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Innovation, Safety

Accelerating Union Training with Immersive Technology

November 04, 2021 / by Daniel Blair, Chris Taran

Daniel Blair

CEO & Founder, Bit Space Development Ltd.

Chris Taran

Vice President/Education & Training Coordinator, IBEW 2085

Learn about the benefits of implementing VR and AR job training solutions for improving safety and hazard awareness.


00:00:01,200 –> 00:05:48,367
-Dan: …I’ll get started with this piece. Just going to flip back to here to make sure that everyone can see. So thank you, everyone, who’s starting to jump in
on the session here. I know this session isn’t very long, so I’m going to hammer thro

00:00:01,200 –> 00:05:48,367
-Dan: …I’ll get started with this piece. Just going to flip back to here to make sure that everyone can see. So thank you, everyone, who’s starting to jump in
on the session here. I know this session isn’t very long, so I’m going to hammer through a few slides and introduce myself, and then Chris will introduce himself.
And we’re going to talk a little bit about a project that we worked on that was originally conceived and developed a couple of years ago, but has since then
been used for training. And it’s one of the earliest examples internally at my company that was specifically focused around accelerating a union training course.
And since then, Chris and I have worked together on a lot of different initiatives and applications of technology, that are both in proposal phase now and in distributed status in the XR space over the last few years. So my name is Dan, and I own a company called Bit Space. And we’ve been in the industry for a long time, and my whole focus
is around solving problems specifically with immersive technologies. And my firm focuses on XR, like a lot of the firms that are going to be at the conference today.
But our area of focus also extends into the IoT and AI space, and that really gives us a holistic look at the immersive technology spectrum from human computer
interaction up until how computers interact and react to us. So we’re a Canadian firm. We’re located in Winnipeg. I’m actually just a stone’s throw from Chris,
so our facilities are fairly close together. And like I said, we’re focused on virtual and augmented reality and got started in that space all the way back in 2015.
So we’ve been solving problems for companies back from cardboard boxes. And you’ll see pictures of people using this particular application with cardboards all the way up
until the most recent stuff. So Bit Space is an ISV member for Oculus. We’re also an ISV member with HDC, and we’re a partner with Pico, and we both handle hardware
deployments as well as software. So as I mentioned, my name is Dan. I founded the company either foolishly or as the best decision I’ve ever made, directly
after graduating college. So starting this as a 20-something-year-old with big ideas on how we can change the way that learning is done, now this is a company that’s
given me lots of gray hair. And we’ve certainly been thrown in some interesting projects in that time. A few interesting reasons why I think this is relevant,
and Chris will likely fortify some of this, we’re more likely to learn in VR. And a lot of these stats are really reinforced by the type of content that is developed
and the quality of the content. And so we’re more likely to retain knowledge. We’re more likely to learn in these types of experiences because we’re able to make mistakes,
and we’re able to be placed inside of that. And everybody at this conference at some point has heard or said that the value of the technologies that we can put you
inside the eyes of somebody that’s experiencing any type of hazardous environment, or something along those lines. But what really is particularly impactful, at least in my opinion, is we’re able to retain more information because we’re able to fail. You can fail over and over and over again. We can hurt ourselves in VR. We can chop off our hands. We can follow the machinery. We can do all these kind of things that we can’t do in real life. And so that is a big reason why I think that we’re all here,
we’re all at this event, is because we want to find ways to learn better and retain that knowledge. I like to show this because back when Chris and I got started
on this project, there wasn’t even the blue section yet. We were smart phone powered. We had some PC experiences. We had some PC hardware, but like for anybody
that’s gotten into this space or looked at adopting technology within the last few years, the options that you have really weren’t available to us yet. So it’s very interesting to see how the industry has been growing and the headset adoption. In fact, this graph needs to be updated because I would drastically shrink that red portion
in 2022 and 2023, and change that all over to blue. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I already kind of went over this, but again, we’re really focused
around strategy consulting, AR and VR development. We do web integrations. We help with pilot testing, and measurement and innovation strategy. And we work with companies
across Canada and the U.S.. So this project here, before we jump in I want to give Chris a moment to introduce himself, and then we’ll talk a little bit about the project.
So, Chris, did you want to throw your slides up, or do you just want to talk?

00:05:48,367 –> 00:07:39,501
-Chris: No. I think I’m just going to talk here, Dan. Thank you very much for the invite to participate. My name is Christopher, and I’m the Vice President and the Director of Training and Apprenticeship for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Very small piece about our organization, our jurisdiction is here in Manitoba and Nunavut, which happens to be the largest geographical area in North America. And currently, we’re representing approximately 1,400 electrical workers, again all throughout
Manitoba and Nunavut. My primary role here with the Electrical Brotherhood is, I am an educator. So, of course, I started as a Red Seal electrician and moved on to become
an administrator here. And one of the reasons why we connected so well with Dan is because vocational training facilities have forever always been looking for ways
on how to recreate the most realistic scenario that you possibly can for your student, while maintaining safety. In the electrical industry itself, you know, we’re not allowed to take students onto projects to observe and things like that. So we’re always trying to come up with innovative ways on creating the most real world scenario possible. So once we connected with Dan, it certainly opened up a whole new realm of possibilities on how we teach, when we teach and where we can teach. So again, as Dan eluded to, it’s been now a 6-year relationship, and I don’t think that that’s ever going to quit because the two of us are always trying to come up with something new, innovative and, of course, things that we can share throughout Canada.

00:07:43,200 –> 00:14:28,334
-Dan: Great. So a bit of context and preamble for the people in this conference, we all know that there’s a wide spectrum of content created for XR. The particular project
that that Chris and I are going to talk about is going to be really focused around using real world scenarios and real world environments. So it’s largely going to be
focused around a research project that he and I did a few years ago through a program called the Research Workplace Innovation Program, which was driven by 360 degree content. Believe me, we’re well aware of the benefits of six degrees of freedom, and both Chris and I have additional exciting projects coming down the pipe that we would like to share in the future. But for the purpose of this project, we’re going to be focused a little bit on 360 content. And again, for the people in this session, we definitely are familiar with that. So the partners on this project, there are actually more than this. But for the IBEW-specific slice, it is largely broken out by myself,
which is Bit Space Development, the Manitoba Construction Sector Council, the IBEW 2085, as well as the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba. We also had an advisory
committee and working group built up of a couple other unions, so there was the United Association 254 and the Boilermakers Local 555. There was also a representation
from our IBS fees, so Manitoba Heavy Construction as well as the SAFE Work Manitoba, which is an organization focused around workplace safety in our province. So like I said,
this is a 360 degree photo-driven VR experience that was built on our platform, called VR Safety. And the whole mentality here was to take content and areas in training at a facility, that we couldn’t necessarily put people in front of. So we had modules, so five modules focused around things like arc flash, fire explosive toxicity, slips, trips and falls, struck by, caught between, etc. And for this project, we visited several local construction projects. So we visited the construction of a local hospital,
the construction or expansion of a local casino, as well as several other job sites to make sure that the content that we shot was showing work being done by trades people on the job, so we could highlight these hazards before putting new entrance on the job. So the primary audience for this project was largely focused around people
exiting high school, people entering the workforce and people getting started in the electrical industry, but also to focus on revisiting content that you would need a refresher on as even an industry veteran. So this application really challenged us to think about how could we create a high quality experience but be able to deliver it
into remote locations. So keeping in mind that at the time, we were really focused on how to keep this off of the computer. And if we’re going back in time to 2017, 2018,
our best case scenario for this was to use cell phones and Google Cardboards, which ended up working out great. If you’re not from Canada and you don’t know the geography of Manitoba, we were taking this application, like, pretty far. You can drive 8 hours north in Manitoba and only actually hit a couple communities. So physically, we’re
a very large province, and some of our communities like remote reservations and stuff are quite sparse. So for this application, we really wanted to use this in pilots
both with K to 12 as well as mature learners. So we took this up to a few different communities, as well as applying it through the training facility at the IBEW.
And then we slotted this into their courses, which were focused around orientation and basically getting started in the industry. And with this, we wanted to focus on creating a single application. So we supported both Android and iOS and eventually the rift in Go. I will also say that this has long since been ported over to the Pico
hardware all the way up until the most recent, the Pico Neo 3. We piloted this application in 2018, and we took it to three different northern communities. So the Pos, Flin Flon and Cranberry Portage, and used more than 400 learners to enhance the training. And we found that 80 percent of them said that they learned more using the experience,
and over 90 percent of them said that they had a good time in the training. And when you think of the kind of content that we’re showing, like, generally we could
consider it to be fairly dry. So the goal was to create content that was meaningful and engaging. So putting people onto job sites where they’re going to see, like, what is it like to work beside electrical equipment that could be considered hazardous, and also show them contextual content and interactive content that shows them the dangers
of arc flash, it generally enhanced the standard PowerPoint style presentation. So this is just a quick shot of one of our scenes. This was from the construction
of our Manitoba clinic, and how content could be presented back to the users. And keep in mind that at the time of developing this, this was cutting edge. We’ve since innovated on this quite a lot in how this content can be delivered. But at the time, again like, using a cell phone to put someone on a job site to enhance the overall
experiences was largely beneficial. I like this picture because this shows how easy it was to slot this experience into Chris’ training facility. So this is the classroom at the 2085 facility here in Winnipeg. And all of these kids — Chris, were they grade 12s going into the electrical industry? I think —

00:14:28,334 –> 00:14:33,133
-Chris: No, these folks here actually were post secondary learners.

00:14:33,133 –> 00:18:07,300
-Dan: Okay. So yeah, so post secondary, getting started in the electrical industry and then tossed onto a job site. Some of these people would have had limited access
to an actual job site at this point, so just reinforcing the content that they were learning in the classroom that day. So I’m not going to read Chris’ quote to you,
but I’ll make these slides available to everybody post this event. This is another post secondary group that was up in northern Manitoba. So this is actually in the Pos. So this is at the UCN, which is the University College of the North. All of these are trade students, so again, post secondary, getting started in the industry and being placed onto job sites in the city, which is 7 hours away, so on job sites on builds bigger than they have experienced in their own town at that point, and again, up in the north
with people using it at one of the high schools. So there was a few areas that we really focused on to make sure that this was a successful application. And I like to use these metrics with a lot of the tools that we work on, and I like to break that out into engagement, retention and performance. So for this, we were really focused more on engagement than anything else because we wanted to know, like, are the users feeling that during the workshops that they’re having a better experience than just,
say, like a PowerPoint because this tool — Because of the fact that it’s very stationary, we weren’t really focused on removing any amount of hands-on component.
And it was largely focused around improving and delivering information for the classroom aspect. So for this, you know, with engagement, like, we were focused,
like, how are users interacting? Are they enjoying it? Are they able to complete the task after? Retention is if we quiz them after, are they able to deliver knowledge
that they actually were presented in the experience? And then performance, we were looking at the overall are they better? Are they faster to get into the job, etc.
And performance wasn’t as much of a key performance metric in this experience than other ones, but definitely something that we considered. So, I mean, that’s it for the slides. At this point, I really want to open it up to questions because this is — The reason I like this application is because it’s a practical application of XR,
but one that has been used in the workplace for quite a while now. So like I said, we developed this starting all the way back in 2017 through a grant, and we were able
to work with the industry to produce a piece of content that enhanced the overall classroom experience of new entrance in these union training facilities. And what’s really interesting about it is it’s something that has kind of stood the test of time. So we’re not talking about an up and coming brand new thing. This is something that was
deployed before some technology even existed on the market at this point. So if anybody has any questions, feel free to drop them into the chat because otherwise, we only have about 10 minutes of Q and A here.

00:18:07,300 –> 00:19:07,267
-Chris: Maybe while folks are getting their questions into that chat box, I just wanted to kind of add how important this technology is to the trades especially now.
When the pandemic hit, when we talk in terms of people going to school, I know a lot of schools had either rough or very quick transition to remote learning. But when we think about teaching trades, how do you teach practical remotely? That was one of the largest barriers for a lot of the vocational schools. So fortunately for us in our
partnership with Bit Space, we were able to transition within 2 days to remote learning and keep the flow of the class, and not lose any of the content or the intent of the learning. I mean, quite clearly, we’re not sending students home working on electricity but we’re still able to provide that lab experience and real world experience,
whether they’re here in the facility, out on the job site or having to sit and learn from their couch at home.

00:19:14,734 –> 00:20:38,567
-Dan: Great. Any questions from the group? I’m assuming that people can message into the chat. Well, if there are no questions we are only 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
“What has been the challenges to implementing?” All right. So, I mean like, I’ll put in a thing before I head over to Chris. One of the biggest challenges that we had initially to implementing this technology, like I said, is a lot of it didn’t exist when we set out to do this. Like, we were working with phones. We didn’t have Quests.
We didn’t have Picos. In fact, the Go was just coming out as we were starting this. So when we’re taking into consideration Manitoba being so geographically diverse,
one of the biggest challenges, like Chris said to me is, “Dan, if we’re going to do this we can’t just have everybody come to our classroom. We need to support
our industry.” And that was a huge challenge we had to overcome. So from a tech perspective, leveraging technology as it’s coming out and being quick to pivot and adapt
has been one of the biggest challenges from my perspective.

00:20:38,567 –> 00:22:02,467
-Chris: From our perspective, one of the – Well, the first challenge was there wasn’t too many general contractors eager and willing for us to come on site and point out hazards and safety concerns on their job sites. So we really had to hammer home to those folks that we weren’t there to out them as not being safe and stuff like that.
So, you know, we overcame that one. But the implementation in the classroom for us, I was very concerned that the students would treat this tech as a gimmick. And I think, you know, when you first pull out all of the stuff everybody assumes that they’re going to be playing a video game. So once they get immersed and into the AR and VR world,
they very quickly realize that it isn’t a video game and it’s a very valuable tool not only for them to get transported onto a job site, but also to rewind and review,
and have the ability to keep going to that job site because a standard job site visit is over when it’s over. But when you have this sort of technology, you can keep revisiting those hazards and those things that you missed. And what we started to find was that every time somebody went through the application, they pointed out or noticed
something new just about every time that they went through there. So that piece was a very welcomed surprise for us.

00:22:02,467 –> 00:24:08,234
-Dan: I think to build off of that, as well, one of the ways that we overcame some of the technical challenges and the site access challenges that we were presented with
was that we put together such a strong working group. So we had really good representation both of industry experts, so people on the job so, like, local company representation, so electricians doing the job, not just, you know, executives that are mandating that we work on this, but also from all levels, so from government to employee to business owner. The working group was made up of people who genuinely wanted to create an industry-forwarding experience. And our focus largely was on
helping people understand that, yeah, we weren’t there to call them out on anything. So, you know, we weren’t showing up with the safety team to come in and point out issues
or use this as an inspection tool, but instead to create an educational experience. So getting everybody on board from the beginning was huge. The next question, “For hotspot information and delivery or scenario branching,” so this particular experience doesn’t incorporate scenario branching. This was long before we had built this into our tooling. It does use hotspot content, so we have multiple types of hotspots. So it uses text, audio, video, all the basic things you would expect. Since then, we have
incorporated scenario authoring into this style of experience. So there is the potential that this particular tool will be expanded to incorporate that in the future.
In fact, Chris and I have scoped projects that we’re awaiting to hear back on our successful funding on, that will incorporate that technology. But this one is very
specifically just a linear experience, giving people, like, a job site experience, looking at it through the eyes of their instructor with both narrated content,
as well as embedded content.

00:24:08,234 –> 00:24:28,300
-Chris: And to answer the question about the quizzes, yes, you can embed the quiz in there a couple of different ways. You can’t advance to your next portion of the program
unless you pass the quiz, or the quiz can be placed at the end. So it’s pretty flexible and wide open to how you’d like to use the tool.

00:24:28,300 –> 00:26:33,400
-Dan: We also produced a facilitator guide for the instructors that are using it. So we wanted to embed this into the classroom experience as much as possible, so like Chris said, not just a gimmick that people do on the side or externally. So the facilitator guide has an overview of — It’s a physical booklet that the teacher gets,
and it has an overview of all of the content that’s explored in the experience, as well as some sample classroom activities that can help embed that experience into
the workflow in the classroom. So, “How would I use voice in XR training today?”, so we use voice in some of our more recent experiences as an input method. The most impactful ways with one of our HoloLens experiences we’re working on right now, which I certainly don’t have time to dig into, unfortunately, but because in a lot of
the newer experiences you’re using your hands to interact with tools. So for example, in one of our medical training examples where we have you looking at a potential casualty that you have to be working with, we use voice to allow the user to progress through the scenario or make a decision on the UI that they would otherwise
have to remove their hands from. For something along these lines, progressing through the hotspots, I like voice as an accessibility option for people that can’t use their hands in an experience. But this one, again, is largely based around looking. So it doesn’t have voice, per se. And it looks like we’re perhaps getting cut off. Chris put his e-mail in the chat, so feel free to connect with him. I’ll put mine, as well. Feel free to connect with both of us. We love to talk. And hit us up with any questions
about the tools, about ideas, anything. I’m always happy to help jam ideas and help you explore from the perspective of a tech provider and, you know, industry veteran.

00:26:33,400 –> 00:26:46,334
-Chris: Yeah, this app is actually available for free on the Google Play and the Apple store. So if you want to reach out to Dan or myself, we can certainly point you
in the right direction to get it for yourself.

00:26:46,334 –> 00:27:12,033
-Dan: Absolutely. Yeah, and if you have technology in your classroom already, like Oculuses or Picos, we have builds available for those, as well. So we’re always happy to help facilitate a pilot in your classroom. And I guess with that, that’s it. Thanks for coming, guys. All right. And I think, Chris, we just hit “Leave.”

00:27:12,033 –> 00:27:15,467
-Chris: Okay.
-Dan: All right. Thanks, guys.

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