Sponge to reveal breakthrough development in mobile VR learning

Realities360, July 26, 2.30-3.30pm

Posted on Jul 21, 2017

360°, VR & AR

A ground-breaking way of training workers using mobile virtual reality that places the learner as the central character in an interactive 360° environment, is being unveiled by digital learning specialists Sponge at the Elearning Guild’s Realities360 conference in San José, California on 26 July. 

Kate Pasterfield, Head of Innovation at Sponge, will be showing how the company has created an immersive and realistic learning experience using innovative technologies and storytelling approaches. 

At Realities360, she’ll be premiering ‘Counter Hostile Reconnaissance’, which features a scenario for security personnel, an industry where life-like training in a safe environment has traditionally proved hard to achieve. 

However, the learning can be equally applied to other working scenarios, simply by changing the narrative, and is already being developed and delivered for well-known global brands.

  “This is the key point that a lot of people in the industry don’t realise,” said Kate. “People are still talking about mobile interactive VR being available at some point in the future, when in reality it’s here now.”

In her talk, ‘Making Immersive Learning Accessible with Mobile VR’, Kate will be explaining how she and her team successfully brought together multiple disciplines during 12 months of experimenting: “This is an entirely new art form,” she said. “It’s comparable to when cinema arrived or when photography was invented and we’re defining ways to best create experiences for learning in this new world.” 

“We are breaking down every barrier with each creative decision we make,” she added. “We are drawing on the disciplines of film, visual, interaction and learning design as well as looking outside to other disciplines – theatre and sound design – to solve the daily challenges and questions we face to create authentic and compelling experiences.” 

“What’s so exciting about our mobile VR solution is that it’s readily available now. All you need is an Android or iOS phone and a good Internet connection. There are no apps to download and take up space on your phone. We’ve even enabled it to be SCORM wrapped which is appealing to the learning community.”

“Everything here is new. It’s breakthrough, and I’ll be sharing what we’ve learned.”
Kate Pasterfield Head of Innovation Sponge

Using professional actors – as well as Sponge staff as extras – the 10-minute film was scripted with a series of scenarios that are activated through the decisions taken by the learner, who is immersed in the scene. This particular story is set in the reception area of a pharmaceutical company that’s preparing to host an ethics conference in a week’s time. 

“There are three suspicious behaviours and several decoys,” explained Kate. “The trainee must observe any suspicious behaviour, approach the characters and conduct resolution conversations via pop-up prompts, and escalate if they feel it’s appropriate. It really is learning by doing.” 

“Everything here is new. It’s breakthrough, and I’ll be sharing what we’ve learned,” said Kate.  

So why did Sponge decide on setting the story in a security scenario? “Firstly, we thought this was an important topic to be talking about and it’s relevant. So we wanted to build an experience around it. 

“Secondly, we wanted to practice some new techniques. We already know we can record 360° film and we know we can make it interactive so that it’s good for situational and observational learning. We wanted to explore soft skills and in particular what would happen when you approached a person and interacted with them in a conversation. This has multiple learning applications – customer service, conflict resolution and so on, so we thought it was worth exploring." 

“We’re used to creating interactive branching scenarios, and this takes it into the 360 space," explains Kate. "What this adds is the realism of talking to someone with background noise and bustle around you, but from a production point of view it throws up some interesting challenges. For example, hiding or casting the crew so they’re not in shot as well as changing how actors perform to the camera to achieve compelling first person dialogues without another actor there to share their lines with.” 

At the end of her talk, Kate will be revealing the statistics of some research where VR was pitched against other learning tools: “I think those who attend the talk will be very interested to learn what worked for learners and what didn’t.” 

Realities360 Conference, San José, California:  Session 303, Wednesday 26 July, 2.30-3.30pm 

Kate will also be hosting in a Morning Buzz session from 7.30-8.15am on Thursday 27, where the topic is ‘VR Design: What Works?’ 

And, she is a member of the ‘Lessons Learned from Early VR and AR Adopters’ panel, 11.15-12.30 on Friday 28. 

Kate Pasterfield is a double award-winning learning professional and current gold winner of the Learning Technologies Awards Designer of the Year prize.

Ask an expert

Kate Pasterfield, Head of Innovation, Sponge

Kate leads the innovation department at Sponge, bringing the latest learning technologies and strategies to international clients from a variety of sectors.

Awarded Learning Technologies Designer of the year, it's clear that great learning starts with bright ideas, if you want to explore an innovative learning solution with Kate, get in touch.

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