Five Ways XR Will Transform Industrial Training
Published on : Thursday 02-09-2021
Extended reality and wearables will offer the full plant simulation experience, writes Maurizio Galardo.
Amid the pandemic, swathes of global businesses rapidly accelerated their digital migration plans. As a consequence, more companies are now practicing immersive virtual training and realising its many benefits, such as more effective data retention, increased safety and improved productivity.
The concept of ‘gamification’ – the principles and theories behind playing games – has been central to the swift progression of virtual training. Originally aimed at tech-hungry consumers, gamification techniques are now increasingly being applied to real-world industrial learning use cases.
One of the most notable international gamification successes was the smash-hit Pokémon Go in 2016. With billions of app downloads instructing real people to wander streets in search of tiny virtual creatures, that particular mobile game offered a mere glimpse of what augmented reality (AR) – technology that superimposes digital data and images on the physical world – can achieve today. The many learnings of Pokémon Go’s huge success have since been applied across global corporate contexts to teach conceptual lessons, drive up employee productivity and improve user engagement.
In the last five years, AR has been adapted to industries as varied as oil plants and marine yards, alongside other gamification technologies such as virtual reality (VR). Within these industrial environments, gamification helps simplify the transfer of complex knowledge for field and plant operators or to general staff.
In the future, the single biggest game-changer for virtual training will be an extended reality (XR) experience created with a potent and realistic combination of AI, VR, AR and mixed reality (MR), powered by the cloud. XR is a catchall term referring to all real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables.
To put it in context, the XR industry is expected to grow from $33 billion in 2021 to a staggering $125.2 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 30.6 per cent, according to a report from Markets and Markets. This colossal growth is attributable to several factors, such as the surging deployment of XR in the education, healthcare and industrial training sectors – as well as rising demand for XR devices.
Here’s five ways XR will transform industrial training in the next five years:
Learning by doing
The global success of Pokémon Go demonstrated how users are far more engaged when immersed in contextual gameplay. In the industrial world, the very same principles apply for improving trainee interactivity, retention and engagement.
When AI is fused into the gamified training process, it’s possible to leverage the principles of gamification in real time. However, it’s still vital that the learning system is closely mapped to the company’s actual processes. At AVEVA, we deliver video game-like training that is also totally dynamic and consistent with the plant reality.
Our Immersive Training System (ITS) connects a high-fidelity process simulator with a virtual-walkthrough plant environment (often called a Digital Twin), so that any action within a virtual environment can be set to trigger the thermodynamically correct reaction at the plant in real-time.
In an industrial learning sense, it’s now possible to familiarise yourself with the digital asset and see the real-time outcomes of your actions as-you-go in case of malfunction or failure. This type of training will only become more immersive as nascent VR and AR technologies become further actualised by developments in AI.
AVEVA XR software is the first solution capable of exploring all forms of XR, including AR, VR and MR, to create the most suitable interface for workers, connecting assets, documentation, and real-time information, enabling the best decisions and most efficient work executions.
XR learning can link together teams from across the value chain — from control room operators and staff in the field to maintenance crew and other critical team members — teams can collaborate remotely across geographies and time zones to surface new solutions.
And there’s no time lag because each person can consult a range of scenarios presented in a simplified, interactive format on their own device and act accordingly.
What’s more, entire teams are learning simultaneously – as well as learning how to communicate with each other on the job. This type of collaboration will only accelerate as XR technology advances.
No plant downtime
By leveraging XR, organisations can simultaneously run employee-training programmes while the plant is being constructed. This way, the plant is up-and-running as soon as it’s opened, saving on valuable and costly downtime. Entire teams can be trained up during the construction process, while also learning to work together in a replicated virtual environment.
In industrial environments, ITS simulators reduce time-to-value, improve cost efficiencies and optimise return on investment. Depending on the company, the ITS can cut costs by 30 to 40% reduce recovery times from shutdowns by 15 to 20%, and trim maintenance budgets by 1 to 3%, AVEVA data shows.
In some dynamic learning simulations, it’s possible to monitor specific processes. Various optimisation routines can design improved plant processes with more efficiency, better sustainability and more cost-savings.
For example, augmented reality can help guide new hires through step-by-step procedures while the plant operates normally – again, saving on idle plant time.
XR also makes it possible to simulate several tasks and processes overlaid over real data.
Today, most 3D visualisation takes place by using overlay apps over tablets or monitors. In the future, the human machine interface (HMI) will be formed of wearable devices. This means there will be no time lag and the user will be able to place multiple data streams in context.
Trainees will be able to use their normal vision to see live complex data streams in 3D vision, as well as connect with others in the same domain. In the coming years, we will be able to view multiple complex data sets through new and exciting lenses.
AVEVA is currently working with augmented reality and mixed reality but these technologies have not yet been fully realised. Most global XR adoption will take place in the next five to ten years. At the seminal moment when XR takes over the ‘last mile’ of data viewing through wearables – via combination of AI, VR and MR – the industry will progress exponentially, opening up the world of training to almost limitless possibilities.
Maurizio Galardo, Chief Technologist, XR, AVEVA, has been working in the field of computer graphics since 1997, and has participated in productions ranging from cinema and television to video commercials and conventions. Galardo’s first venture was founding DDD, S.r.l. in 2001. Nearly a decade later, he co-founded – and served as chairman and CEO – MWpowerLab S.r.l., a company operating in the field of new technologies and computer vision for industrial application. The firm was acquired by Schneider Electric in February 2017, and Galardo serves as director of the VR/AR business unit and later as Chief Technologist for XR and Visualization.