Imaginary tiling, training via 360-degree glasses, product development in 3D – far more than gimmicks. How virtual is the job market in Germany already?
What does VR and AR mean?
Virtual and Augmented Reality, in short VR and AR, are still considered pioneering projects in the German economy. But their influence is on the rise. What exactly do these terms mean? Virtual Reality is the translation of Virtual Reality: You dive into an artificial world in which you shut yourself off from the real environment and are not aware of it. Virtual Reality is used, for example, in the field of education or architecture: You stand in a virtually conceived room or learn classical craftsmanship on a virtual construction site.
There are a lot of different headsets, one of the most used is HTC VIVE, it is currently mostly used for gaming and porn. You can find a review at https://www.vrpornstream.com/htc-vive.
Where is VR and AR applied?
Ludger is Professor of Human-Machine System Technology at the University of Kassel. Together with a team of employees from his field, he has developed an application for 360-degree glasses that will help train craftsmen in the future. The researchers have investigated how motivation and learning success of apprentices develop when they are trained in a virtual room: “We made sure that the whole thing is neither high-end nor high cost, but is suitable for a whole class of twenty people. The result: The motivation was higher, the learning success absolutely satisfactory, but the distraction factor was significantly higher.
It becomes challenging when the technologies have to be suitable for mass production, for example in large companies. This is also how Detlef Gerst, an IG Metall expert on the future of work, sees it: “Many companies are already trying it out. This is also very sensible in order to gain experience in it and to consider afterwards where it can benefit the processes”.
So the technology exists, but the companies could not simply buy it and use it immediately. All technologies must be configured to internal structures, programmed accordingly and adapted to the IT environment of each company, says Gerst. “The companies must also remain realistic: If they invest in it, it must bring a benefit that justifies all the effort”. Gerst sees an urgency for VR in product development: “You can imagine a lot, for example a car that shows me “what it looks like where I’m going.” The decisive factor is what customers are willing to spend money on.
How expensive is virtual reality?
According to Gerst, the most common applications are tablets and PCs on which work instructions or information about work processes are imported. Product development with 3D views is also common practice in many processes. This means that many fields of application are based on end devices that are already widely used. As a result, the acquisition costs are often lower than expected. According to Schmidt, there are devices for virtual reality that are quite affordable: “For less than 50 euros, you can buy mounts in which a normal smartphone can be inserted and which thus become real virtual reality glasses. Augmented reality devices, on the other hand, are still relatively expensive, but have already been well researched. It is probably only a matter of time before cheaper solutions are available: Our students can build their own AR application in an hour and a half, something that took us an entire research institute 20 years ago.
What effects do VR and AR have on employees?
- As with many other developments in the labour market, the question of jobs also arises with AR and VR.
- Do jobs disappear because technologies can do it better?
- Not in the field of virtual reality, says Schmidt, because it provides support for people moving in this virtual world, but cannot replace them.
The situation is somewhat different with augmented reality. Here, existing work processes are simplified by additional technologies: “Ultimately, this also means that I can use less qualified people in an assembly process, for example. So we no longer need the skilled worker, but have semi-skilled workers who we can introduce into the processes much more effectively and quickly. On the other hand, you need people who can produce instructions of extended reality and create these processes: “The field of qualification is changing, but neither of these are technologies that can replace human activity.”
Gerst from the IG Metall union takes a similar view. The willingness is great, the qualification effort relatively small: “Virtual and augmented reality provide new tools that employees can use in their everyday work without having to change their work fundamentally. Training is necessary, but these are usually simple adjustments”. Our media behaviour and the increasingly natural incorporation of technology in everyday life provide the best conditions:
Anyone who works a lot on a computer at home or enjoys playing games is familiar with virtual reality and knows how to install apps or maintain a mobile phone.