Training and Simulation

The Future Is Here – With Immersive Tech

Low Wee Kern

Vice President of Air Simulation Division, Digital Systems, ST Engineering

Organisations are increasingly open in incorporating Extended Reality (XR), also known as immersive technology, into their products and solutions as they discover the benefits that immersive experiential learning can bring. Valued at USD 26.05 Billion in 2020, the XR market is seeing exponential growth to USD 463.7 Billion in 2026.

XR is an umbrella category for all real and virtual environments combined that are generated by computer graphic technology and wearables; comprising of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

Having more than 16 years of simulation field experiences, let’s discover the limitless potential of XR with Low Wee Kern, Head, Air Simulation Division.

Q: Looks like XR is here to stay and there is a huge potential growth. How do you see the impact for organisations?

XR technology will transform simulation training as well as workplace interaction.  With the worldwide pandemic situation, the push to go digital has accelerated.  Companies will invest and embark on using immersive and interactive technology to reduce the need of travelling and create an environment where employees can interact remotely in an efficient manner.  Workers can connect to each other from home or remote offices around the world in a virtual office.

A good example is using AR on wearable glasses where technicians on ground can perform their work with interaction with a remote supervisor or receive guidance digitally. This can reduce the need to be with each other physically and yet achieving the same or better outcome with increase productivity.

Q: How can organisations apply XR into their solutions?

Organisations apply XR to train and upskill their staffs, such as for mission and proficiency skill, safety and maintenance training.

For mission and proficiency skill training, VR or XR help to replicate an immersive scenario for the trainee to practice and hone their skills in flight training, combat missions or emergency tasks in a cost effective and realistic environment.

When safety is the main concern, MR helps to simulate various risky and dangerous situations in training the responses and reactions of the trainee. The office-like training environment protects the trainee and reduces actual injuries and accidents during training.

Maintenance of equipment can be tedious and complex. Using AR to overlay videos or step-by-step guides from subject matter experts onto the real world, trainees can perform their tasks with readily available devices or wearables. VR is also can help to create a virtual environment to-scale with the equipment for virtual hands-on training.

We also see XR deployed in flight simulation for pilot training as well as aircrew training, where aircrew members can train in a VR/MR environment without the need to have a full replica of the cabin.

Q: What are some of the challenges that the organisations faced in applying XR and any advices to overcome it?

Some organisations were not open to incorporate immersive technologies into their training as they shared their concerns in motion sickness and fatigue from using them.

To reduce eye strain and simulator sickness, we sought for the most advanced VR/XR headsets for industrial use. Currently partners with Varjo, we integrate our solutions with headsets providing the highest resolution (over 70 ppd) and the widest field of view (115 degrees) in the industry at a 90 Hz frame rate. With automatic interpupillary distance built in, VR can be less strenuous on the trainees’ eyes.

Q: What are the upcoming trends in the simulation and training industry?

One of the key trends is a shift from content centric to learner centric. 

Customers today focus more on training outcomes rather than acquiring training systems or services. They want to have faster outcomes which AI-enabled systems can provide better trainee assessment using data analytics.

This give rise to the adoption of XR technology in training and simulation industry, in particularly Mixed Reality (MR), as it is portable to allow self-pace and adaptive learning for individuals. MR encompasses the best of both AR and VR elements where you can see the real physical world even as you interact with the virtual world.

The advancement in head mounted devices and wearable technologies provides a better resolution and field of view on a lighter weight device also drives and opens up the usage of MR technology. MR simulator will not replace the traditional simulator but complement. It will offload some training tasks and free-up the traditional full flight simulator for more advance and complicated training.

Q: How do you keep yourself up-to-date with upcoming trends? Any specific books or websites?

Immersive technology has been evolving rapidly in recent years with the improvement of the XR headsets and increasing adaptation of the technology. I keep abreast with the trends and technology from various sources such as journals on training and simulation, internet resources such as Industrial XR Forum and frequent interaction with global simulation solution providers.

Participating in major training and simulation conferences such as I/ITSEC also helps to keep myself updated with the latest XR trends and technologies.

Q: How does your interest in the simulation field come about?

It all started when I began my journey with ST Engineering. Since 16 years ago, I was doing software development on virtual simulator for defence industry. The opportunity to be involved with various simulator projects over the years has helped me to appreciate the benefits of simulation. A good simulation is to create realism in training, yet making it fun, highly engaging and educational.

The changing landscape in simulation over the years has made the task to deliver good simulation solutions more challenging than ever. Immersive technologies, adapting gaming engines, introducing AIs and Data Analytics in simulation field are some of examples which make the work exciting and interesting.

Q: What is the key XR solution that you are proud of?

Simulation training started out solely on desktops screens, which may be less immersive for trainees. With different organisations having different preferences and comfort level in their training, some are more open to try out new technology, while others prefer to have their training computer-based.

Understanding the different perspectives of our customers and embodying an innovation culture enabled us to develop our Smart Procedural Training Suite (SPT) that consists of four platforms, each with a distinctive design and XR technology element to engage trainees and facilitate instruction or revision. Each platform in SPT is designed to progressively aid the trainee in familiarising with procedures customised to each organisation’s needs, with the ultimate goal of building muscle memory, enhancing training effectiveness. 

We have leveraged several leading Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) XR hardware to advance the technology and our products. The recent advancement in XR hardware and software services has also enabled us to bring our solutions closer to our customers, such as virtual maintenance trainer to defence customers in the region and our first upcoming MR flight simulator.

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