Pokémon in the Conference Room: The Impact of Pokémon Go and AR on Corporate Learning
Whether or not you’ve actually downloaded the app, you’ve probably heard some of the challenging-to-believe stories about just how popular and addictive Pokémon Go is proving to be. There was the one about two people who walked off a cliff hunting a Pokémon and fell 50+ feet (and survived). Also the one about clever thieves who used the app to lure Pokémon hunters to isolated areas in order to rob them. But what probably matters most to the game’s makers is the fact that it had the most first-week downloads of any app in history, and its users are spending more time with it per day than they are with Facebook, one of the other most addictive apps around. In other words, Pokémon Go is a runaway success—one whose popularity will have repercussions that go further than the Pokémon gym, even beyond the realm of gaming to affect somewhat more staid sectors like corporate learning—here’s a look at what those might be.
Augmented Reality: Not Just for Monster Hunting
As you may or may not be aware, Pokémon Go makes use of the sophisticated-sounding technology known as augmented reality, or AR. Augmented reality is a term that can be applied whenever a view of the real world (reality) is supplemented or altered (augmented) by digital elements. Pokémon Go uses AR and your smartphone to show you the real world, more or less as you see it with your own eyes, with the addition of cute monsters that you attempt to catch. It ends up looking like so:
Google Glass, though maybe a little early to the game, was another form of AR—it could, for example,project navigation instructions onto the wearers’ view of the road ahead. The fastest-growing social network around, Snapchat, owes some of its popularity to augmented reality too; the filters that you can use to turn yourself into a dog or otherwise bedazzle your face are a type of AR in that they use technology to superimpose digital stuff on someone in real-time.
There are plenty of other applications out there for augmented reality besides Pokémon and Snapchat filters—for example, the FDA has approved an augmented reality device that allows surgeons to “edit” images during surgery, simulating a view that they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, for example by making a certain tissue transparent. And AR is being harnessed successfully by a number of businesses—Ikea, for example, lets you see how furniture would look in your home with AR.
By OyundariZorigtbaatar (Own work)[CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The entire field of AR is still emerging, and it will be intriguing to see where the technology goes in the future (and also how it develops alongside virtual reality). But one area where augmented reality is poised to make a big impact, where it’s already making an impact in fact, is in learning.
AR as a New Tool for Learning
It shouldn’t be a surprise that augmented reality has been adopted as a tool for teaching, both in corporate and classroom environments. Certain lessons are greatly enriched by the ability to combine digital information with real-world visuals. Some complex systems or equipment can become much easier to understand when learning content intelligently interacts with the real-world objects in a well-designed augmented reality experience. For example, Boeing found that trainees assembling a mock airplane wing were significantly faster and made fewer mistakes when they were using AR assembly instructions than when they were working with a static PDF.
By MetaMarket - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49983945
Augmented reality isn’t destined only for highly technical training though. One company revamped their onboarding program by implementing mobile AR elements to help with employee orientation. On their phones, new employees could see a virtual “tour guide” who gave them helpful, location-specific information during their onboarding sessions. The company saw significantly more engagement for its AR-assisted onboarding activities than it had previously.
Learning’s challenge and how AR helps
For a while now, the field of learning has had a challenge—that of engaging people in an increasingly attention-deficient world. Learning leaders will not only have the ability to innovate with new technology like AR; they'l have to, if they want people to pay attention. Augmented reality isn’t the only way to do this by any means, but it’s one possible method of delivering that content in a manner that makes it more likely that people will consume and understand it. Other innovations like interactive learning, mobile learning, video and gamification have made a big impact on how people learn today. The most innovative learning programs are taking advantage of these opportunities to create materials that will engage people, help them learn skills critical to the function of a business, and improve their ability to navigate in a dynamic environment.
Pokémon Go and Snapchat may not be the most serious technological innovations, but they’re getting people to really engage in a way that creators of learning programs should envy. They show how augmented reality can be used to create rich, compelling experiences. You might not want to whip out your phone and start hunting Pokémon or taking snaps of your boss in your next meeting, but the apps prove how engaging AR experiences can be. The technology behind AR continues to improve, and eventually people will be able to create more fluid, interactive experiences—ones that will help learning programs make a greater impact on employees, and ultimately, businesses’ bottom lines.