As we approach the end of the 2nd month of government-advised remote working from home, with the studio still vacant albeit for some thirsty plants, we take a considered look at how social distancing and COVID-19 has impacted the business, learning industry and wider immersive technologies sector.
First up, Robin, Managing Director of Make Real:
“The team at Make Real faced two immediate challenges due to Coronavirus.
The first was operational and logistical, moving the entire team to home working (1 week prior to the lockdown) and ensuring continuity of service for our existing clients and projects. For us, being a digital business, this was in many ways the easy part. We had recently invested in ensuring that all team members had all the kit they needed to work from home and many of the team were already doing this for at least part of the week.
Subsequent staff surveys have shown that the majority of the team would like to continue home working in the future and that most of the negative effects are specific to the pandemic. Once home working was fully established we moved our attention to the greater challenge. How would we need to adjust our business development approach in a world where we could no longer meet clients, build trust and develop mutual understanding of immersive technologies?
For most of our partners, it’s frustrating to realise that, whilst VR and AR offer solutions to the challenge of remote learning, working and entertainment, the proliferation of headsets is simply not established enough to deliver on this promise in the short term. Therefore another of our mantras has come to the fore. ‘High quality content should be portable’. In other words, immersive learning and other content that is well designed should work in a VR headset and take advantage of the benefits of doing so.
However, it should also (with some adaptation of interaction) be usable on a PC, Laptop, tablet or smartphone. Mobile-based AR content already has a head start in this regard. After an initial postponement or cancellation of some projects in sectors most effected by Coronavirus (Aerospace and Automotive for example), we are now seeing a slow return to our previous levels of enquiries, but with more focus on solutions that take all remote working channels into account.
To finish I’d like to share my best wishes with all employees of businesses large and small. Whatever is happening to businesses ultimately effects individuals and I am keenly aware that Make Real has been somewhat insulated from the worst consequences of Coronavirus. Therefore, when reading this, please spare a thought for the many millions of employees who have lost their livelihoods at this difficult time.”
As Head of Learning Design, Sophie takes us through her thoughts on the wider implications on how we create learning for employees:
“If you’re an L&D professional involved in creating training and you’re reading this, thank you for making the time. You’re likely to be rushed off your feet, trying to keep up with constantly shifting priorities, new technical challenges and an ever-evolving learning need.
Things that seemed like major priorities on the 1st March, have found their way onto the back burner. While other courses you thought were well established – done and dusted – suddenly need a complete redesign.
For the time being, face-to-face training is off the cards and that means that a lot of courses need a remote, usually digital, alternative. That can seem like an understandably, unsurmountable task to be confronted with all at once. But it’s like we always say; start small and iterate.
You’re unlikely to be able to completely replace your most important or popular face-to-face training in a matter of weeks. But by concentrating on the smallest thing to meet the immediate need, and doing that really well, you’ll be better placed to revise and iterate on that strong foundation later.
Some of those changes might not just bridge a gap, they might turn out to be improvements that last you long into the future.”
Finally, Immersive Partnerships Director, Sam, looks at how the rest of the sector is handling things in regards to hardware and use:
“Since the lockdown came into effect, we’ve seen an increase in interest in immersive technologies to enable remote working, collaboration and reviews but also fresh challenges around procurement and deployment of hardware into enterprise in the short term. Organisations that already have access to technology are looking for new ways to utilise their devices beyond just training, however those looking to get on-board are up against a supply & demand issue, although this is ebbing away moving forwards as factories reopen.
Whilst pretty much every organisation has pivoted to the use of video calling for remote meetings and operations, early onset fatigue is beginning to become apparent with mental health impacts of lengthy sessions being under the watch of every participant, without the sense of immersion or involvement. Studies are showing that presentations and the many online webinars now available suit video delivery, however virtual event attendees are looking for something more suitable for 1-2-1 interactions that 6DoF full VR systems offer. As we covered in March, there are a wealth of applications and solutions available to VR owners depending upon use case to experiment with.
As reported elsewhere, short-term impacts on technology are mostly neutral / negative however mid to long term, acceleration of adoption looks set to benefit all involved as long as we maintain a logical implementation strategy, with measured outcomes and returns of investment, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to an unpredictable scenario.”
Wherever you are, however you are working, it’s certainly different out there now how it was two months ago. Whatever your situation, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay inside for the benefit of the keyworkers and frontline staff working hard to save us all.
We’re always happy to talk to you about how immersive technologies can engage your employees and customers. If you have a learning objective in mind, or simply want to know more about VR, send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.