Augmented reality training: How to step-up corporate training with mobile

The learning market has already come a long way from workshops and self-study to learning management systems and mobile training apps. Yet, HR training experts are continuously searching for even better learning solutions that would provide better learning opportunities. It’s no surprise that augmented reality (AR) training, with all its stunning possibilities, has quickly become one of the hottest trends in the corporate learning industry.

AR learning

So far, the most explicit proof that mobile augmented reality for training actually works is the data from 2014 paper Fusing Self-Reported and Sensor Data from Mixed-Reality Training. The study showed that when used for training guidance, Desktop MBIs and mobile AR are a far cry from each other. Completely seizing the need for the second trial to complete a task, mobile AR decreased the amount of mistakes by 90%, reduced the time for performing a task, as well as cut the number of looks into a device (i.e. increased concentration) by 50%.

Although the study was run among engineers, with results like this it’s reasonable to assume that experts from other industries can take advantage of mobile augmented reality training too, and cover multiple training stages.

Augmenting ‘static’ learning

According to Ronald Azuma, Head of the User Experience Research department at Intel Labs, training was originally one of AR’s main prospective applications. He says that educators can "make instructions easier to understand by displaying them directly over the real-world objects that require manipulation.” Augmentation adds a layer of instructions right on a real situation and replaces traditional media that can often be ambiguous.

To learn whether AR guidance was actually more effective than more ‘static’ sources, Iowa State University initiated a study. Two groups of students were asked to put together a mock airplane wing: one group used a manual on a desktop computer, another one used an AR app on a tablet. The results showed that the second group had 90% fewer mistakes in the interpretation of directions. Moreover, the second group needed 35% less time to finish the assembly.

AR mLearning in action

A layer of information added onto a projected image on the screen can facilitate practical training of the level of complexity while ensuring success. A healthcare augmented reality app can use visual pointers and navigational lines to supervise trainees and make sure every procedure is performed correctly. CEO of Pristine EyeSight mentioned at a recent event that even experienced physicians and nurses can benefit from such an app, while Brainlab already made it real. Their mobile AR app DASH, used in combination with specific equipment, helps professionals perform quick and precise orthopedic surgeries.

How AR transforms mLearning

The functional scope of AR can be vast. Yet, what works for one industry will not necessarily work for another, so the choice and planning of the features should be strictly individual. We offer recommendations on how to implement an augmented reality training app and describe where any particular functionality can be of the best use.

Manufacturing – Introduction to job

To become experts who are able to quickly recognize, utilize, replace or fix complex mechanisms, systems and machine units, factory floor workers usually need a nearly 6-month-long introductory training before they can work with any machine safely and without supervision.

Augmented reality training can reduce time and replace a supervisor, as it captures each part and either gives a short summary of what this detail is meant for and is capable of, or shows how to operate it via arrows and markers on a mobile screen.

There’s also an option to add a voiceover with the facts a trainee needs to know, or attach a related introductive video. Additionally, the app can analyze a condition of any mechanism and immediately report if some details should be adjusted into a correct position. This way it will prevent trainees from gaining erroneous practice skills.

Manufacture training

Car insurance – Knowledge testing

Just like manufacturing, car insurance deals with mechanisms, so the ability of mobile AR apps to augment an auto can be useful for introducing trainees to this industry too – like similar Volkswagen and Audi AR apps already do. What’s even more helpful, AR software can analyze a car model (or multiple models), compare it with the stored data of an undamaged auto and identify damage.

Once the app calculates an estimate of repairs according to the customized company rates, it can test if an employee has calculated it correctly too, by giving them 1, 3 or 5 attempts to type in their variant. If all the answers are incorrect, the app doesn’t simply display a correct sum, but also provides a detailed explanation of how to estimate the damage correctly in this case.

Healthcare – Real-life practice

As highlighted in The Atlantic article, many nurses and physicians in the US don’t have a chance to practice their skills during education. This leads to a national nurse shortage, since young specialists with ‘from some to none’ practice aren’t getting employed. To address this issue, healthcare HR specialists are already enabling on-work augmented reality training with such apps as Anatomy 4D and DASH.

AR apps can let healthcare employees become a skilled hand while safely performing procedures with the help of AR visual guidance. Compatible with both mannequins and living people, mobile AR can capture the frame of a human body or its part, analyze it and show additional tips, in line with the procedure selected upfront. For instance, it can mark the exact spot for an injection or show body parts that should be examined for a particular diagnosis.

Retail – Problem-solving simulators

Mobile apps are already widely used by merchandizers and auditors in their daily work. When combined with AR features, they can also support training.

Augmented reality apps for training in retail can contain ‘quests’ where employee trainees meet virtual personas and deal with the problems that won’t affect real business. For instance, when a trade marketing specialist visits a specific retail shop, their mobile device shows a window with a text from a virtual persona, placed in this location with the help of GPS. The text can be from a retail shop director (not from a real one, of course), who claims that the product supply numbers don’t match those in the contract.

After stating the problem, the mobile app gives further directions to solve it. For example, it asks an employee to go to the back of the shop, where it reacts to the geolocation once again and shows virtual state of supply. The quest can be as complex and long as it’s necessary for a new employee to get prepared for any real life challenge in the future.

On choosing and integrating the device

Mobile app development can successfully tailor AR software logics to any device with equal expenses. However, using AR on a smartphone or a tablet can sometimes be inconvenient for those who operate equipment with two hands, have to wear special gear or work in conditions that technically don’t allow holding a device. Hence, before planning out further development, think if your industry will benefit more from training with AR-equipped eyewear.

To nurture even better results, you can combine augmented reality training (be it via a mobile device or glasses) with classroom studies as well as integrate it with a company’s Learning Management System. If training knowledge base and employees’ accounts will be stored separately in an LMS or in the backend, mobile AR will be more lightweight and agile.


Augmented reality apps for eyewear or mobile devices can enable safe training in action, improve learning results and decrease the time necessary for completing a task. Healthcare, retail, manufacture, insurance as well as other industries can implement augmented reality training for one or several learning steps at once, making it a part of their blended learning plan.

Looking for experienced mobile app developers who can create your app from scratch or get into gear on an existing project? You’ve just found them.

About the Author: Anastasia Yaskevich

Anastasia Yaskevich is an Enterprise Mobility Researcher at ScienceSoft, a software development and consulting company headquartered in McKinney, Texas. She started out in IT with research on cloud computing and UI design, and now writes on mobile technology and mobile design trends. With her interest in psychology and experience in managing employee satisfaction surveys, Anastasia taps in HR-related technologies and overviews the concepts of mobile HRM applications.