Just 10 years ago, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) was the stuff of science fiction. Now, the technology might be training you for your next job, without any human management.
Ryan Chapman, CEO of Vancouver company Motive.io, saw the potential of VR and AR before most. Teaming up with Jeff Macpherson—the company’s creative director—in 2008, the pair had the idea to create a mobile game that relied on tracking a person’s location; a format that worked much like Niantic’s Pokémon Go, which would hit the App Store eight years later. The creation, named CodeRunner, was an early success.
While working on its follow-up, however, the pair sought a new approach. CodeRunner was built through a long and laborious process, requiring any creative changes to be meticulously written down in a Google document, and passed over for coding. Chapman believed there was a better way to create the company’s next game, Mindwar.
“There was a lot of turnaround time,” he tells the Georgia Straight at Motive.io’s office in Burnaby. “Jeff would produce the voiceovers and he would send them to me, and I would literally have to write lines of code to wire each one of them up. If Jeff wanted to change something about the narrative, or the timing, or how it worked, it would take a week or two to see it in action. I wanted to eliminate that. That’s where Motive.io started to come from. It was an effort to build out tools that Jeff and his team could use to bypass the engineers, and get their work into the game.”
Together, the pair developed a piece of software that allowed creatives to make VR or AR experiences without writing a single line of code. So far, the authoring platform has been used by a number of different businesses to create narrative-driven AR games, bring promotional posters to life, and augment high-profile tourist attractions across Canada. Despite that versatility, Chapman believes the best use for the tool is in the education and training space.
“The Motive.io software is the engine behind two new products we’re launching—the Holodeck XR, and Performance AR,” he says. “They both do different things to help with training.”
Holodeck XR offers an innovative way to teach employees how to make decisions about the world around them. Businesses can build an immersive VR or AR environment for new hires, and ask them to assess the scenario as they interact with the objects. Chapman sees the software being of great value to industries such as crime scene investigation or police training, where individuals are asked to make judgement calls beyond a textbook.
“Scenario-based training is one of the most effective ways of learning, because people learn by doing,” he says. “Holodeck XR allows companies to make unique simulations that are tailored to their business, with scenarios that adapt based on trainee interactions. Organizations can create intricate situations that meet each individual’s needs, instead of relying on an instructor to guide each employee individually. With Motive.io companies can create and scale training solutions at a much faster pace.”
The business’s second creation, Performance AR, acts like an interactive manual. Tasked with learning a huge amount of information, employees waste valuable hours leafing through hefty instruction booklets to fix product breakages, or learn basic company processes. Performance AR provides a step-by-step, responsive guide to manufacturing and teaching organizational procedures.
The technology allows workers to scan a real-world object or location with a phone, tablet, or AR headset, which will open a digital manual. The screen then overlays graphics of the employee’s next steps on top of the physical equivalent, allowing companies to program animated directions on how to create or mend an object, or navigate a factory floor.
“With Performance AR, you’re not being tested—you’re being explained to,” Chapman says. “It’s like having an instructor there. This is something where if this is your first day in the warehouse, you can point your tablet at a piece of equipment and it’s going to give you step-by-step instruction on how to do a repair.
“What makes me most excited is that with the performance support app, you can actually prevent people from hurting themselves,” he continues. “If an app like this can eliminate one accident on a factory floor, it pays for itself a million times over. On the other [Holodeck XR] side, I’m really excited to give control to the people who are on the outside looking in, in terms of their ability to create these scenarios. Now, the gatekeepers are the engineers: the people who can actually make stuff happen. I’m an engineer, but I don’t think I should get in the way of a creative person’s decision. I think empowering creative people is such an important next step in the VR and AR space, and for training a more engaged workforce.”
Motive.io will be showcasing Holodeck XR and Performance AR at the VR/AR Global Summit (Parq Vancouver) today (September 21) and Saturday (September 22).
Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays