Skip to main content
AR, Hardware, Innovation, VR

Understanding XR Technology for L&D

November 04, 2021 / by Liz Hyman, Rori DuBoff, Marc Metis, Greg Sullivan

Liz Hyman


Marc Metis

Vice President, Enterprise Software and Global Head of Vive X

Greg Sullivan

Director, Microsoft

Join XR industry leaders to explore the latest in immersive technologies and learn how it can propel more effective learning.


-Laura: Now, we’re going to hear from some of the XR Association’s executive level members, HTC, Microsoft and Accenture, who will share with us news about the latest and immersive technologies and how these innovations will continue to support HR and learning and development professionals. XRA’s CEO, Liz Hyman,

-Laura: Now, we’re going to hear from some of the XR Association’s executive level members, HTC, Microsoft and Accenture, who will share with us news about the latest and immersive technologies and how these innovations will continue to support HR and learning and development professionals. XRA’s CEO, Liz Hyman, will be leading this session. Back over to you, Liz.

-Liz: Fantastic. Thank you, and thanks again to Chike. That was wonderful, a wonderful way to set the day, and now we get into this topic of understanding XR technology for learning and development. And as Laura said, we wanted to really reach out to some of the heavy hitters in the XR industry to join us for this discussion and really help set the table for the rest of our panels and breakouts today. So let me quickly introduce folks. First, I want to introduce Marc Metis. Marc is Vice President of HTC VIVE’s Business Unit, where he heads XR Enterprise Software. And Marc also founded and runs the industry leading VIVE X Accelerator, a global accelerator fund that specializes in the virtual reality sector and whose mission is to help cultivate, foster and grow the global VR ecosystem by supporting start-ups and providing them with education, investment and mentorship. We are also very proud and fortunate to have Marc serve on the Board of the XR Association and bring to bear his extensive knowledge in the tech sector, marketing and business. We are also thrilled to have Rori DuBoff, Manager Director and Head of Content Innovation and Strategy for Extended Reality at Accenture Interactive. Rori is a strategic innovations leader with over 20 years’ experience working in digital marketing, integrated media, creative brand advertising and emerging technologies. And finally, I am so pleased to introduce Greg Sullivan. Greg is Director of Communications and a 30-year veteran at Microsoft. In 2015, he kind of put his gaze towards XR, and in that role, he works closely with the engineering teams, building the Microsoft HoloLens and mixed reality platform along with the marketing and business development personnel bringing these technologies to market. So greetings, one and all. Thank you so much for joining us today at our inaugural event and very great way to kick off the conversation here. So I think what I’m going to do is dive right in. Marc, I’m going to start with you. HTC has been at the forefront of virtual reality. It was some of the most compelling head-mounted displays and content in the business. Maybe what’s not as well known is that HTC, or maybe it is really well known, that HTC has developed amazing collaboration tools, really collaborative, immersive spaces. And I was wondering if you could share a little bit about how HTC is viewing the current status of VR and immersive collaboration sites and what this might mean for the learning and development community.

-Marc: Sure, yeah. Thanks, Liz. Appreciate you having me. Yeah, a few years ago, we set out to create the best in class solution for collaboration and learning, and we call tax VIVE Sync. So it was in development then, and then in beta and recently launched. And the goals for VIVE Sync were really to create a true horizontal solution that works across all different industries and different types of learning institutions as well. So it’s meant to be general purpose in its nature, so it can cover really all but the most specific and most technical types of hands-on training. Anything else, it’s really a great solution for. So you can kind of think about it as a sort of Zoom for XR plus more, so it has all the usefulness and convenience, plus the power-working 3D, so you can do all the things that you can do in 3D with physical presence, breakout groups, whiteboards, sticky notes that are voice activated. You can present PowerPoints. You can present videos. You can display 3D models and interact with them. So it’s really incredibly powerful. But it also integrates with 2D video conferencing as well, so for your colleagues who are using that, they’re not left behind. They can join in that fashion as well, so some people are joining in VR, some people are joining on video conferencing. And, in fact, you don’t even need a headset. So if you do have the headset, it’s a more powerful and immersive experience because you’re sort of right there with a full sense of presence, but if you’re not, it’s completely cross-platform, so you can use it with desktop. You can use it with your mobile device, whether it’s iOS or Android, and so that’s really, really convenient. So the key things we were trying to do with this technology to make it really useful for collaboration and learning is to build around some key principals. The first is to have VIVE Sync as sort of this starting point for your work or learning day. So in days prior, that was sort of going to the office or going to the classroom, and from there, you have your agenda. Here, you can actually just start your day in VIVE Sync. You have your whole agenda in front of you, where you can add or set new meetings or have more impromptu interactions. So it works in that way. It’s also real work and learning environments plus more, so everything looks realistic. The environments look realistic. It’s a serious, professional place to work and learn. The avatars really look like you. We have a special app that does that off a selfie and helps create a very realistic-looking, full body avatar for yourself, and we use AI to make sure that it moves in a natural and realistic way. The whole thing is meant to be easy and intuitive to use, so we really worked a lot on the UI and the UX to make sure that that is the case. It integrates with your existing work flow, so we’re not asking customers to change they work in order to use this. Rather, we’re looking at their existing systems that they have in place, whether it’s how they share files in the cloud, what devices they’re using, et cetera. So it’s easy to integrate. It’s also seamlessly integrated with the hardware, so this is the beauty, especially now with standalone headsets. You literally just put the headset on. VIVE Sync is there, and it just works beautifully. So that’s always been the dream, and we’ve now achieved that. Next principal is security and privacy, so that’s obviously of utmost importance to business and really to any kind of institution, learning, healthcare, et cetera. So we’ve taken a lot of steps on that side. We’ve built not just the app, but a whole back-end system with single sign on. We’re ISO-certified for security, and we take privacy really seriously. And then lastly, it’s from a trusted, reliable partner which we know is critical to our customers. So it’s quite amazing. I use it every day with my team. I use it outside with, you know, press briefings. I’ve used it and presented in the HTC Board meeting multiple times. And, you know, the other beautiful part of it is, it’s SaaS. So it’s really software as a service. We keep expanding it. We keep adding to it, and today, it’s an app. But really, it’s the basis for a whole sort of business universe that can do so much, more and more. So with that as background, we have just a short video that will give you a taste and flavor of it. Let’s have a look at VIVE Sync.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪

-Liz: Great. Marc, thank you, and thanks so much for that presentation. And it’s exciting to see, you know, just really, a huge way to have presence and something that makes our opportunity to communicate with one another so much more effective. So great to see that. And, Rori, welcome. I know that Accenture and Accenture Labs has been doing a fair amount of research around this topic of immersive learning, and so I was wondering if you might be able to share with folks what some of the top line findings are that are relevant or impactful for workforce training.

-Rori: Sure. Thanks, and very nice to be here. Hopefully, my — I think there might be issues with my computer screen glitching a little bit, but hopefully I stay in motion. I think this past year, we did research. We reached out to 300 executives in five different countries across 12 industries to find out about the intended investment levels for immersive learning for the next year What we’ve seen in the last few years is, you know, we’ve been trying to demonstrate that there’s actual value and ROI in using immersive learning across a variety of industries. And so this research was focused on, you know, coming out of that. Like, we, you know, we, some of the work we did for the Accenture Virtual Reality Experience solution for child welfare, we saw a 30 percent reduction and turnover of social care workers. We’ve seen a lot of impressive outcomes from the work we did for Accenture onboarding. So what we found from this study is that if we look globally — and all the countries we looked at had $1 billion revenue and over, so that’s something important to note — we saw that 30 percent of the companies are planning to invest $10 million and over next year in immersive learning. About 20 percent was between $1 and $10 million, and pretty much 80 percent of all of these companies are planning to invest in immersive learning next year. Very, very, so, you know very small fraction, and so what we’re seeing is exciting is because you can see that they’re obviously companies across from oil and gas, from banking and insurance, from retail. I mean, we’re looking at a gamut of industries, healthcare, are seeing the benefits of using these technologies and training their employees, right? And so the industries that popped were automotive, oil and gas, banking and insurance. Those, you know, just extremely high, you know. I think a third of the executives we spoke to in those industries are definitely planning on investing over $10 million in this space. And so, you know, I think we’ve all seen in the last few years working in this industry that learning and development has sort of been the accelerator for the overall industry, right? The benefits of helping, you know, or helping people, you know, learn through putting a headset on and training and preparing for workforce environments, simulating environments that would be difficult to get to, especially the a time of COVID, has been just phenomenal in terms of the impact it’s had. So, you know, I think it’s great. We now have case studies, many case studies that are showing the actual impact, right?I think it’s, you know, 75 percent learning retention increased rates, and now we have data to show the investments that are actually happening. So, you know, this space, to me, is really exciting. I mean, there isn’t an industry we aren’t talking to right now about how often virtual reality or even augmented reality in this situation with healthcare can be used to help employees and practitioners do a better job with less room for error. So it’s very exciting.

– Liz: Fantasic. You know, I feel like we’re at the precipice of just tremendous growth for all the reasons that you stated in the research supports. I mean, the issue of retention, I think, is incredibly valuable, something we want to look at even more closely as we go forward. So thanks for those comments. And, Greg, I know, you know, one of the persuasive taglines that I always think about when I think about the Microsoft HoloLens is this, “Learn by seeing and doing.” And I was wondering if you might be able to share with us what that means in practical terms and where Microsoft is in the field of workforce training and education. Oh, and you’re on mute.

-Greg: I do that at least twice a day, so I’m halfway to my quota. Thanks, Liz, and thanks for having me. Yeah, the tagline, “Learn by seeing and doing,” it’s kind of intuitive, but it’s a much deeper meaning. Part of this dynamic is really, we think about it as a journey that we’ve been on for several decades, really. We think about the interaction between human beings and digital information. And for a long time, that interaction has been through rectangular pieces of glass. And I agree. We’re at the precipice. Having — I guess I provided my bio, so I shouldn’t — You called me out for being such a long time Microsoft guy, but I’ve seen many of these transitions. And it does occur to me — I agree with you. We are on the precipice of a transition where this fundamentally profound idea of bringing the digital world and physical world together is going to change many, many more things than we realize. I liken it to, I think it’s actually potentially larger than this transition from character-based interface to graphical interface. The reason I make that an analog is that people understood the power of computers and what they could do for us, but you had, you know, early on, you had to kind of be among the high priests of computer science to figure out how to get the things to work. And so part of what graphical interface was, it was to make it so normal human beings could use computers. I think XR is the logical extension of that interaction model where human beings and digital information can interact with it, not just in a rectangular screen but in the whole world around us. And when we say, “Learn by seeing and doing,” when you put on a HoloLens and have a digital overlay in three dimension of a complicated process that you’re supposed to follow, it’s almost hard to make a mistake. And we have data that backs this up. It’s almost difficult to do it wrong when you have a 3D overlay showing you how to do it right. And we’re seeing this idea catch on in a bunch of industries. I have a — One of my favorites is we work with Japan Airlines, and they have two different kind of learning and development categories. They have pilots and flight crews that they need to train, and they do those in simulators, but one of the things I didn’t realize is that flight crews will — Simulators are expensive and a scarce resource, and they have more time for the training that they need. So the flight crews would actually mock up these cardboard cockpits. I have a picture of literally pieces of paper with instruments mocked up on them, and the flight crews would go through these training sessions with their mocked up cockpits. Now with mixed reality, they can put on a HoloLens and see the actual representation of all the levers and dials and have a much more realistic that didn’t require them to utilize that expensive simulator. But perhaps my favorite example, and I’ve got a video I think we can, a short video we can tee up that mostly is audio of folks at Case Western Reserve University and kind of put that idea in practice in a big way. So for them, learning by seeing and doing, they’re learning [Indistinct] medical students learning anatomy. And for 100 years, we’ve used “Gray’s Anatomy” textbooks and cadavers to teach medical students anatomy. Well, now with HoloLens, we have holographic anatomy classes where the medical students can not only see a cadaver but can look at a hologram, and they can actually see those systems working and many different manifestations of the same disease. So this is a case where we were joking earlier about, you know, there’s nothing like the real thing, but in sometimes, the virtual thing is better. And in the case of the anatomy students, it was better because it enabled them to see manifestations of a heart malfunction in six different ways, and you would only come across one of those potentially if you’re using cadavers. So the ability to embrace this digital transformation and to use these tools to learn, to teach people things also particularly, and then we roll the video here in a second, I’ll roll it — But one of the things that was really interesting was the combination of that ability to learn anatomy in HoloLens, but also during COVID, when people couldn’t come together in classrooms, Case Western actually shipped the devices out to their students and to the point that was made earlier, being physically present was not a requirement. And so they could actually have their anatomy classes in HoloLens while they were remote. And I think it’s a great example that brings to life that tagline, Liz. So let’s just watch that quick video and hear what they had to say about HoloLens anatomy.

-Ellen: I’m Ellen. I’m a first-year med student.

-Speaker 2: I come from a radiology background.

-Speaker 3: I am an associate professor of anatomy at Case Western Reserve University.

-Ellen: At Case, we do a 2-week discussion right at the start of medical school, but there’s a lot of things that you miss in dissection that there’s just no way to figure out what a small nerve that you probably cut through.

-Speaker 3: So there are lots of advantages to using the HoloLens because we can see things that otherwise either the students would not be able to see or might destroy.

-Ellen: The first time you put on a HoloLens, it’s, like, color-coordinated. You can see the layers. You can see the spatial awareness from, like, different angles. It really makes a lot of things more clear, to be able to visualize the relationship between where things are situated and why it is important which is really incredible for students.

-Speaker 2: We did a trial back with our medical students. The students that had been in the HoloLens lab scored 50 percent better compared to the rest of the med school class.

-Ellen: There’s so much that can be done in this interactive way.

-Speaker 3: If you can have a HoloLens, you can learn anatomy. You don’t have to be in the room anymore.

-Speaker 2: They’re learning at the same level or better. They’re doing it faster, and they’re retaining knowledge better.

-Speaker 3: We have unlimited options now on how to teach visually.

-Speaker 2: That’s kind of dream stuff as a teacher.

-Ellen: I am a firm believer that it is the next big thing in education.

-Liz: Nice.

-Greg: So, yeah, that’s pretty cool, right? And we do think that is, that’s, I think you’re spot on. We are at the precipice of a transformation in terms of how human beings learn, interact with digital information and interact with each other, and it’s just really really exciting to be a part of.

-Liz: Absolutely. Thanks for sharing that. And, you know, I’m thinking about our audience today which are the learning and development professionals, HR professionals, and I think you all have given a lot of compelling information and vision as to where we are today on that precipice, right? So as we use the last few minutes of our session together, I wanted to ask the same question to each of you, which is, from your own perspectives, where do you think in 5 years some of this technology is going to be and what it means, you know, for enterprise generally but certainly for this learning and development category of professionals and the tools that they need? So maybe I’ll just go through the same order if that’s okay. Marc, I’m going to start with you. What do you see in 5 years?

-Marc: Well, I’m going to answer the question a little bit differently. Yes, there’s a lot of things going on in technology, for sure. Things are going to, you know, the devices are going to be more comfortable, more lifelike, more powerful. There’s tons of things we’re working on regarding, you know, everything from, you know, facial expressions, hand tracking, mixed realities, spatial analytics, even brain-computer interface which can read your mindset. All those things are great, but actually, I think the more important point is not so much where we’re going to be in 5 years but that these things actually exist today. Like, I showed you an example with VIVE Sync. There’s many examples in the industry. These things, it’s really actually not so much about the technology but about adoption and education because you don’t have to wait 5 years. This is not, like, a 5-year out, oh, in 5 years — Today, you can pick this up, start using it, start being productive, start getting the results that Rori was talking about. It’s available right now. It’s not futuristic. I use it every day, as I said, with my team. I use it with externals. We have customers using it. So, you know, if you think to other technologies like in the early days of e-commerce, people thought, “Well, you know, people aren’t going to be comfortable giving their credit cards over the Internet, and, you know, how’s that going to work, you know?” Of course, now, that sounds ridiculous. Or in the early days of mobile, people were like, “You know what, people aren’t going to play games and watch, you know, videos and movies on a small screen. It’s, you know, they have a big screen TV at home. Why would they…” And, of course, that’s ridiculous. So it really isn’t, to me, so much about the future technology. The technology is here now and works really well now. It’s more about education, adoption and exposure, you know, and as Greg was saying, really, it’s a case of, you know, seeing is believing. So we just need more people to trial, sample and get into it, and they’ll see the power of this to add value and engagement and productivity right now, today.

-Liz: That’s a great point, and, Rori, I guess I’ll refine the question a little bit, which is, I totally agree with Marc. I think it’s compelling and absolutely important to be using this now. But for our audience of learning and development professionals, I guess, in 5 years, where is their investment taking them?

-Rori: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, I agree with all the points, and just to go back to the research again, I think that people we spoke with, people recognize now that there’s value and there’s impact. It goes back to the cost, I think. And so we’re still at a point where the cost and the prevalence of this technology isn’t fully mainstream. And, you know, for me, the analogy is computers. You know, over the course of time, you go from people using computers just for information to now we have a culture of creation, right, where, I mean, even with the phone, the capability of what people can do. So it’s interesting how those of us in the XR community have been tasked, empowered — I don’t know what the right word is — to be able to work on of learning and development. The true people who, day in and day out, that’s their profession, that’s their industry, who, you know, know so much more about psychology and how people learn, then, per se, myself, who’s more focused on, you know, the technology, in 5 years from now, they will have access to the technology in a way they have access to their TV, to their computer, to their mobile phone. They will be able to create content, develop content, share content to the ease at which we’re doing it with other media. So I think that’s when, you know, you saw that, once again, with the mobile phone, when people started being able to take pictures and photographs and create just so much more content. So we do have the devices now, but in 5 years, they will be cheaper. They will be more accessible. And I imagine that, you know, in, what is it, 85, 90 percent mobile device penetration? I don’t see why XR wouldn’t have the same degree of penetration in every household, every, you know, university. So I think what we can do with it is going to be just so much more powerful.

-Liz: Yeah, terrific point, kind of exciting. Greg, you’re going to get the last word on this, what do you think in 5 years?

-Greg: Yeah, it’s so easy to be wrong. One of the things that we do know — I love this because early on in HoloLens, Alex Kipman, who runs the Mixed Reality team at Microsoft, got asked a question about the next version of HoloLens, and he answered it, and then he extrapolated to say, “This answer actually applies to any future version of HoloLens because the goal with this technology is to do really three things from our perspective” And number one is to make the experience more immersive, the compellingness of the experience, how natural it feels, how natural the interaction is, what you can do in situ, so that increasing of the immersive sensation that you get and that real true sense of presence. The second thing is really just around comfort, and that has a whole bunch of dimensions to it, but it’s size, and weight, and thermals and just, you know, style, the point at which, you know, headsets look more like my glasses than they do today is going to reduce barriers to adoption, and so I think that is another key aspect of what will happen in 5 years. And then the third thing has been mentioned is the value equation, which includes of course the cost of the device but the benefits that you derive from it. So we have to show that the return on investment is large and increasing right out of the box, so over time the devices will get more immersive. They’ll get smaller, and more comfortable and less expensive, and they’ll be able to do more. And I think, you know, those are the key things, but from where we sit — you know, Liz, you and I have talked about this, it’s good to be working on a business that your CEO thinks is one of the three biggest secular technology trends out there. And so, Satya Nadella wrote a book, and he talked about artificial intelligence, quantum computing and extended reality, mixed reality. So this is one of the key secular technology trends that we think will shape the whole industry, not just learning and development, and certainly — The other thing I would add to the 5-year statement on those three dimensions is importantly breaking down of silos. So HR and learning development professionals should look at these solutions with an eye towards their openness, how well they work with what you already have and are looking to invest in. We don’t want to create a world of more separate walled gardens of exclusive content and experiences, and I think that’s one of the things that, you know, Mark and I agree 100 percent on this, is that the decisions that you make based on these technologies should in part be informed by how interoperable, and open and usable they are with a broad array of solutions that exist. And so things are going to — it’s going to be an exciting, wild ride to see what happens in the next 5 years, but like you say, we’re already well on the way toward that journey.

-Liz: Sounds great. I want to wrap up our very but really impactful conversation. I think, you know, the takeaways are we have the tools todayfor presence, for engagement, for learning and for really good learning outcomes as well as return on investment that exists today, but now we’re into this really exciting period of time where the input from people, from the learning and development and HR realms, will help to build out even better solutions as we go forward. So really exciting time and thank you, all of you, for joining us for this panel session. It’s been a pleasure, so thanks.

Share this: