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TZ interviews: Gartner's Tuong Nguyen pt2

11th Mar 2014
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Following a report into the implications of AR (augmented reality) in the workplace, our technology editor Andy Price caught up with one of Gartner's principal analysts, Tuong Nguyen. To read part one click here

How will this affect L&D departments - will they have to develop new skills?

That's a tricky one as well. I'd say that like many of the technologies we use to access info and content, part of it comes down to the users being familiar with using technology in general, but I also believe that the part of technology that should be weaved into AR has to do with user interfaces, in a way that's intuitive for the user. Remember - it's used as a tool or assistive technology to help employers do their job, not necessarily some kind of miracle technology that makes someone that's not good at their job suddenly good at it.

Do you think a key thing for AR breaking further into the training world is integration into existing training programs? It sounds like a lot of training at the moment uses the users' own devices. If vendors were able to integrate this tech into existing training programs, would this have a big effect on its growth?

I'd say it depends on the industry and what part of the program you're talking about. I think some industries, especially on the weightless side - knowledge-type workers like ourselves - benefit less from it. I already have my computer in front of me, I can pull up all sorts of info. My need for pulling up an extra screen like tablet or head-mounted display is less useful in the situation that I have all the info I need in front of me. But training someone to repair something - or in professions such as surgery - would add or provide that additional layer of information in a real-time situation so the person using it can act on it immediately.

Are you aware of any examples of where AR is being used in business and training?

It's a fairly new market - AR being used in enterprise. So examples I think come in two flavours: first, they're out there but in stealth mode, so the enterprises haven't really talked about it. Either because it's competitive advantage or they're still trialling it. The second falls into the public domain. I have heard of a few examples - I believe Mitsubishi has been trying an AR application for repair and maintenance of their air-conditioning machines. They worked with Matteo on this, there are some videos available online of them doing that. Same with Volkswagen - they also provide a training maintenance type demo on their website that uses AR.

What kind of things will we be trained in using AR - what does the future look like?

There's another example, Sheffield Hallam University, where they use AR to train their nursing students. On an iPad, they hold it over a model and the AR application feeds you information such as a sampled name, the gender, the age, the patient's health history, and then it gives information to the instructor who can then ask questions based on it in the training.

Does it look fairly similar across the board?

For now - it's basically an assistive technology - the overlay of the information you need over the object you're looking at. It's the alternative of sitting down in front of a manual. Say you're trying to fix your car, flipping through pages trying to find the right object, then how to replace it. It's a replacement for that.

Moving forward do you think it will be a steady progression or a faster uptake in AR technology in training?

I think that's one of the areas that I expect to see a quicker uptake, but it all really depends on how quickly enterprises start applying it. Over the last 12 months or so, based on the clients I talk to, there's a lot more awareness and interest in it but the challenge right now is that they're looking for other case studies to justify their own deployment. As it's a new field, there's very few I can supply. That also limits our ability to figure out what the cost of ownership is.

Is it likely to be another department that will push AR tech rather than coming from the training department?

For now... yes. The issue is that the IT guys as well as whoever's in charge of planning forward technologies tend to be the people that come to me with this. As opposed to individual departments thinking 'oh, this is what we need'. As this picks up in popularity, you might see it pushed more organically within each departments in business.

Tuong Nguyen is a principal analyst at Gartner. For more information or to download the report click here

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