Digital technology is advancing at such a rate that innovation almost seems normal these days. We take it for granted that major global changes in technological trends now take place over months rather than generations. The application of digital technology touches every aspect of our daily lives, from how our children learn at school to the way we navigate and access the internet while out at sea.
Social acceptance of new technologies plays a key role in their success – and not everyone embraces the modern world immediately. Wearable technology, for example, has been available since the early 1980s, yet has only become popular in the last few years.
The same is true for the training industry, which has seen a wide range of new and exciting technologies over the years. Until recently, widespread adoption has been constrained by high costs and a perceived lack of business benefits over more traditional training alternatives. Happily, things are changing. For example, although we have seen many practical examples of virtual reality (VR) since the mid-1980s, it was initially slow to take off within training. Today, VR use is expected to reach 171 million users globally in 2018. An estimated US$13.9 billion was spent on VR and augmented reality (AR) in 2017.
VR and AR are good examples of the potential of innovative digital technologies in training. Despite their common association, they are quite different. VR is an immersive experience in which the learner is presented with an entirely 3D digital environment via a headset or “googles”. The learner “physically” interacts with the 3D world by moving their head relative to the digital content. They can also use hand controls to interact with virtual objects – turning a wheel to make a course correction on a yacht, for example. Applications for this type of technology are endless. Imagine new crew members being able to practise procedures and safety drills on a yacht before going on board. Using VR, new owners could gain experience steering or berthing their boats without risking damage in real life.
AR, sometimes referred to as mixed reality, also requires a headset or “glasses”. Rather than being immersed in a separate 3D world, the learner continues to see their actual environment. The glasses simply project 3D content “on top” of the view, augmenting their experience with new information and instructions. AR can be used to support training in engine maintenance, for example, by projecting digital instructions on top of an actual engine.
Innovative technologies that offer tangible training benefits are now both available and affordable. RINA’s in-house digital multimedia experts provide first-class, industry-leading expertise that brings widespread benefits to training in the yacht sector and many other industries.