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Augmented Reality Training Pros and Cons

Pros of augmented reality training: 

  • Safe experiential learning that’s engaging for learners
  • Dynamic in-the-moment performance support
  • Easy to reuse and distribute at scale

Cons of augmented reality training: 

  • Not especially useful for soft skills training or topics open to interpretation
  • More expensive than training modalities like eLearning and ILT
  • Newer technology that is advancing and thus may call for occasional updates

If you’re in learning and development, you’ve likely seen or heard of augmented reality as a corporate training solution. Though that idea is intriguing, it leaves a lot of blanks to fill in:

What is augmented reality training

What are its specific training applications? 

How can AR add value to my program?

Are there possible downsides to this technology?

If you want answers to those questions so you can determine if augmented reality training addresses your needs, you’re in luck.

In this article, we’ll define augmented reality training, discuss use cases, and explain the pros and cons.

What is Augmented Reality?

Essentially, augmented reality (AR) is an extended reality technology (XR) that enables you to superimpose text, images, video, and even 3D models onto the world. 

In other words, AR adds to — or augments — reality. Two famous examples include Snapchat filters (think dog ears appearing on your face) and Pokémon Go (where gamers use their phones or tablets to catch Pokémon that seemingly appear in front of them). 

There are three types of AR:

  • Image target, in which you overlay a real-world 2D image with video, text, images, or 3D objects 
  • Object recognition, in which you fix a digital 3D model to a real-world 3D object
  • Plane detection, in which you fix a digital 3D model to a real-world flat surface

If AR sounds fun, that’s because it is! Let’s review how you can use that fun for successful workplace training.

How Can I Use AR for Training?

You can apply AR to training in many ways. The strength of AR is the ability to enhance and spotlight one thing or process at a time. That lends itself to microlearning.

Use AR for Microlearning

Microlearning is a type of training that focuses on one definable concept, idea, skill, object, or process. An auto mechanic can use AR microlearning for repairing a car A/C compressor, which is one specific task in an auto mechanic’s domain. A mechanic-in-training can superimpose a 3D model of the A/C compressor on top of an actual A/C compressor to highlight the parts, view videos on common problems, and touch the model on their screens to interact with it.

Though microlearning can be short, it doesn’t have to be. When creating microlearning, we adhere to the subject matter’s scope, not the time it takes to cover it. Augmented reality training can be an engaging tool to carry out microlearning.

Well-Suited for Technical Skills

Generally, augmented reality is excellent for isolating technical skills or knowledge that learners can practice and understand without needing a broader context. That’s because of its ability to help learners focus by overlaying real-world objects or surfaces with digital materials. Visually captivating, AR gets learners to stay in the moment and absorb pertinent knowledge that they can apply immediately. 

Let’s return to the auto mechanic for some augmented reality training examples. With AR, learners could use their devices to:

  • Scan a real-world 2D inspection checklist, overlaying it with a video that walks through the process (image target)
  • Scan a real-world A/C compressor, fixing a digital 3D model compressor to it that learners can safely disassemble and reassemble (object recognition)
  • Scan a real-world flat surface — such as a parking lot — augmenting reality with a to-scale 3D model of a car that they can move around, go inside, and venture underneath (plane detection)

In each example, the augmented reality training component and the real-world objects provide everything the learners need to learn the tasks at hand. You’ll get the most performance impact out of AR by applying it to similar training scenarios, those in which AR alone helps learners achieve the learning objectives

You could use augmented reality training to help technicians learn a new engine, and you could help cashiers practice specific transactions on a to-scale 3D model POS (point-of-sale) system. With AR, there are endless opportunities to aid employees in maintenance, repair, and technical processes.

READ MORE: What is Augmented Reality? Everything You Need to Know

Pros and Cons of Augmented Reality Training

Knowing what you now know about AR, you might ask yourself why you should use it for training. What are the pros and cons? Let’s explore.

Pros of Augmented Reality Training

Safe Experiential Learning

First and foremost, the opportunity to interact with digital 3D models provides a safe experiential learning environment. There is no risk to the business, there is no safety risk to the employees, and there is no risk of an employee damaging any real-world products or equipment. 

In the case of plane detection, AR allows learners to practice with to-scale models of equipment like cars or POS systems without real-world versions. 

The benefit is twofold: 

  • It’s convenient for learners, as they can train anywhere on an AR-capable device and a flat surface.
  • Real-world equipment remains available for business use, meaning employee training and normal operations can occur without disruptions.

High ROI

As is typically the case with XR training, custom augmented reality training can have high upfront development costs. But when used strategically, it can provide an immediate boost to employee performance and the bottom line. 

It does so in the following ways:

  • Augmented reality training is engaging and learner-centric. It captures learners’ attention, and thanks to its mobile capabilities, learners can access it when it’s convenient.
  • Once you create the training, you can use it repeatedly, so long as the content remains up-to-date.
  • Your organization and your employees likely have some of the hardware needed for AR — namely tablets and smartphones. That fact can aid in scaling AR training to the whole organization, as can an extended reality system (XRS) that lets you manage, deliver, track, and update your AR training over the internet.

All those factors can lead to swift and robust ROI in your augmented reality training. 

Dynamic Performance Support

While AR is well-suited for microlearning, employees can also use it for in-the-moment performance support. 

Take retail, for example. Retail employees could use AR to reinforce product knowledge training by focusing their device on a product and generating videos about it or 3D digital models. They could also employ AR as a sales tool to educate customers about products on the sales floor. 

Performance support is useful in other work, too. An auto mechanic or engineer could turn to AR to see how an adequately assembled part should look. Everyone can use some help when they’re in the thick of things, and AR is a means for delivering that help in a comfortable, captivating manner.

READ MORE: AR vs. VR Training: How to Choose the Best Technology

Cons of Augmented Reality Training

AR and Soft Skills Don’t Mix 

AR is exceptional for isolating specific products, equipment, or processes. Learners can engage with those things in a hyper-focused space and become very skilled in their knowledge and execution. However, when it comes to more abstract, conceptual content — particularly soft skills training — AR isn’t the best modality. For that sort of training, you don’t want to strip away the environment, as it serves as an essential context for any training scenarios. 

VR training, instructor-led training, and virtual instructor-led training are better fits for such topics. Rather than calling learners’ attention to one thing at a time, those solutions can help learners thrive in fast-paced and shifting environments where soft skills are crucial. 

More Expensive Than Other Training Options

The start-up costs for AR can be higher than alternative modalities, like eLearning and instructor-led training. It can also be costly in terms of the time it takes to develop it. However, augmented reality training can provide a steady ROI over time because of the reasons we mentioned earlier. If you’re embarking on an augmented reality training project, be sure to develop it properly. You can do so by: 

  • Identifying your learning objectives
  • Choosing the right augmented reality training software
  • Piloting the training and making tweaks per feedback

May Need Occasional Updates

As with any of the latest tech, AR is subject to occasional advancements. You may have to press pause on training, allowing your team or your vendor to make necessary updates and upgrades. 

Again, this is where an XRS comes in handy. Find one that makes it easy to deliver updated augmented reality training content to your AR devices and learners, no matter their location. You don’t want to be stuck traveling or transferring AR devices every time you need to deliver updated AR training. You can also guard against update fatigue by consulting with augmented reality training experts about which technology to invest in for the long haul. 

READ MORE: Extended Reality System (XRS): What it is, Costs, Pros, and Cons

So, Are You “Pro” or “No” on AR Training?

How do you feel about augmented reality training? Do you see how it can bring value to your training program? Don’t see a fit for it right now? We hope this article helped you answer these questions and provided clarity regarding augmented reality training’s advantages and disadvantages.

Have an augmented reality training project in mind? Leaning toward another modality? Start designing it today!

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