There has been a surge of demand for virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, propelling the global extended reality (XR) market. It’s growing at such a rapid pace, that the XR market is expected to increase by over 300 billion dollars by 2024. As more companies begin to explore extended reality for their organizations, there are many questions that decision makers are searching for. In a recent episode of “Bring Out The Talent,” we decided to discuss extended reality (XR) with Brian Boyle, founder of the Award-Winning CrossTrainer.
In our discussion, Brian shares some interesting XR use cases, tips to help you determine the right solution, what’s next for mixed reality as well as several XR solutions.
Q: Can you explain what AR and VR are?
A: Yes, there is some confusion about it still. Virtual reality is a completely virtual environment. You don’t see the outside world. You’re viewing a completely virtual 360 environment, whereas augmented reality is augmenting your physical environment with virtual content. With augmented reality, you’re placing virtual content, viewing virtual content in your actual physical environment, whereas in virtual reality, you’re completely immersed in a simulated virtual environment.
Q: How did you start CrossTrainer?
A: I started my career right out of college, State University of Geneseo (SUNY School), as a production artist. That was back in the day when we used a lot of Cork Express. I worked my way through larger corporate design departments. I was all about producing and getting stuff done and one of our clients said that I was a business-minded designer. That was a huge compliment to me, and this day defines the way we work at CrossTrainer and the type of talent that I seek out to build our team. Training is all about professional, clean, corporate, efficient design, templates, processes, functionality, and that’s where I excelled. So fast forward to 2005, I decided that I had what it took to start my agency, and that was the Boyle design. We grew, hired a team, but it wasn’t until 2013 that I launched CrossTrainer and committed to a vision of training, design, and development only.
Q: What does a typical project look like for CrossTrainer?
A: We start our work when the content’s approved, but we are involved earlier on in the process. Typically, during the RFP phase. We help to design the technical solution and help the agency win the business. We have a lot of training design and dev solutions under one roof, multiple different e-learning solutions, gaming products, mixed reality solutions. Based on the RFP requirements, we can help the client determine the right technical solution. More and more we’re seeing RFPs requesting, “out of the box ideas” or just directly requesting a mixed reality component.
Q: How long have you been in the mixed reality business and how did it get started?
A: I’ve been a big fan of AR and VR almost for a decade. The first time that I saw augmented reality it just made perfect sense for training. It was going to change everything that we do like everything to, not just in L&D. That’s a conversation. In 2017, we partnered up with a group, a team of XR gaming developers, and we launched a series of training products, a series of products that were geared toward training. These were meant to enhance proven training techniques with AR or VR, whether that’s an objection handler or a device training, or a case study. We put a mixed reality spin on that to make it more engaging.
Q: What do you think happened in the tech industry that caused the shift?
A: The big hardware and software companies have really embraced mixed reality, and they’ve added features and accessibility to make deployment much easier. The biggest shift I can think of is the shift from app-based AR and VR to web-based AR and VR deployment. It’s not particularly easy to get a native app deployed through a large corporation. You need to get IT involved. There’s also significant cost and time requirement for app development and integration challenges because you can’t put an app on an LMS. All our AR and VR solutions can now be deployed web-based in a swarm file deployed from an LMS. That wipes out every hurdle we were dealing with in those early years. The IT department doesn’t get involved, we can make changes right up until the launch, and there’s no app approval or deployment process. The cost is, in most cases, 50 percent of what it was when we were deploying a custom app for the same AR/VR experience. It’s a win-win all around.
Q: Tell us about some of the XR solutions that you’re seeing be adopted by these training departments.
A: Our simplest and most affordable mixed reality solution is called “MOATAR.” It’s we spell it “MOATAR” and It stands for Mechanism of Action Through Augmented Reality. This is a web-based widget that can be dropped into an e-learning module. It’s another form of act of interactivity for your e-learning. So, for example, if you have a device training module, typically you might have 2D images of that device. With MOATAR, we can add a 3D model of that device to explore in your browser. If desired, you can go ahead and launch that device in AR mode. You can place it in your physical space, walk around it as though it’s really there. It’s proven to improve retention and understanding. These AR experiences can start under $5000, so obviously they can increase in price with complexity and custom 3D animation. But the floor on these experiences is much, much lower than it was when apps were involved.
Q: There are so many applications that could have a use for something like this. What other examples can you share that might be relatable for our audience?
A: We have a lot of different XR solutions, and they’re all based on the kind of like a spin on an existing type of train. We have one called AROH, which stands for Augmented Reality Objection Handler AR. It can be deployed in AR or VR, and we basically green-screen actors, place them in virtual environments, and we create objection handling activities. That’s getting a lot of interest right now, especially with people working remotely. That role-playing that’s typically done at a live, live training event. This gives you a safe place to fail.
We have another product called it’s pronounced “compare”. It’s spelled COMP-AR, so it’s pronounced “compare”, and it’s an augmented reality comparison tool. You can choose from a selection of products from a whole library of products, compare them and look at their specifications side-by-side in a table format, similar to how you would compare shop on a website. Then you also have this opportunity to then launch an AR mode and see the products in your, in your room, in your space, on the table, in front of you and explore them in 3D in augmented reality.
Q: Do you think people from an older generation may not like going through this type of process or training program?
A: We haven’t encountered that. It does seem to be well-received. The key with AR and VR is to make it very user-friendly. There shouldn’t be a learning curve. It should be as intuitive as launching any learning program. Anyone who can launch any learning program should be able to launch a Web VR-based e-learning program. On the AR front, it’s so intuitive where they are and so easy without having to download an app first. You just scan a QR code, and it launches or click on a link, and it launches.
Q: What do you see next for mixed reality in the coming years?
A: What I can say confidently is that it’s not a question of “if you’ll use mixed reality in your training mix”, it’s when. It’s here to stay. The really exciting thing to me is the AR glasses. Brace yourself because those are coming. Microsoft HoloLens has been out for years, but I’ve never really considered that a feasible mainstream device. Apple is saying 2022 for theirs. Once that iPhone equivalent of AR glasses comes out, it’s going to be a game-changer. As a training tool, I see a lot of people collaborating virtually in AR, live-streaming holograms of you and me sitting across the table from each other to replace the Zoom meeting. Technologies like this do exist today but once they go mainstream, it’s going to be quite a ride.
To hear the full podcast episode, click here. To learn more about how extended reality (XR) can help your organization, speak to a TTA Learning Expert today!