Managing Director Mission Excellence
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Augmented reality
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The queen, the president, augmented reality & training in 2016

9th May 2016
Managing Director Mission Excellence
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Justin Hughes writes on issues relating to team and organisational performance. A former Red Arrows pilot, he is now Managing Director of Mission Excellence, a consultancy focused on improving clients' execution – their ability to close the gap between what gets talked about and planned, and what gets done. Justin previously spent 12 years as an RAF fighter pilot and is a renowned speaker on performance and risk and has presented alongside Richard Branson and Kofi Annan. He can be found on Twitter at @JustinMissionEx.

Unless you are in lock down as part of research for NASA’s future manned missions to Mars, you may have seen a recent viral video starring none other than HM The Queen, Prince Harry and the Obamas.

If you still manage to have a life away from social media and didn’t see it, the short version is that Harry is having tea with the Queen and gets a video message from the Obamas re the Invictus Games (for injured servicemen and women). The joke (and the reason for the viral success) is the reaction of the Queen.

So, question: Did Harry get the message from the Obamas and then decide to set up the response with his grandmother? Or was the whole thing scripted from beginning to end?

The likelihood has to be the latter. But who knows?  The Canadian PM has since weighed in with his own contribution. That was almost certainly a reaction, and not part of the original script. It’s like the Truman show. What’s real and what’s scripted? And does it matter?

The leap to training might currently seem tenuous, but stay with me…  In military aviation, there are now 3 types of training:

  • Live – real people doing things with real assets – the best training, but expensive and often logistically challenging.
  • Virtual – a real person or people doing training in a simulated environment – the scenario and some or all of the other players are virtual – can be highly realistic but has its own limitations.
  • Constructive – a mix of the above.  In the case of aviation, the prime trainees actually get in aircraft and go flying, but much of the scenario and some of the other players are synthetic. This can sometimes actually be better than live since you are not reliant on how the scenario unfolds – you can control it.

Got the link yet? What’s real and what’s make believe? Does it matter?  The best training is live, but it’s too expensive and logistically difficult to collocate all the players. Simulation (virtual) can be very powerful but has limitations.

The best compromise is augmented reality: trainees in actual ‘day job’ situations but without collocating all the other players and with much of the scenario artificially constructed and controlled to optimise the outcome, just the same as the Invictus Games viral video.

The technology already exists. It is often the thinking about how to use and exploit it which is lagging. What are the lessons for how you design and deliver your training? Do people need to be in the same place?  In a training exercise, how many real people do you need to make the simulation realistic?  Can you actually improve the exercise by mixing the simulated and real aspects at the same time?

If it’s good enough for the Queen and the President…

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