These past weeks COVID-19 has changed the way we go about our daily work.
Routines have been shattered into a range of challenges from moderate inconveniences to severe work stoppages with no end in sight. The economic and relational consequences to both companies and the customers they serve has been nothing short of disaster. But even during these troublesome times, work has remained largely unchanged for Jason Whitman. Whitman is a training instructor at Rolls-Royce. Under normal circumstances he would go to work at their Regional Customer Training Center located in Indianapolis, IN.
Since the outbreak, obviously such is not the case, but that’s really the only difference. The nine-year Rolls-Royce employee works directly with Business Aviation customers to facilitate in-person maintenance training for Rolls-Royce industry-leading aircraft engines.
“We’ve all been working from home and other than hosting a few webinars no one has been able to conduct any classes. Even if we wanted to, the customers can’t fly in right now. This pandemic totally put a stop to our normal training,” Whitman said.
Normally, customers have traveled to Whitman or he would travel to them in order to have classes. Obviously in the current COVID-19 landscape, companies are limiting travel of all personnel. Without a different way of doing things, Whitman and his customers would have to cease all training until restrictions were lifted.
Developed by VisionThree (V3, Indianapolis, IN), the V3CORE Training Platform is a Virtual Reality (VR) training solution that companies like Rolls-Royce are using to continue supporting their customers throughout the challenges of COVID-19. While connected to the internet, users of the software can occupy the same virtual environment, in Whitman’s case, an aircraft hangar, regardless of their real-world location. Real training can occur while keeping all parties safely socially distanced.
VisionThree and Rolls-Royce have an enduring relationship spanning over a decade.
The connection has long-standing roots in marketing and customer engagement interactive development prior to the new training-based chapter. The two companies worked closely to visualize, create, and build training content to be used within the platform. The current curriculum being used by Whitman pertains to the BR725 engine that powers the luxurious and long-ranged Gulfstream G650 business jet. Innovation, like VR training, has always been synonymous with Rolls-Royce, especially when considering other current initiatives like their IntelligentEngine Vision and Digital Academy.
The VR class Whitman teaches is a familiarization course that takes place over a two-day period where the majority of activity happens in VR. All individuals are located in different locations. “The networking capability makes an instructor-led class possible. If there were lag or latency, it wouldn’t work. You wouldn’t know when you’re in VR that they’re not actually standing right next to you.” 4-5 days prior to the training class, he ships a robust VR-ready laptop and associated VR hardware (in this case the Oculus Rift S) to his customers’ locations.
The networking capability of the platform is truly revolutionary and no doubt one of the key differentiators of the solution. After all, by using that capability, Rolls-Royce is supporting their customer during one of the most challenging times in recent history. And their competitors are forced to watch from the sidelines.
Highly-immersive environments provide real-world feel without the consequences and risk. Complex CAD models (like aircraft engines) are converted and optimized so they can be exploded and broken down to their simplest of components.
Real-time cross-section tools and procedure-based learning add to the overall quality of training that instructors, like Whitman, can bring to his students – an audience that learns best through experience.
“We start off going over the general characteristics, high-level features, and physical architecture of the engine, then we dive deeper into the engine’s systems and operation.” Whitman’s familiarization class has a broad audience from the most-experienced engine technicians to flight crew and even company execs. Using the VR content, he can clearly demonstrate the effects that certain operational conditions can have for each member of that diverse audience. That really speaks well of the versatile curriculum that Rolls-Royce and V3 have built.
Whitman sees a stark difference between traditional methods and the VR-based approach. “Before we would have to rely on 2D drawings and dry-erase boards. It’s almost impossible to actually view the complexity inside the engine using a 2D drawing. One of the most useful features is to be able to look inside and de-construct the engine to explain how systems are integrated into the operation of the engine itself.”
It’s also important to note that, historically, there have been times when Whitman wouldn’t have access to a physical engine to supplement his class. To no one’s discredit, there are simply massive logistics associated with shipping an actual aircraft engine. Not only is an engine part of every VR training session, but one of the learning sections involves the engine mounted on a 3D model of the actual aircraft – which is never possible due to how much downtime costs for an aircraft of such worth. Students of the class have commented how true-to-life the view is from engine height when standing on the maintenance platform next to the impressive G650.
This type of experience helps students better prepare for a real-world scenario they will inevitably encounter. That is one of the key benefits of this type of training. Whitman explains, “For new technicians of this engine to be able to walk through a scheduled maintenance task before they get to the (real) engine is absolutely priceless!”
Rolls-Royce is known industry-wide for their innovation. Being able to train in the face of a global pandemic certainly requires that. But it’s more. It’s not only training when the rest of the world is at a standstill, but simultaneously increasing the quality and fidelity of that training experience. The results are improved service to the Rolls-Royce customers and superior maintenance to their engines in the field… Everybody Wins!
Now that’s a phrase not often heard during the time of COVID-19. Rolls-Royce and V3CORE Training are making it possible and re-defining reality with Virtual Reality.
We hope you and your families are staying safe during this time. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us today for a virtual demonstration and see how your company or organization might benefit from integration of V3CORE Training.
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THESE PHRASES HAVE BECOME THE THEME OF 2020.“Social Distancing.” “#StayHome.” “Wash your hands.”
As businesses try to figure out what comes next and how we can establish some level of normalcy at work while maintaining productivity, many are asking the question: Is this virtual reality’s time to shine?
Well, we in the tech industry say “YES.”
We’ve been saying it for a while, but still… We have already been seeing the benefits of using virtual reality as an option for meeting up when physical proximity isn’t an option, and as the world continues to evolve, we believe that this tech will find itself on the list of “must-haves” right alongside other tele-commuting software.
Speaking of which, the current, rapidly-changing landscape we have all found ourselves in lends itself to tele-commuting in volumes we’ve never seen before. With most businesses agreeing that “the show must go on” in some form or fashion in order to avoid mass layoffs or even a complete and total shuttering, even though individuals are unable to physically be at the workplace, companies (ours included!) are turning to the likes of Zoom and Teams for some face time collaboration with their teams. But what happens when face-to-face on a 2D screen isn’t enough to keep the ball rolling?
That’s where we believe that VR can come out swinging. When you need to be as hands-on as possible, while still maintaining your distance, virtual reality allows users to gather in a virtual space to learn together, practice skills together, and explore otherwise impossible scenarios together.
For example, doctors at George Washington University Hospital are harnessing this powerful tech to examine the inside of the lungs of a patient diagnosed with COVID-19.
Dr. Keith Mortman, chief of thoracic surgery, said that “There is such a stark contrast between the virus-infected abnormal lung and the more healthy, adjacent lung tissue… And it’s such a contrast that you do not need an MD after your name to understand these images. This is something the general public can take a look at and really start to comprehend how severe the amount of damage this is causing the lung tissue.” Outside of healthcare/research, some have already begun incorporating VR into continuing-education seminars and conferences in order to enhance audience engagement with 3D visualizations.
Meanwhile, in the education realm, students of all ages have been sent home to undertake e-learning in lieu of traditional classroom instruction. While this is, and will continue to be, an important option for many students, what about those whose education requires a level of immersion that cannot be gained by watching instructional videos or listening to lectures alone?
Enter Virtual Reality.
“Hands-on” practice is one area where we have seen VR truly shine. Regardless of social distancing requirements, VR-equipped students are able to continue practicing their skills with virtual tools without skipping a beat. And this goes for on-the-job training classes, too! Why let this time pass with trainees sitting at home, when they could be learning the skills required for their job instead? Why come to a complete halt if you don’t have to? When we find ourselves on the other side of these crazy times, employees who can hit the ground running will be essential to picking up as close to where we left off as possible
Here at V3, we have created training programs that allow our customers to keep wheels turning while their competition sits at home. VR headsets can be deployed to trainees, and instructors are not forced to pause their curriculum while the rest of the world is at a standstill. Realistic scenarios, custom environments, and product-specific training procedures give our customers the upper hand. While most companies are poised in the blocks, waiting for the gun to fire to signal when we can resume our lives, our customers are already sprinting down the track!
Lastly, for businesses whose livelihood relies on getting their products into the hands of customers, virtual reality also allows for close-up demonstrations while still maintaining current standards of social distancing. From small items to large and otherwise unwieldy products, demoing in a virtual space creates as close to an in-person experience as possible, and also creates opportunities to market to more potential customers than ever before when distance is no longer a blocker.
See some of our work in digital marketing here.
And the best part about being able to deploy a fleet of VR headsets is that it’s finally EASY! With hardware options like the Oculus Quest being super portable, gone are the days of PC setup, rearranging furniture, and stringing cables to properly setup lighthouses. Such compact portability means that headsets can be packed up into cases barely bigger than a loaf of bread (after being sanitized, of course), and shipped to whoever needs it. The end user can simply pick it up, turn it on, and GO!
Do you have questions about how Virtual Reality can support your business during this time? Or general questions about what else this powerful technology can do? Let us know! Want to SEE what we can do, in living color? We’d love to show you this powerful tool in action. Let us put our claims to the test for you with a demo today!
We genuinely want to hear from you and are happy to share what we know. Your questions might even be a catalyst for our next post! In the meantime, we hope that all of you are staying safe, sane, and healthy.
Virtual Reality hardware of today, by and large requires that users interact with their environments through handheld controllers speckled with a myriad of buttons, sticks, and triggers that allow for all types of input.
Never an industry to leave well enough alone, VR hardware/software creators looked inward to see if there were perhaps other ways to interface with environments that weren’t encumbered by the bulky, obtrusive, detracting controller. So what is universal, intuitive, and non-distracting and used to control things every day? Hands.
We at VisionThree were definitely part of that onslaught of creators who thought there had to be a better way. So with the help of a third-party peripheral, our developers cracked the code of hand-tracking a while ago, evidenced here. Using Leap Motion hardware literally affixed to the front of the head mounted display (HMD), we built VR software that could track the user’s hands in space and allow for various gesture controls in order to interact with objects and environments. Pretty cool! Some would say VERY cool!
We caught up with Nate Logan, VisionThree’s Technical Director and Lead Engineer for the V3CORE Training Platform (V3’s in-house VR Training product), to get some of his thoughts on this very innovative subject. “It's hard to beat a modern VR controller for simulating precise tools, but they can be a bit intimidating for anyone who hasn't grown up with a Nintendo or an iPad. That said, it's downright magical to see your hands appear in VR, right where you expect to see them.” said Logan.
Hand-tracking, as it turns out, is more of a User Experience (UX) direction than a technical one as Logan sees it. Things that make actions and gestures intuitive are social constructs that we all as humans agree on. “You’ve got to choose gestures that everyone understands, and preferably gestures that people do intuitively the same way. Then you have to trim that down so that it’s as precise as possible while keeping it open enough where everybody wins.”
Sounds easy enough, right? He went on to explain some of the challenges with initially going down the path of hand-tracking with a third-party hardware.
“With Leap, our biggest challenge was that it was looking at your hand from a single perspective. So if it couldn’t see the back of your hand, it had to guess at where your fingers were. And it didn’t always guess right.”
So we just need someone to keep pushing the hardware farther. (Trumpet fanfare!) And then there was Zuckerberg! Okay, honestly there was the team that Zuckerberg pays, but we digress. When Facebook purchased Oculus little did we know what that would mean.
In September 2019, at the Oculus Connect 6 Keynote, a new update was announced that at some point in 2020, Oculus is going to allow VR users to engage with the virtual world in a much more intuitive way. Oculus was introducing hand-tracking into their revolutionary Quest hardware. They stunned everyone in December 2019, when they announced they were set to deploy the functionality!
This magical capability was to arrive directly on-devices via OS software update. Users would then be able to see/feel the capability in the Oculus lobby and in select menu/lists native to the OS. The software development kit was to follow the update a week or so later so content creators could “get their own hands dirty”. (As we went to press, the SDK had still not been released.) Oculus maintains they have evolved this capability.
See their Über-flashy marketing video here. But probably the best part is the hardware is already built-in! No new gadgets to install, tack on, or risk losing. And pardon the nerding out for a minute, there are simply more cameras than Leap ever had! The more to see you with, my dear!
Okay, okay, so how does it FEEL?
We again tapped Nate Logan, who is incapable of lying by the way, to have a look.
“Quest's new hand tracking feature could go a long way toward lowering the barrier to entry for VR training. Each finger is individually tracked. I can make most gestures you can think of. I'm able to just look at an object and pinch my fingers to activate it, or flick my hand to scroll through content. And more gestures should be possible in the future.”
With a glimpse of sadness and wistfulness in this time of giving, Logan lamented the absence of the SDK.
“Oculus (content) developers haven't been handed the keys to use it in apps just yet, but we're looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.”
So what it could it all mean? With developers gaining access to this new feature soon, Quest is ensuring that future VR applications could see a paradigm shift in how we create experiences for our customers. Using hands how they normally would be used inside a virtual space is a game changer. If things progress the way the Nate Logans of the world want them to, it is about to be a very exciting time. To take an already highly-immersive training conduit and make it even more so is truly groundbreaking in an already groundbreaking space!
If you’d like to talk to us about training in Virtual Reality in your industry and/or want to see the V3CORE Training Platform in action, please reach out today. We can accommodate in-person demonstrations at our Customer Experience Center in Indianapolis, or by virtual meeting via Zoom. We love to make new contacts, educate, and explore where VR technology can go. You can also follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn as we regularly post updates about what’s going on with us and the VR/AR industries at-large.
It was the summer between 5th and 6th grade. Long before the “balanced calendar” and year-round school, summers seemed to last forever – which was great.
I was old enough to not need supervision every second of every day, which means I was old enough to start taking some risks and learning a thing or two.
One particular day, my friends and I rode our bikes to the local municipal swimming pool. This pool’s legendary high dive had a reputation all its own. Being the age where hyperbole was more of a way of life, this thing might as well have been 30-stories tall. In truth looking back I think it was (3) meters. During previous summers I had shied away from slaying this particular dragon, but this year was apparently going to be different for some reason I can’t recall – oh that’s right, peer pressure! Before I knew it, there I was blindly climbing the ladder’s steps. When I got to the top, what was a noisy hot July breeze just 3 meters below, now became a brisk wind that invented goosebumps. And there was no noise… somehow the sounds of splashing and yelling were muted…just gone…silence. I was up there for what seemed like 7 or 8 years. I finally got the courage to take the requisite steps to the edge to look down. I remember wishing to be ANYWHERE else. Cutting through the silence I heard a voice say, “Better go. That ladder only goes up.” I still have no idea who said this. I’ve never even mentioned it until now. But those words resonated with me. 3…2…I… I jumped. I went deep into the unknown, and I lived. I stood on the edge of something that used to be bigger than me, heard what I needed to hear, and jumped.
I say all that to say this. Sometimes, in our professional lives, we still need to take chances and learn. I literally stood on that edge, and with the smallest amount of reassurance, threw caution to the wind and jumped. Years later, reflecting back on it, I’ve learned the value of being able to segment something out and do it one piece at a time. There are some scenarios where it’s not an option – like jumping off the high dive. That moment, when you jump is what it is. But the ladder to get there is one rung at a time.
The same rules apply when looking at interactive technology and the work that we’re able to do. Whether or not to use an interactive experience to strengthen your communication objectives is a daunting prospect without all the info. And that’s what we’re here for. Just because an interactive experience is a journey, doesn’t mean there needs to be fear associated with it. Working in phases is a great way to lessen the stress, ease the cost burden, and make sure you’re headed in the right direction. This is what it’s like to work with VisionThree.
First of all, we don’t look at the work like a project. A project is something fleeting… something with an end. We look at the work as an experience, or better yet, an investment. We know these things are investments for you. And that’s the way we’d rather it be too… we’re not here for the one and done deal. It’s in both of our interests that we act as partners and never “client and agency.” We know that you’re sticking your neck out if you’re bringing us to the table, and we don’t take that lightly or for granted. In order to make something that will last and be viable at all stages, we help you by building it to allow for scalability.
When you’re ready, we can talk. No pressure. We’d love to have you visit our Experience Center in person to get the full impact. But we can always have a virtual meeting to show you what we do with the actual experience creation. But where we really make a difference, we feel, is advising our clients on how to save time and money and achieve goals. Working in phases is only ONE of the many things we can help you with.
Let’s face it, there are going to be times in your professional life where you’re standing on that high dive all by yourself. Unlike that situation, we’re here to help remove some of that fear. In a way it’s kind of a good thing that the ladder only goes up…one rung at a time.
The question is, where will you go?
AUGMENTED REALITY (AR):
Adding digital elements to the view of the real world.
VIRTUAL REALITY (VR):
100% digitally created world.
MIXED REALITY (MR):
Marketing buzzword popularized by Microsoft for their brand of Augmented Reality products.
“Immersive videos” or ‘spherical videos.”
AUGMENTED REALITY (AR):In this example of Augmented Reality, the cityscape is rendered over the camera image of the real tabletop environment.
Augmented Reality Defined: “A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.”
Layman's terms: Adding digital elements to the view of the real world.
Microsoft Hololens (Hololens 2), Tablets & Phones, Apple Glasses (future), Oculus Glasses (future).
GOALS WITH USING:
To build onto the existing world, providing extra relevant content.
Simply put, Augmented Reality overlays digital images on top of the real world and let’s you see both at the same time.
Here at V3, one way we have used AR is to provide a way for our clients to demo large, unwieldy products for their customers. Being able to overcome the impossible hassle of lugging massive samples from demonstration to demonstration allows our clients to provide context for what their products will look like in place. From large-scale electrical panels to scale models of entire city blocks, we’ve effectively used AR to paint a picture of “what could be” for our clients and their customers.
V3 has used AR to provide a way for our clients to demo large, unwieldy products for their customers.
Outside of sales applications, AR also generates opportunities for people to connect with their surroundings in the real world in new ways. Imagine exploring a new city while you’re on vacation, and walking directions are provided via your phone’s camera. Or looking for a place to eat dinner, and you can simply point your phone at a restaurant’s sign to read current online reviews. The retail industry is a huge growth area for AR right now.
Real-world applications are ever-growing and becoming more and more innovative every day. Apple has started making big investments in AR, introducing a library of apps designed to integrate virtual elements into the physical world. IKEA, GE, and American Airlines are some of the partners that Apple has announced so far to debut AR applications to run on iPhone and iPad.
Microsoft’s HoloLens has brought this tech into trend in the mainstream in the wearable tech realm. Rather than viewing virtual objects in the real world through a “window” like one might with a tablet running an AR application, wearable tech like this allows users to interact with virtual objects in their actual space via a transparent “screen” mounted on a headset.
This all sounds great however, the wearable technology just isn’t there yet. Very limited fields of view (think of a postage stamp-sized screen in front of your eye) and limited graphics capabilities have seriously handicapped this type of hardware. We have high hopes for this tech’s future, especially with companies like Apple and Oculus increasing their involvement in meaningful ways. But for now, it’s on the shelf, labeled, “Well, they certainly had good intentions.”
Sadly, the wearable AR hardware just isn’t there yet. Small field of view and poor processing impose limits. We’re hopeful for the future.
VIRTUAL REALITY (VR):The Oculus Quest Virtual Reality headset (trumpet fanfare). No computer required, no wires, 100% awesome.
Virtual Reality Defined: “The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment.”
Layman's Terms: A 100% digitally created world.
Oculus Quest (also, Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive Pro, Valve Index… the list goes on and on).
GOALS WITH USING:
To create a custom environment specifically suited for a variety of different purposes including training, education, entertainment, social networking, and more.
The main goal of Virtual Reality is total immersion into a different world – a world built entirely of the creator’s vision. Users don a headset and enter a consequence-free virtual environment full of advanced visualizations where skills can be practiced again and again with the touch of a reset button. The virtual space might be a classroom where users can repair the inner workings of a jet engine or perform a cutting edge surgery. These scenarios are engaging and impactful, and most importantly, they feel REAL. Studies have shown that skills learned in VR are retained quicker and last longer than traditional hands-on practice.
A lot of our clients come to us with requirements for enterprise release, so we took that feedback and created the V3CORE Training platform. This powerhouse training platform offers a broad array of benefits like the ones we’ve already discussed, AND allows multiple people to “meet” in the same space at the same time, regardless of geographical distance. Imagine being able to meet with team members from around the world for a training without having to hop on a plane! With V3CORE Training, this is now a REAL Reality! The endless possibilities of this platform let our clients’ vision come to “real” life in a virtual world that can accommodate participants from across the globe. Obviously that carries a huge practical benefit no longer requiring extensive amounts of travel budgets.
There’s TONS V3CORE has to offer that we’re not talking about here, but we’d be happy to discuss. Just find us on social media (links below) or visit our website to schedule a virtual demo.
We’ve created the V3CORE Training platform. Our robust, cloud-based solution that takes VR Training to the next level.
In researching for this article it quickly became apparent that the notion of “Mixed Reality” and “Windows Mixed Reality” were extremely contradictory in nature. So while there may be conflicting reports and opinions on the subject we’re communicating it the way WE see most useful to you – the people we’re trying NOT to confuse.
MIXED REALITY (MR):
Mixed Reality Defined: “An experience where a live presentation of physical real-world elements is incorporated with that of virtual elements such that they are perceived to exist together in a shared environment.” (sound familiar?)
Layman's Terms: A marketing buzzword popularized by Microsoft for their brand of Virtual Reality products.
To summarize and hopefully lessen the confusion you may have in this area, to us, “Mixed Reality” is essentially the same as “Augmented Reality”. The fact that Microsoft included the term “Mixed Reality” in the marketing efforts of their VR headsets (Windows Mixed Reality), THEN marketed HoloLens 2 as a Mixed Reality device further clouded the issue. Thus all hopes at removing confusion were lost.
And as a Bonus… 360° VIDEOS:The GoPro Feedom360 camera rig. That’s right. That’s (6) GoPro’s networked together to create the image. Very economical!
360º Video Defined: “Also known as ‘immersive videos’ or ‘spherical videos,’ 360° videos are video recordings where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time, shot using an omnidirectional camera or a collection of cameras. During playback on normal flat display, the viewer has control of the viewing direction like a panorama.”
GoPro Omni or Ozo are the special cameras used to capture video in 360º. (But the videos can be viewed everywhere from VR Headsets to YouTube.)
GOALS WITH USING:
To provide an immersive, yet affordable experience that relies on video footage rather than custom, interactive 3D software. To many the ability to source this type of content is much more approachable from a cost standpoint.
This technique definitely wins our award for most often mistakenly referred to as VR.
You’ve likely seen a 360° videos before, though you may not have known what to call it. They’re basically videos that wrap all the way around you. They pair nicely with tablets and touch-screen phones, which act as a “window” into the video’s world. But rather than just watching the scene from a static view, the user is free to physically move their device and pan around for a better vantage point. And as a bonus, 360° cameras are getting cheaper by the day, and are thus far easier to source than ever, making them very attractive to anyone just starting out with virtual experiences.
The drawback to a 360° video is that while a user is able to physically “look” around a scene (up/down, side-to-side, or on an angle), there is no option to step forward or back to examine something closer or from a distance. This restriction means less interactivity than would be possible with heavier-hitting VR hardware. That’s not to say that 360° video experiences have to be boring! Here at V3, we have taken 360° videos and added additional content in-scene with the video to interact with, making for a far richer experience.
At V3, we take 360º video and add content to it making it interactive. Still way cool!
We want to hear from YOU!
If you have any interest in learning more about any of these tech trends, or if you have any questions, give us a shout! Your next question could end up inspiring our next blog post! Seriously, this is not a sales pitch. We want to tell this story so that this new tech can inspire new ideas and reach its full potential. We hope that this little vocabulary lesson has helped clear some of the fog surrounding some of today’s most popular tech. We are available on our website, Facebook, or LinkedIn.