Realism key to 3D training and virtual instructors

The world of computer or web-based training has evolved rapidly over the last several years. In particular, a large amount of interest has surrounded the world of interactive 3D simulation training and the several advantages it brings to hands-on training.

The question: Are people really learning here?

The answer: quite simply, absolutely!

If you want to train people virtually on how to perform a specific job function that requires the trainee to pay close attention to what they are seeing and what is happening around them, otherwise known as “situational awareness”, then logic dictates that the virtual environment needs to be simulated to a larger degree.

Realism is everything in these virtual environments. They are meant to create existing or potential situations for the purpose of teaching specific job functions which will be performed in the real-world.

But if something does not appear to be real can the user take it seriously? Does it retain their full attention? Will the user believe what they are being taught? These are very important questions when deciding to build any type of training software, be it 3D or otherwise.

Never underestimate the value of belief. Believing something is real allows you to open up to the possibility of learning from it. You pay greater attention and you begin to focus.

The “suspension of disbelief” is an important concept when presenting 3D animated characters and environments to the user, and the faster you can get the user to this state, the more effective and meaningful the experience is going to be.

By creating realistic virtual environments populated with 3D equipment, tools and people we are better able to teach the trainee how to handle important job functions in the real-world better than traditional methods alone.

But we can take interactive 3D simulation training a step further. By introducing 3D training instructors programmed with artificial intelligence algorithms and training routines, users can now benefit from immediate and accurate feedback. Together those qualities create a 3d virtual instructor.

In short, this virtual instructor is a master of the system and is able to compute whether actions performed by the user are correct or incorrect, and then provide the appropriate feedback.

Having a virtual instructor compared to a real one has several key advantages.

A virtual instructor can be programmed to understand the virtual environment, the current job task and exactly what the user is doing within the virtual environment. A virtual instructor will not forget any of the steps, actions or procedures a user has performed, even if they are within the thousands.

Virtual instructors are less likely to make a mistake based on the programming scenarios that are incorporated into the platform.. With the use of databases, a virtual instructor can track the trainee’s progress and performance. With such information it can give remediation to the trainee where necessary.

A virtual instructor is always available, it has your complete and undivided attention. It also allows the trainee to interact at their own pace, resulting in a higher probability that the trainee is more emotionally and intellectually ready for learning.

Every student can even have his or her own virtual instructor. By comparison, in a classroom environment, a real instructor must divide attention between many students simultaneously. Virtual instructors have no such limitations and never grow tired or become bored.

Also, a virtual instructor programmed with artificial intelligence algorithms allows the trainee to see the instructors face and take the environment more seriously. You get the feeling that someone is looking out for you, checking up on you so to speak.

But you need not feel intimidated. The virtual instructor will not judge you to be a fool or to be too incompetent to perform a job duty. It’s OK to make a mistake, the virtual instructor is only there to teach you and show you the way.

The key to believing that the virtual instructor is real is to make it as realistic as possible. It must look realistic and articulate itself in a very human way.

For example, one of the ways to add realism is with motion capturing. Motion capturing real human-beings walking and talking allows us to take that data, and then project it onto a virtual instructor so it moves how we do.

Additional ways to enhance realism of the virtual instructor is with high detail modeling and the most up-to-date artificial intelligence programming available.

Finally, let us not forget that training in interactive 3D environments with a virtual instructor also gives the benefit of learning in a very safe environment where injury and or equipment damage is not possible. And that helps with saving lives and equipment, which happens to be my mission.'
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