Earlier this month, DI Director of Consumer Experiences Matt Johnston and Research Associate Zach Huber attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. CES is the largest consumer technology conference in the world, with approximately 180,000 attendees and almost 4,000 companies displaying various technologies. The goal of the trip was to determine what emerging technologies could be used to enhance training and learning.
Entrance to the Samsung booth at CES to show the magnitude of the booths
There were 3 categories of technology that stood out to DI as being ready (or close to ready) for use in training: virtual reality, augmented reality and drones.
Virtual Reality – Trending Towards Mixed Reality
The VR market seems to have settled on the primary hardware used, with both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive being prevalently used. Neither of these companies had a booth at CES, but almost a third of the VR exhibitors there were using one of these two headsets for a demonstration.
Virtual reality seems to be trending towards mixed reality (immersing the user in a fully virtual environment while still allowing them to interact with real objects). The best example of this was Intel’s Project Alloy. Despite being an early prototype, it put the user in a virtual environment but users were able to see their hand, as well as other people. The final version will be completely wireless, with all processing done on the headset, giving the user more maneuverability and comfort.
Project Alloy headset and a view of a user’s hands. It is a very early prototype, but still impressive
Content creation was also a big area of focus. There were companies selling kits to make any VR headset wireless, plus lots of 360 degree 4k cameras and spatial mapping devices. This demonstrates the state of VR content, as people expect AAA titles as soon as the hardware launches, while content developers realize that it is still very early on in the life cycle of these devices.
Augmented Reality – Incorporating Tracking
When Microsoft incorporated tracking into the Hololens, they raised the bar for the rest of the manufacturers. While none of the companies incorporated spatial tracking into their headsets, both Vuzix (Blade 3000) and ODG (M9) unveiled smartglasses that are very similar in build to sunglasses. Many of the companies, Vuzix and ODG included, spoke about their plans to create a “soldier ready” system within a few years.
Vuzix Blade 3000 Smart Glasses
The key to AR becoming mainstream lies in the interface and how users interact with it. What information is presented, and how it is presented, will make or break this technology in the coming years.
Drones – Taking Inspiration from Selfies
Drone technology and use cases are rapidly advancing from being a hobby to companies across industries leveraging their capabilities to paint buildings, monitor crops in agriculture and even experiment with underwater fishing! Many of the drone companies have taken inspiration from selfies, creating and incorporating sophisticated software that allows the drones to track people and objects.
The Yuneec Typhoon H has the ability to track people/objects and uses an integrated Intel RealSense to maneuver around obstacles
The ability to track and record people would help military instructors (e.g. track the movements of soldiers through an outdoor course).
Training and learning programs across domains are poised to benefit from these emerging technologies. As time progresses, look for the devices to get smaller, lighter and less expensive allowing for better accessibility and integration into training programs.