Allie Tscheulin By Allie Tscheulin • December 12, 2017

VR/AR + xAPI: Tracking Next-Gen Learning Webinar Recap

Last week Yet hosted a webinar that took a look at how AR and VR are currently being used by industry experts and the insights gained from virtual experience tracking with xAPI, including case studies from Chad Udell at Float Learning, Hugh Seaton at Aquinas Training, and Melissa Milloway at Amazon. They each shared a project that combined VR/AR and xAPI, and then participated in a panel discussion and Q&A session.

Check out the video embedded below, read on for our panelists' view of the future of AR/VR + xAPI, or jump to the bottom for links and resources. 


Q&A Topics: Signs of Increased Adoption • Connecting to Business Outcomes and Learning Objectives • Connecting Activity to Learning Getting Started

Q&A with Our Panelists

Margaret: We have a couple questions that we’ll start our panel discussion off with, and then we’ve collected a few questions from our audience today. One of the big things that we kind of wanted to showcase in this webinar is kind of going from:

  • What is essentially a customized, very specific app, that in Chad’s case was used for an event, that could also be some type of simulation or a particular course program that you’re doing at your organization that you wanted to augment with an augmented reality or virtual reality program,
  • Through to kind of the future applications with Hugh and as we get into really being able to use these technologies in training and simulation environments that are more immersive, so getting closer to that virtual or mixed reality side of the spectrum,
  • And then kind of bring it home to Melissa’s project, which is something that she as an independent person was able to put together through resources that are available online.

Signs of Increased Adoption

Margaret: So with that, kind of looking at that arc, question to our panelists:

What are some of the key signals or markers of increased adoption, and kind of the promise of AR and VR when combined with xAPI in the training space? What are some of the things you’re seeing as signals of adoption?

Chad: If i might start; I’ve been talking to customers about this for a year, and I think the signal, it’s not a hard thing, so much as just the tone has changed. People have heard about it enough, they’ve gotten past the gimmicky gamey thing, and are starting to say wow, this – I think that the announcement of lower prices, I think it’s just, like every adoption process, it’s moved along to the point where you’re just hearing people open to it in a way that they weren’t even six, seven months ago.

Mel: I would say there’s way more buzz around xAPI, and a lot more people seem to be adopting it. I actually on Twitter, I have TweetDeck and I have a hashtag #xAPI column – I’ve had it for a while, and now it’s like, I actually have to scroll every day to see what people are saying about it – you know there’s a lot more buzz, and I know a ton of my friends in this space who are adopting it and picking it up. I even know a guy that just created his own “LRS.” It’s not like up to standards I don’t think, but he’s like on his way to doing it.

I think that says a lot, that individual contributors themselves are getting into it, and it’s not necessarily even top down, or coming from a big companies, it’s really helping us in our jobs as individual contributors to prove that the learning’s working or how we can create more effective learning from this data.

Chad: I’ve got a couple key things, I think, related to augmented reality specifically, that are good indicators from my point of view. That is, for the number of years that we’ve been producing augmented reality experiences, basically I think we did our first one in about 2013-2014, they were always built with third party libraries or applications. In the beginning of 2017, both Apple and Google made a move and incorporated Augmented Reality coding libraries as part of their operating systems software development kits, in the actual download of the developer tools.

So new Android builds running Oreo as well as iOS devices running iOS11 can take advantage of ARcore and ARkit respectively, and that opens the doors in terms of being able to build robust, easily testable, and really really powerful augmented reality experiences without any additional toolkits. If you’re an iOS developer, if you’re an Android developer, you can build them without having to download Vuforia or Wikitude or any of these other software development kits that just complicate the entire process – that’s number one.

Number two, this is a good indicator because the vanity metric in terms of people are talking about or are excited about it is one thing, but Float as a product house gauges our success in the number of applications that we are currently developing commercially for clients, and we actually have multiple in-house paying clients building AR apps with us right now. I’m gonna take that as a real step forward, because before it was all research and development, or internal pilots, or things like that, but we’re building production ready applications, ones that will be used for line of business and real-world performance support. I think that’s a pretty big indicator from my perspective.

Margaret: Yeah, definitely when people are starting to put monetary investments into something you know it’s on the rise.

Connecting AR/VR + xAPI to Business Outcomes and Learning Objectives

Margaret: With that, kind of going off of that question too Chad, so, if we’re, as we’re tracking all of this awesome AR and VR data with xAPI, how are you seeing businesses or, for any of our panelists, how do you tie that to business outcomes or learning objectives?

Chad: So, we’ve had a couple conversations about this at some different events, and just, you know, over coffees and cocktails and in a variety of other situations but, I think the thing that really sticks in my mind is because Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality do go out into the real world or simulate a real world environment which is what you are ideally outfitting them for when you’re building training materials, there’s an opportunity to actually put a one to one competency.

So the skill that you are training versus the thing that you are simulating – there are direct matches, right, between those particular activities. So it’s no longer about scoring or measuring, a test or an assessment, but rather scoring or measuring whether they can perform the skill or do that activity. And that is a much stronger tie from a return on investment perspective, if you’re talking about, if you value your experiences using something like a kirkpatrick measure of evaluation or something – this automatically puts you at level three if not level four. It definitely measures organizational change, behavioral change, and it’s just a much more kind of ‘rubber meets the road’ type of measurement than saying ‘well they’re doing good on the tests, but they’re still not selling the product.’ That’s really pretty squishy.

But if we can actually put them into a VR simulation where they have to go through the soft skills routine in order to make the sale, or, have an interaction in a customer service type of situation where you have a disgruntled consumer, you can actually see a one to one between how they perform in the simulation or how they perform in the mixed reality experience and how they’re actually doing in the real world.

Connecting Activity to Learning

Margaret: So on that, maybe Mel or Hugh you can jump in here, so, a question from our audience: Why or why not is activity a predictor of learning or a predictor of change in behavior? How are we tying activity to those changes in learning or changes in behavior that we want to see?

Hugh: Okay – so I’d say a couple of things. One is doing some – I mean it sounds a little obvious, but – doing something obviously implies that you’re engaged. Acting the full thing out means that you will understand it in a way that is not the same as if you just understood it in the abstract. We know from a lot of learning theory that to the degree you’ve made something harder for someone to do, where they put more activity into it, it creates stronger learning and more robust learning.

So I think that that’s a big part of it, is that you’re trying to – in all of these things, everything immersive, you’re trying to take things out of abstractions and make them concrete. Because when something is concrete, you understand it in, no pun intended, in three dimensions. So you really under – I can’t help myself sometimes. I’m here all week. So, but, what it winds up – that’s the net though.

For us, that’s obviously really important, because the first thing we have people do is really experience what we mean when we say ‘here’s how you deliver bad news’ or ‘here’s how you start that sales script.’ So you can model people in reality, as opposed to just saying ‘when you start, make sure you look at people.’ What does that mean? And what it means – it’s impossible to describe all of what you mean when you see something in an immersive experience. You could not describe all of that in any reasonable format.

Margaret: That’s a lot of good things to think about. I think that comes back to this, you know, how we’re describing experience with xAPI we’re now talking about describing experiences in digital tools and technologies that we’re using. So maybe a course system, or an app, things like that. Now we’re talking about adding a VR and AR element to that, so we’re talking about experience in multiple different planes, if you will, or different worlds. And all of that, as we add in more and more xAPI granularity, there’s lots and lots of data that’s coming off of this.

Getting Started

Margaret: So as one of our attendees noted, xAPI and this VR and AR thing seems kind of overwhelming with all of these different possibilities. So could you recommend a beginner project or a place to start for people looking to get their feet wet? Other than the awesome stuff that Mel also showed, and the xAPI cohort, which we are also happy to sponsor as well.

Mel: I just posted a link in chat a little bit above, to that question. Anthony Altieri created this awesome written tutorial on how to get your, like, send your first statement, how to put in all the information and everything like that. And then, I kind of took it to the next level and did a video on it, and also provided extra files. I’ve gotten tons and tons of feedback that it’s been working for people, and it’s gotten people in to actually using xAPI. So I think that’s definitely a good first step, from my perspective. Looking at something like AFrame if you’re interested in VR or AR is really good because it’s super easy to get into, and they use it at schools to teach kids how to code, so it’s super super easy. They also have an AR component as well. So those are my recommendations personally.

Margaret: We’ll definitely be sure to send out those resources as well, so we’ll collect kind of everything that our panelists have mentioned today and send that out to you all.

I know we’re running up close to our time, so, the big question kind of on people’s minds especially as you’re sitting there – if I’m going to make the move to make an investment in xAPI, make the investment in AR and VR, kind of what’s next? Where is this all going?

So I was hoping to get a few sentences from each of our panelists, on kind of where are you seeing xAPI in its connection with AR/VR in the next 18 months? What are you predictions? What’s the final word?

Mel: Mine is going to be – I think mine’s gonna be a more adaptive learning type of thing. So, based on the data that it takes in and the data it has on you, it will more so customize your AR/VR experiences. I see that there’s a lot going on with adaptive learning, really using data in a way to customize to what you need. So think of like DuoLingo, and how you answer questions on that language app and how it customizes things for you. So definitely I think there’s going to be more of that.

Chad: I think, what I’m gonna go with, actually, is, I believe that Augmented Reality, specifically maybe even more directly, mixed reality, and maybe even more directly, mixed reality that has a component of computer vision driven by algorithm to understand the real world is going to make a large amount of what we consider to be vital training to be supplanted by performance support tools that actually just help us do the job, instead of having to be trained on it. So, merchandising, retail situations, a variety of things that we, right now, feel like we have to train people how to do, we won’t have to train them how to do it any longer, we’ll just build tools that actually help them do the job better, more efficiently, and with better results. So, I think it’s going to shift the responsibility significantly, and training needs to be aware of that, and get involved in those types of products, because a lot of that is going to be moving out of the training realm and into operations.

Hugh: So I’m going to take that and extend it, and say that in conjunction with what Chad is talking about, we’ve all heard about IoT, Internet of Things. And the world is getting sensed. There are sensors, it’s getting instrumented, is a better way of saying it. So that I think you will find a blend, a bleeding out, of training into what people are doing every day. For us, you could see just the thing I showed you – imagine if you were in VR and you saw how you’re supposed to do something, and then you got to practice it some times. Then we put a sensor, whether it’s a video, or something, that actually tests that, has a look at how you’re doing it in a real sales pitch. So I think that there, the distinction between training and doing is going to become – you know, slowly, because it’s a whole new way of thinking, and there’s privacy concerns and a bunch of other things to think about. But I think that you’re going to see that begin to blend in a little bit. That said, in the next 18 months, I think, basic adoption is going to – a lot of people are trying things out. We’re seeing a lot of pilots going on out there; you guys must get calls all the time for ‘hey we want to do a little thing.’ So I think that honestly, realistically, the next year to 18 months is going to be broadening of adoption, people getting past their first pilots, and now starting to really implement it at some scale. I think what we’re all, Chad, Melissa, and myself, this is where we see it going, probably a little further away than 18 months. Except I think in Melissa’s case, it’s ironic that she works at Amazon and she’s talking about very much what they’ve successfully done for 15 years, you know what I mean? An adaptive approach to what you’re doing determines what you see next, and I think xAPI’s perfect for that.

Margaret: Yeah, definitely excited to hear all your predictions and I think what I’d like to remind everybody as we are – really big thank you to our panelists, and attendees – but one of the things, if you’re here at this webinar, remember that all of this is early – with VR and AR, we’re really just starting to see the shift from, moving AR and VR technologies out of gaming and into training. So we’re, it’s a really exciting time, and a really great moment to start thinking about how you’re going to be integrating those, both xAPI and AR/VR technologies into your programs over the next 18 months!

Resources from Our Panelists

Mel's Resources:

Chad's Resources:

Hugh's Resources:

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