Augmented reality and HR – is it just a gimmick or does it have real utility?


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Hold your phone over an image of Tottenham football players and a video will start to play showing highlights of a goal scored by Tottenham vs. Liverpool. How is this possible?

Aurasma current sponsors of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club create augmented reality experiences which allow you to create more meaningful relationships between fixed objects and locations. It’s not that we want to compare a Tottenham player to an object but you get the meaning. [Disclaimer - article has been written by Arsenal fans].

Large brands such as Bentley, M&S and Elle are also embracing augmented reality through Aurasma.

So immediately the potential for marketing is apparent. AR can make products come alive for the consumer to interact with. For example, take a magazine ad for jeans. Through AR, you can now choose different colour jeans on a model to see what it looks like.

An area that immediately springs to mind as being able to benefit from the immersive experience of AR is gaming. For example, one of Skill-Pill’s first clients Qualcomm has been a big driver of augmented reality over the years, using it to bring back the classic 80’s & 90’s game Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em. So far, so fun.

There are other more life style oriented tricks in which you can change pictures in frames in your living room automatically by pointing your phone at it and sending a new photo which is an augmented reality lite application.

Aside from simple lifestyle, marketing and gaming applications the real question from a learning perspective is can we use augmented reality to create richer learning experiences? Initial impressions suggest that Augmented Reality could combine with mobile learning to build a truly immersive learning experience. However, to get the most out of Augmented Reality it needs to be looked at from the mobile perspective – it cannot just be a recut version of whatever eLearning is available forced onto a mobile.

Is augmented reality primarily mobile? Absolutely

Augmented Reality lends itself perfectly to being primarily a mobile play.

Is augmented reality context sensitive? Yes

Our learning needs to be context specific. What does this mean? If one of our learners is in the context of facing a challenge; for example needing to have a difficult conversation with a colleague or needing to do a strategic client review, can he or she collect some content on their mobile? With Augmented Reality this is definitely possible.

Can augmented reality add value to real world experience? Yes

It can add a layer of information or content over objects allowing for a classic consumer learner experience. There is no doubt when it comes to textbook and particularly for primary and secondary education that there are early applications of this, for example, you can have pictures of chemical molecules which you can hold your phone over and they turn into 3D molecules that the student can turn round with his or her finger and learn more information.

So on the face of it augmented reality ought to have a mobile learning application. It is on the go, it is context sensitive and it can add a layer of extra data information to what you are seeing.

But still that is not good enough because crossing these three lines together still doesn’t give you a rigorous business or learning application.

As mentioned earlier Augmented Reality is terrific for marketing and gaming and Skill-Pill’s view now is that all lines of sight are indicating that it ought to have a thorough-going business and learning application. It should utilise the fact users and learners are on the go and that they are often in specific contexts in which they will need to use learning tools. With Augmented Reality they can use their phone to enrich the interaction with external objects or their location.

In 2012 Skill-Pill will be teaming up with its content and academic partners – Pearson Education and London Business School – to unveil a thorough going business Augmented Reality tool. This will offer solutions which can really drive more immersive learning experiences that are context sensitive and allow the user to use his or her phone to create a better relationship between an external environment or object.

There is extraordinary potential out there but like many things we need to be measured in the way that we approach it. Ultimately the tool has to drive value and learning to help maintain stickiness of content and learning points rather than just being a gimmick.

Gerry Griffin is director of Skill-Pill M-Learning and a former director of the London Business School.

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