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Digital Training Delivered Digitally!

According to Network Rail, the mid-2030s will see an extra one billion journeys made on the railway. How can digital training and cutting-edge immersive technologies help the rail industry keep on track?

The Digital Railway programme touches nearly all aspects of the railway, and at PAULEY, we know that the railway’s key focus must be on its people. Changes to the way the workforce go about their daily jobs needs careful consideration and planning, and it’s essential that people must be trained effectively and efficiently, as and when they need it.

Towards a Digital Railway Academy?

In the rail sector and in every other industry, there is a pressing need for a greater volume of staff with higher-level skills. Upskilling the rail workforce is both essential and urgent. Hence, the idea of a Digital Railway Academy is one that the industry is getting serious about. The key to success? The method of delivering digital training, not the location. Forget shiny new buildings. What’s needed is a fully ‘virtual’ academy using a hub and spoke model, utilising existing facilities (Signals, Control Systems, Traction & Rolling Stock etc), with money invested in great kit (computers, mixed reality, other software) and even more importantly, great teachers. This approach is being pioneered at the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR), using our bespoke digital learning technologies.

The Digital Railway programme touches almost every job within the industry, and the premise of a Digital Rail Academy is that the digital training can be developed and deployed centrally, using common and standardised materials, delivered at a time and a location that suits the learner. Training would be available online, when and where learners need it. The potential is vast. Why stop at technical and engineering subject areas?

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The benefits of training through immersive technologies

Conventional classroom-based learning is best-suited to only a small percentage of people, and evidence shows that learning by rote is not an effective way to ingrain new knowledge. Immersive learning is an excellent way for the rail industry to meet demand.

A recent Harvard Business Review reported that immersive technologies and mixed reality will “reshape the way employees work and make them more productive by enabling them to work across physical and digital boundaries and to interact with digital content in new ways.” Their survey found that more than two-thirds (68%) of respondents believe mixed reality is important to achieving their companies’ strategic goals in the next 18 months, with training and educating employees topping of the list of uses.

Training with immersive technologies:

  • Utilises interactivity to boost engagement and consolidate learning.
  • Encourages a personalised, more relevant experience for each learner and puts users in control of their training to increase levels of participation.
  • Merges digital and physical environments and tools for a more fulfilling learning experience.
  • Puts information into context and make data easily accessible and transferrable.
  • Offers ways to train workers for hard to reach, dangerous or costly real-life situations.
  • Drive a knock-on increase in digital skills by learning with digital and cutting-edge technologies.

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Putting people first

Upskilling rail workers now could also avoid implementing automation – an expensive endeavour and a growing fear for employees. Younger workers are more concerned about automation than any other group, with just under half of workers aged between 16 and 35 fearing for their jobs in the next 10 years. Anxieties about automation are heavily focused in London, where 46% of workers worry about robots – more than anywhere else in the UK.

An article in the Independent on 10th April 2018 stated: “UK employers are failing to prepare their staff for the impact automation will have in the workplace. A third of workers feel that their job will be automated within the next decade, while one in 10 fear they will lose their jobs to automation within two years, according to payroll firm ADP. Half of those who feel they are at risk because of automation say their employer has yet to reskill them.”

“Automation may seem like an issue for future generations, but our findings show that machines could replace thousands of employees in as few as five years,” says Jeff Phipps, managing director at ADP UK. “But by starting to upskill and retrain workers now, employers can ensure they and their employees are as ready as possible to work side-by-side with the machines.”

Digital signalling follows suit

Digitisation is also soaring in importance beyond the sphere of learning and training. It’s widely accepted that as a nation, we will never be able to build enough tracks and platforms to meet the growing capacity challenge in the traditional way. Although the 10% increase in train services over the next two years will help – by 2021 there will be 6,400 new train services across the country – digitisation is vital.

The Digital Railway programme is investing in digital signalling alongside traditional upgrades. This will allow more trains to run, enhance safety, and improve performance and reliability. In addition, new digital technology will enhance safety through automatic train protection (emergency brakes) and better traffic management on selected routes.

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Training digitally

PAULEY has long since recognised the need to do two key things:

  • train people in digital technology
  • train them in a digital way.

Whether using hardware or software, we can help the rail industry become world leading in the way we educate and train our workforce, using digital methods that stimulate and involve.

Get in touch today to arrange a free demonstration and consultation!

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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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E-learning Gets Friendly – Incentivising with Interactivity

  • Interactivity boosts engagement & consolidates learning
  • Tailor e-learning to focus on desired outcomes
  • Place interactivity appropriately for maximum impact

Interactivity. It’s a word that we’re supposed to immediately associate with futuristic endeavours, positivity and fun. At PAULEY, we truly believe in the value of making e-learning as interactive as possible. But what does the word ‘interactivity’ really mean? And why should your company make use of it?

Chances are, your workplace currently implements some kind of e-learning – three-quarters of all businesses are said to do so. And so they should. Once created, it’s a manageable, sustainable and low-cost way to boost skills and deliver business-specific training.

But we think that e-learning can – and should – offer much more than a series of computerised tick boxes on workplace health and safety: an exercise which will have bored most of us to tears at some point, and what most commonly comes to mind when we talk of e-learning. But include interactivity and the experience can be so much more.

We love interactivity

By taking a linear, passive presentation of information – often paper-based policies – and converting it into something more interactive, engagement shoots up. Interactive e-learning:

  • Encourages a personalised, more relevant experience for the user
  • Leads to increased focus on the content by making users stop and think
  • Puts users in control of their training, increasing levels of participation
  • Does not require the presence of a trainer and is available 24/7
  • Records responses to ensure that concepts have been understood
  • Gathers user feedback as a catalyst for improving your e-learning offer

Interactions can be as simple as filling in text fields, or as complex as responsive animations, 3D simulations, and scenario-based branching logic, which lead the user into a journey dependent upon their responses.

How to do interactivity…

Most importantly, you need to look at what kind of interaction you want to get from your users. Would it be most beneficial for them to reflect on the content, react to it, or to make decisions?

Depending on the purpose of the e-learning, interactivity can be vital: for testing competencies and monitoring performance – such as health and safety or engineering knowledge – gathering responses is often a legal requirement.

Motivation – above and beyond the user ‘having’ to complete the e-learning module – is another important factor to get right. Our last blog, for example, looked at how ‘gamification’ can be used to drive motivation and enhance learning.

Lastly, always remember there’s a fine line between software that’s simple enough to be useful and that which is complex enough to be relevant.

And how not to do it

A common misconception is that interactivity in e-learning tools has to be an elaborate, high-tech add-on. But it’s the quality of the experience that counts, not the flash-bang-whizz of some shiny, new-age kit or sophisticated visuals. It is creativity and originality of ideas that are most important.

Always keep the desired outcome in mind. It’s important to choose a platform at the start of your e-learning project. Whether it’s delivered on smartphones, tablets, computers or all three, don’t assume that software designed for a laptop will necessarily work on an iPad.

And only use interactivity when appropriate. Too many requests for interaction – especially when the user feels it to be unnecessary – may actually become distracting.

Find out more

It has been suggested that just 25% interactive learning time as part of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) can change the overall focus from passive teaching to active learning. Interactive e-learning is proven to increase efficiency, engage and motivate staff, and from a budget perspective, offers a fast and measurable return on investment.

Interested in interactive e-learning for your business? Get in touch and we’d be happy to chat.

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A Future of Endless Interactive Training and Virtual Learning Opportunities

Advances in computer graphics and technology have already offered us opportunities to enhance training through the use of virtual environments, 3D product modelling, touch screen, and mobile devices. But there is much more to come as manufacturers continue to innovate and create even more engaging opportunities for interactive training and virtual learning experiences.

Unfortunately, many training tools and content that exist today, are still static, unintuitive, overwhelming, and disconnected from the real world. They don’t relay information as an instructor would in a live training session. Live sessions themselves however, can be expensive, limited in reach, and hard to schedule. Virtual  environments can be used to replicate real scenarios in a digital environment and facilitate interactive and virtual training from practically anywhere without the need for a live instructor. This facility currently empowers companies to accelerate user learning, reduce training costs and decrease expensive live training by being Visual, Immersive and Scalable. Training can be tailored to individuals or groups and is accessible 24/7.

Instructional information can be displayed as interactive content that mirrors the real world in both ‘form’ and ‘function’. Simply put, this means it looks like the real thing, and acts like it. Particularly useful for technically challenging training and system operations and maintenance, interactive training can transform the learning experience and offer flexible options where it is difficult to get the individual to the real life equipment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to align tutors and end users with physical equipment.

Key benefits to using a fully interactive solution, include:

  • Learn-by-doing
    Unlike static text or images, 3D interactivity adds unprecedented depth to training and technical publications by turning passive observers into active, hands-on participants.
  • Fault-based Scenario Training
    3D interactive training available can create true-to-life immersive scenarios to troubleshoot faults and tasks as they would occur in the real world.
  • Lower Training Costs
    Reduce the travel costs, facility expense, and instructor fees associated with live training for operating & maintaining equipment. No need to print paper-based materials or ship equipment to and from each location.
  • Train Anytime, Anywhere & Reduce Operational Risk
    Train large, distributed workforces to perform complex tasks with no risk to staff or equipment, on WEB, PC, MOBILE & TABLETS.
  • Crawl-Walk-Run
    Multiple modes of instruction to Explore, Study, Practice and Evaluate.
  • Easy Deployment
    Content modules are designed and developed to promote reuse of 3D content across the training curriculum. Critical updates are pushed out to the field immediately.
  • Competency Management
    Digital reports can be generated as a result of tracking when an individual has read/viewed training material, making it easier for management teams and tutors to keep a record of what training has been completed and when.

Interactive virtual training is currently deployed in many different industries, but is still really in its infancy. There are industries where interactive training can be extremely effective. In manufacturing, transport and logistics and engineering, for example, Simulation and Interactive 3D Visualisation can be used to train staff in how to maintain and operate machinery using interactive tools and the application of that training to the live environment can be completed with relative ease. Virtual training is also very useful for re-training or ongoing assessment, so even if an individual has been trained in a real-time environment in the first instance, there training updates can be conducted through a virtual interface, saving on ongoing training costs. Interactive training courses can help staff deliver effective after sales service too.

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

3D graphics and virtual environments can also be used in the retail industry, online, instore or even on touch screens within window displays. Touch screens are also used to capture visitor data (eg, brochure requests etc) and for way finding around shopping centres and large stores. The medical industry are also using technical animation as a sales tool to demonstrate products and train staff in their use and application.

In classrooms, smart boards can now be seen, which allow teachers to create a more interactive experience for their pupils. These are likely to be superceeded by fully interactive classrooms when the pupils have an element of control over what they see and learn, and the speed at which they progress.

So you may ask yourself, how can technology improve your opportunities even further?

The simple answer to this is innovation in manufacturing – The evolution of ‘Glass based’ touch screen technology.

Interactive learning is becoming the expected delivery method amongst our younger generations as tablets, smart phones and tv’s become mainstream tools in our homes, and as the mobile phone turns 40 years old and is becoming the most popular gadget in the world. But the opportunities for even greater levels of engagement is likely to mean that it will become the ‘norm’ and exist not only inside , but also outside every classroom across the globe.

Technology already exists that will facilitate interactive learning during every action that we take during our day, not just within a classroom or working environment, but it is currently unaffordable at the sort of scale required. A company called Corning have a vision of a future where transparent glass touch points could exist in our house, cars, at outdoor venues and in schools and offices (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cf7IL_eZ38). Transparent glass could be applied to doors, windows and even dashboards in cars that could be configured to produce a touch dashboard controlled by software on a mobile tablet. Further innovation in manufacturing could make this a reality in the not too distant future.

So not only can we now create 3d virtual environments and projections that you can interact with, but we will also be able to display these graphics on many different devices from small hand held tablets to large scale walls and windows. This increases the scope for our whole world to become a virtual learning environment, from learning what products are available in the interactive store window as a consumer, to selecting what to buy from the virtual supermarket, to learning how to operate heavy machinery as a skilled engineer at work or following the curriculum as a school child. Everywhere we go and look there will be a touch point that we can engage with. Physical objects may become less and less familiar to us during the course of our waking hours.

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

The technology will impact all of us in some way or form. It is in fact opening up opportunities for fully immersive ‘virtual’ experiences in environments that wouldn’t have previously been able to facilitate it. For example, sterile glass may now make it possible to create a virtual operating theatre to train surgeons, and other medical staff, allowing them to collaborate remotely with other experts in an emergency situation. This could also be applied to forensics labs and reduces risks involved with using real patients. Surgeons can even operate on real patients from the other side of the world via virtual and realtime interfaces.

Touch screen tables and video walls that facilitate collaborative learning can already be seen in interactive galleries in museums and heritage centres and in exhibition environments. There is no reason why the use of these will not soon be extended into our offices, classrooms, and houses globally.

Capacitive touch, which is now widely accepted, allows more than one touch at once to be recognised. It is regularly cited as one of the key drivers of smartphone popularity and allows you to pinch, zoom and twist using multiple fingers. But 2014 could be the year when touchscreens are launched which react in three dimensions, not even requiring touch to recognise what action the device should take.

A prototype of a new touch screen has been developed that would allow apps and devices to be controlled using human (3D) gestures. A small USB device that you plug into your computer consisting of cameras and led lights, recognises, to an unbelievable degree of precision, your hand movements. Although Nintendo have already made strides towards this with their Wii devices, further development has the potential to change the way we interact with virtual environments and video games in the future, opening up a further wealth of opportunity when it comes to learning.

Transparent interactive signage already exists and can be informative, aesthetically pleasing and interactive. However, opportunities exist for the execution of this technology on a much larger scale if manufacturers can find a solution to hiding electronics and cables whilst retaining optical clarity. Transparent screens could create walls in large open spaces that remain clear when there is no display, but become an interactive show that enhances the landscapes when in use (known as “Smart Glass”).

Augmented reality is another up and coming educational tool. This allows for real environments to be augmented with additional relevant content (in 3D) through the use of transparent glass tablets with onboard 3d cameras.

The endless opportunities we have available to us are causing not only a significant shift in the way we communicate and engage technology, but are creating a future of ubiquitous displays, open operating systems, shared applications, cloud media storage and unlimited bandwidth . What have previously been obstacles, may now become an obtainable reliable reality.

Inspired by the innovative opportunities that might be open to you? Get in touch with us and we can help you make them become a reality! Email [email protected] or call 01908 522532.

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