter, see below) and the array of fitness wearables, such as Jawbone, look set to continue doing well next year. Wearing such technology is a strong statement, and these digital trends are going to have to look a lot better if they are to be a hit on the mass market.

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3. Investment

Crowd funding hit the big time in 2013 – a trend that shows no sign of easing off. Kickstarter, Crowdtilt, Seedrs and the like have been winning the cash of keen individuals and angel investors in equal measure. Meanwhile, online crowd sourcing idea generation sites such as Marblar may see their first joint effort reach market.

4. Online content

It seems fairly clear that online content will get even more interactive in 2014 as demand magnifies. The generation and viewing of online video looks set to ramp up a gear, with help from Twitter’s Vine, Facebook’s Instagram, and Snapchat’s video messages. Making and watching videos online – especially bite-sized ones – is faster and easier than ever. And video could become interactive too as more content is tagged and can be commented upon or added to.

There will be a shift in how we’re viewing it too, as more and more people access the internet using ever more powerful tablets and smartphones. Mobile access currently accounts for one in five web visits — by the end of 2014 it will exceed one in four — a big shift in digital trends.

5. Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology research will continue at a marked pace throughout 2014 and beyond. This vast and rapidly expanding field of research may see the 2D ‘wonder material’ graphene enter commercial electronics.

Samsung and Apple have dropped hints that this one-atom-thick sheet of carbon that is not only the strongest material ever discovered, but can also carry currents with a density one million times that of copper could be coming to a touchscreen near you soon. Replacing the conventional indium-tin-oxide electrode, graphene could initiate the dawn of bendy, interactive touch screens we have all been imagining for so long.

6. Autonomous vehicles

In 2014, Volvo is set to lead the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project. 100 self-driving Volvo cars will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg, endorsed by the Swedish government.

Although just a trial, this project will confront the reality of whether an autonomous vehicle can cope in real traffic situations, and interact with other drivers. The project also aims to find out how confident passengers feel in such as vehicle, and to analyse whether autonomous vehicles could improve traffic efficiency and road safety.

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7. Space

It’s going to be a big year for gathering space data. In July, OCO-2 will replace the defunct Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) in an effort to map our planet’s carbon sinks and sources – vital in order to gain a better understanding of climate change. In the spring, ESA’s Sentinel will study sea ice in the Arctic and map land surfaces, including forests, water and soil.

In November, ESA announced that completely free access to Earth observation data gathered by Copernicus – Europe’s Earth observation system – will soon come into effect. This is likely to stimulate environmental services, space manufacturing, and provide useful information for many business sectors including transport, insurance and agriculture, as well as disaster management.

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8. Digital currency

Online currencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Mastercoin and Bitbar are far from new, but they are just starting to become a concept most people have at least heard of. But given the volatility of digital currency, the question is can it ever become seriously viable, and is any of it here to stay?

If merchants begin to adopt it more widely and more consumers use it, the more valuable it will become. It’s still very much up in the air whether or not 2014 will be a turning point for digital currencies, so stay tuned.

9. Publishing

Experimentation is going to continue to dominate the digital publishing and ebook market as publishers try to figure out how they can make money in the face of plummeting ebook prices. Increased data insights are surely going to be part of this; data about book sales, how readers read books, the readers themselves and much more. Let’s hope all that still allows room for creativity.

Tying digital publishing up with wider digital marketing strategies will be vital to gaining customers and targeting the huge range of ebooks at the right audience.

10. Social media marketing

There’s a lot of talk about users moving away from public sites and forums to embrace more private online communities. So as advertorial really ramps up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, companies could have a trickier year connecting to their customer base and fans. Authenticity could be a big sticking point for 2014, making high quality online content more valuable than ever… if you can prove it as such.

Online branding is going to be key to building reputation and creating ‘the story’ behind the business. Building genuine relationships with fans and customers might be the way forward.

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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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