Siemens Setting the Bar: Supporting Customers With Virtual Reality Training

Siemens Setting the Bar: Supporting Customers With Virtual Reality Training

Industry giant, Siemens has once again set the bar for technical innovation. In addition to the incredibly advanced products and solutions they constantly offer their customers, Siemens Low Voltage Products in the U.S. will be offering Virtual Reality-based training to them as well.

Learners will be able to immerse themselves in VR space and interact with Siemens’ products like never before – in a consequence-free environment. Learning time is greatly reduced while still steadily increasing knowledge retention. Decreased as well are the cost and logistical burdens of transporting personnel and equipment to training sites geographically.  Additionally, the solution is built to scale, meaning it is designed to accept more areas of content curriculum in the future. 

Customer Support Like Never Before

As an organization, one of the pillars keeping Siemens in business for almost 170 years is supporting their customers. And they certainly have a very complex landscape of “customers” to support. Their channel is extremely broad, containing: electrical contractors, engineers, architects, and distributors of all sizes. Delivering the right solution to properly support these various types of customers is indeed a challenge, but one that Siemens has met head-on through a very robust Virtual Reality execution. 

From a nuts and bolts perspective, Siemens wanted to decrease the current expenditure on product training efforts. Considering a global company of that size, shipping personnel and equipment to all the places it needs to be is extremely expensive. And that is just for one single product solution – they have thousands. Another goal was to create an experience like none other in their industry through the use of Virtual Reality. This is a storied business built on tradition and “the way things have always been done” so to be first-to-market with an approach like this was key. Lastly, the solution needed to be scalable. The approach needed to be built on a platform – a foundation – that allows future additions for other products and solutions, as well as capabilities for learning. 

This is how they would change the game. 

The Solution

The V3CORE Training Platform answers the call in addressing these challenges. It’s unparalleled scalability, reliability and overall robustness place it in rarified air. The current version of the Siemens Virtual Reality training module centers on one of their Power Panel products. One of the key features of the V3CORE Training Platform is procedure-based learning. Learners are walked through and interact with a procedure to outfit the panel with a collection of circuit breakers for the panel. The instruction utilizes the “Show me, teach me, let me try” experiential learning model. Learners have work instructions clearly called out in front of them denoting each step of the process. They have the ability to watch a demonstration animation of each step to become more familiar with what is expected. Lastly – and with most impact – they interact with objects in the scene, whether tools or products, to actually perform the required work. This interaction is the key learning moment. After this moment they will have a memory of actually doing the work. With this procedural model, performing operations in the correct way, in the correct order, is the only way to advance. There is only one way to do things – the right way. So when the student encounters the Siemens equipment in the field, they do so with a significantly higher amount of pre-knowledge, the benefits of which are vast.

The environment is immersive and comparable to the real world so that there are few to no speed bumps in believability for anyone going through the training. The goal when architecting such a solution is to create a space as real as possible without the consequences of the real world. We learn far more from failure than success. Fail early. Fail often. This is a cornerstone to this type of instructional approach and an attribute of using a visualization technique like Virtual Reality. 

Despite the electrical industry being so diverse in member age, the majority of individuals, regardless of their age, still benefit from and need training such as this. So, it’s required that training in VR be digestible by an older audience as well as younger groups. The purpose is defeated if anyone feels overwhelmed by learning “a VR app,” THEN proceeding to their training. The solution should be designed in such a way as to create a training experience that just happens to be in Virtual Reality. 

The use of VR in the training space cuts learning time dramatically. Classes take less time and instructors and students are re-purposing that extra time toward other gains. The landscape has changed! Training audiences are putting down their lengthy instruction manuals and three-ring binders, and closing the PowerPoint presentations. They’re excited to learn now. Because it doesn’t feel like learning anymore… it feels like life. Life without the consequences. 

View a video created internally by Siemens talking about the VR Training initiative.

Siemens brings you factory training and engineering in a whole new way. Use Virtual Reality to immerse yourself and try out new techniques in a safe environment with memorable experiential learning. Train anyone, anywhere, with Siemens Virtual Reality Training.

This One Day…

Never one to take a false step, Siemens previewed the training solution to a group of customers at a prominent electrical contractor in the Midwest. The goal of the meeting was to simply show the audience of upper management the solution and get their thoughts. The contractor liked the tool so much they insisted some technicians be brought in immediately to go through the training-not as a true-to-life test – as real training! They saw the immediate benefit and opportunity and seized it. Multiple technicians went through the training that day and were ecstatic about their experience. Training those technicians in VR took a fraction of the time as compared to doing the actual procedures in the real world. And as a result, each student felt better about future encounters with that equipment in the field because they would arrive with so much more knowledge – knowledge they otherwise wouldn’t have had. 

Scalability & The Future

To be worthy of investment in this day and age, in addition to providing ROI, you need to have a plan for the future and how you want to get there. The V3CORE Platform has been built with scalability in mind. The platform is a robust collection of features and functionality years in the making and very inclusive in terms of what it does and, more importantly, what clients can do with it. Curriculum can be added in phases because the content is treated as a module. And as new updates and features get added to the V3CORE foundation, those are automatically downloaded and installed. 

Siemens is taking full advantage of this aspect. Discussions are already underway to add another product’s procedure to the solution. The vision for Siemens has always been a wide collection of products/solutions that serve as launch pads for training. And they are on their way of achieving that. VisionThree is proud to stand beside them on that journey. 

Lastly, what used to be future-facing discussion is now present-day reality. Virtual Reality hardware has evolved to a point to where it is untethered (not requiring a separate PC) and cost effective to adopt. Devices like the Oculus Quest are bringing VR Training to the masses and changing the training environment forever. 

So, between the V3CORE Training Platform, the content, and the hardware, it’s a very bright future for Siemens – or any other company that wishes to step up their training game and innovate using VR as a learning approach. 

Mr. Hopler Goes to Washington

Mr. Hopler Goes to Washington

One of our own “Founding Fathers” traveled to our nation’s capital recently as VisionThree was hand-selected to showcase our Virtual Reality training solutions at the Manufacturing USA Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.

This event was hosted by the House and Senate Manufacturing Caucuses, and was attended by several members of Congress and other Congressional staff. The event provided a unique opportunity to demonstrate samples of our innovative solutions that feature virtual “hands on” training.

(Please see this post to read more about our accomplishments in this influential tech.)

Feedback was conclusive. V3’s demonstration was the hit of the event. Surrounded by other tech innovators in areas such as robotics and digital security, our VRCORE-TRAINING samples impressed visitors and distinguished guests alike.

This event was sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. ASME President, Tom Costabile, was blown away by V3’s demonstration.

We are honored to have been invited to such an important event. Virtual Reality training is rapidly becoming the gold standard for situations that require hands on training in less-than-ideal circumstances. Our VRCORE-TRAINING solutions better equip participants for real-world scenarios than any classroom training session ever could. We’re so proud to be on the forefront of VR training, and are excited to play such an instrumental role in helping our clients use this powerful technology to reach their goals.

Tech Demo: Accelerometer Input via WebSockets

Tech Demo: Accelerometer Input via WebSockets

Inspired by a demo released from Google late last year, we decided to take a crack at what it would take to create a similar experience.

Our testing results were positive, as we were able to get very good performance using WebSockets and GreenSock.  This demo is performed using an iPad, iPhone and a MacBook Pro.

Connecting to the server in this demo was accomplished manually by entering an IP address into a text field on the mobile devices, however it would be possible to use QR codes or a similar approach to connect without having to enter anything at all.  By pointing your device’s camera at a code either on or near the display, the connection could be established instantly.

Practical applications are only limited by the imagination.  One example is a video wall that encourages all bystanders to connect and interact with their phones, enabling them to control the content simultaneously, or even go head-to-head and battle other players.  Such content could be located in a stadium or airport concourse, providing a steady stream of users to the experience. This could generate some buzz to attract future visitors, and leave a lasting impression on your current ones.

Hololens Tech Demo: Placing Virtual Objects around Physical Objects

Hololens Tech Demo: Placing Virtual Objects around Physical Objects

A Brief Note on Things To Come

Here at Vision Three, we’ve always been a company that has strived to stay on the cutting edge of technology, with both hardware and software solutions. In my 10 years here, I’ve been fortunate to have countless opportunities to discover new techniques and solutions for pretty much every project I’ve been involved with, large and small. For us, discovery usually happens between projects, however it can also take place concurrently with client work, especially if they are on board with integrating something new into their product. So when these opportunities arise, we jump into them without hesitation.

Being on the cutting edge has different meanings for different people. We’ve found that having some fundamental knowledge of what the solution is – how it can benefit our clients first and foremost – is key to increasing the breadth of our capabilities and service offerings. Simply scratching the surface on something new, and demonstrating a core understanding of it, is often enough to open the door to new possibilities.

Creating experiences is what we are passionate about. To that end, we have started a more focused initiative on experimentation and prototyping with various high-tech gadgets and SDKs, which leads to unique software solutions and hardware advancements. This post is just the beginning of exciting things to come!

The Microsoft Hololens is a virtual reality headset unlike any other currently available.

The user is able to see through the visor into the real world, with virtual content overlaying the room they are standing in. This is also known as augmented reality, or the description I prefer – mixed reality. The Hololens’ hardware uses a technique known as spatial mapping, which allows virtual objects to be set on a desk, or hung on a wall.

 

We’ve been aware of the possibilities of Hololens for quite some time, and have recently been digging in to discover how it could help our clients communicate their messages in new, engaging ways. In the past, companies have relied on us to create applications to view hotspots floating around a 3D model of their product. The user would rotate the model with a touch screen to view different angles, and tap the hotspots to learn more about key features. While these experiences are informative, they aren’t exactly revolutionary.

This following prototype was created to explore new possibilities for conveying the same information in a brand new way. We are just using a box in this demo, but you can imagine something else – such as a car at a trade show, a dinosaur fossil in a museum, a jet engine for a training solution – and so much more.

An Introduction to Virtual Reality: Overview

An Introduction to Virtual Reality: Overview

World-changing technologies often begin life as the stuff of sci-fi novels. Children grow up reading about and watching imaginary heroes use fantastic inventions to solve impossible problems.

Some of those children grow up dreaming of making those technologies real. The brightest of these achieve some level of success. Their early prototypes are enough to hint at a coming future, but they reveal the difficult real-world challenges that keep them from being useful to the everyday person.

So the dream sleeps, waiting for its challenges to become solvable. Most people forget about it. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, it becomes real again. And we slowly and collectively realize the same thing:

It's useful now.

Technology enthusiasts are familiar with the so-called “hype cycle.” Analysts such as Gartner go so far as to map it out. Pay particular attention to where they consider Virtual Reality (VR) to land on this hype cycle.

Gartner 2015 Tech Hype Chart

VisionThree has more than a few geeky dreamers under its roof, myself included. Over the last few years, we’ve experimented with each major VR hardware prototype that became available, and our firsthand experience agrees with Gartner’s assessment: on the wings of cheap and pervasive mobile technology, Virtual Reality has arrived, and it’s a powerful communication tool. 

WHAT IS IT?

Virtual Reality is a general term for immersive display and input technology that creates the feeling of being present in a computer-generated place.

HTC Vive shown on CNBC’s Closing Bell

Apps as we know them exist on screens. In VR, the app is a space you can visit. This has immediate and obvious benefits for fields like architecture, education and sales, but is also highly useful for demonstrating physical objects or places that would otherwise be limited by real-world constraints or resources. 

Need to give a surgery patient a tour of their own heart? To inspect a scale model of a new building, trying out new furniture and scribbling review notes on the walls? How about learning to disassemble and reassemble a luxury car? Or maybe you’d just like to play tennis with a friend from overseas, on the moon?

Simply put, VR can do for physical places and objects what the internet did for storefronts. The key is what we call “presence.” Presence is the feeling that you are present in a virtual space, when you stop thinking about the technology and your mind engages with the content and place. It’s when your brain stops asking “where am I?” and starts asking “what happens here?” When a stunning virtual environment meets the power of custom app development, the possibilities are near endless.

WON'T IT MAKE ME FEEL SICK?

It used to until very recently, and it’s a very common fear. It’s like this: VR’s talent is to make cost-prohibitive experiences viable. So when VR came back on the scene a few years ago, we did the logical thing and built our own personal roller coasters. It turns out that virtual coasters have similar effects on people to the real ones.

Over the last couple of years, we learned something that should have been obvious: VR needs to be gentle to people. Whether or not someone feels sick after using VR has everything to do with what they were doing in it.

When your body’s sense of balance disagrees with what your eyes see, you feel sick. Anyone who has been inside a ship in choppy seas will agree. The two keys to avoiding nausea in VR are tracking hardware that locates your head faster than you can, and software that never tricks the mind into expecting to feel forces it can’t deliver on. Forces like the ones you’d feel on a roller coaster, for example.

We have to make sure that the VR app doesn’t try to convince you that your body is moving in a way that, in reality, it isn’t. With gentle, well-designed content and the latest and greatest hardware, VR doesn’t make people sick. To begin to unlock its true potential, enthusiastic geeks (like me) had to learn restraint.

WHAT'S POSSIBLE?

All of these lessons and some incredible new consumer hardware have created the possibility to walk freely around a physical room and interact with virtual objects using your hands. To create, learn, simulate, explore and experience firsthand.

Videos can’t truly do this technology justice; you have to experience it firsthand to truly understand it.

It can be a little intimidating to put the visor on for the first time, but nearly everyone is glad they did. And experiencing something in a well-designed VR environment is a fast-track to a powerful memory – one that can truly connect your audience with your product or service. Experiences matter here at VisionThree, and VR is poised to redefine what we expect a digital experience to be.

In future posts we’ll dive deeper into VR applications, available hardware and content styles. This introductory overview has opened your mind, and your eyes, to what’s possible in the future.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Want to know more about VR, or see a live demo? We’d love to show you how magical these experiences can truly be. Contact us here to get started!

Nate Logan is the Technical Director at VisionThree. He’s responsible for architecting the experiences we create, along with exploring new technology and making sure it works.