Extended reality, latest tech breakthrough for training

In an environment where new technologies seem to emerge at the speed of light, industry is facing the rapid pace of these operational advances and benefits.

This phenomenon is particularly relevant to the adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies. However, AR and VR are hot on the heels of Augmented Reality (XR), which combines real and virtual environments using computers, wearables, and more to collect and analyze data.

Paul Daley, senior e-learning specialist at ConocoPhillips, described his company’s progress in adopting new technologies as “toe in the water.” The advent and ripple effect of Covid-19 did not help this progress.

“We have a proof of concept that was planned and was in development until 2019. Then 2020 came,” Daley recalled. “No one had the appetite to tell the boss that it would cost a lot of money to find out. So that proof of concept didn’t move forward.

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With COVID-19 abating, Daley said things have changed.

“There have been efforts to be top-down and bottom-up, where bottom-up was an existing training program to improve things,” he explained. Daley joked that the very extreme but practical proposition of “we’ll drag this trailer around and show you what happens if you cut off your fingers.”

“But they wanted to see if VR could create a more memorable experience because everyone had already seen how to cut off fingers for the last 10 years. This was a project where we really needed to buy in and figure out an economical way to do it.

Daley said the company chose to implement an “off-the-shelf solution” for its VR and XR needs, “which was a way to reduce development costs.”

In a top-down solution, ConocoPhillips’ CIO, who saw the benefits of VR, “was able to write a check and start some development,” Daley said.

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Not about the Benjamins

In addition to financial pressures, there are several challenges to successfully implementing new technologies.

Some of those challenges with VR and XR adoption, Daly said, “came down to bad timing. In those cases, the company has to go back to what it’s doing, not what it’s not doing, and sometimes that’s just learning.” he said laughing.

“We have this great technology and we want to implement it. Even culturally, I would say, you train a mindset and you’re still kind of afraid to see it for some reason,” Daly said. “You have to get past that and it can be kind of ‘baby steps’ because they want to have multiple choices options, get the grade and move on.

When it comes to safety, XR technology allows managers to ensure that workers are properly performing tasks such as inspections, lockout/tagout and other safety-critical duties, said Susan Sparks, Schlumberger XR Technology Learning Technology Manager.

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“You can measure the force with which they hold the tool to prevent it from bending; they actually do the right hand gesture and more. It’s a completely different way of thinking about its structural design,” she said during the Industrial XR Global Summit held recently in Houston.

Spark observed that learning management systems (LMS) are “a mindset that is more than two decades old” and compared using an LMS to installing a governor in a Formula One race car.

“What you can measure in XR is so much more — to the point where we really have to worry and discuss data ethics and data privacy,” she concluded.


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