Pay attention!!!”

How many million times have we each heard this? Whether from our parents, teachers, or worse — your manager… this simple demand comes as a jarring course correction for what was “just” a momentary mental side track. 

And the wording is accurate too. It definitely is something that feels like it is being “paid.” And further:  companies spend trillions of dollars each year to buy it from you. In 2021, it takes a real effort of conscious self-management to devote your full attention to a task for more than 30 seconds. Learning and training are known areas where the stakes of focus and attention to tasks are at their highest.  This is especially challenging if that task is related to work, rote repetition, or over long periods uninterrupted.

At least, in some industries. 

Before I dig into augmented reality, let’s briefly look at the attention monopolies. The entertainment and social media industries, by their very nature, are unbelievably adapted to absorb your attention without limit. Somehow, they have perfected the ability to send just the right signals to your brain, at just the right intervals, to keep you returning for more and more — and it never feels like a “payment.”

Which of these browser tabs is constantly screaming at me to ditch work and click on it? 

Is it a coincidence that Youtube and Netflix have bright red logos? Their own algorithms optimize one simple function: maximize viewer watch time (or, hoard your attention.)


This is in fact an area of deep research — and Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar is one of many investigating neurological patterns in the brain to model how people focus, with the ultimate purpose of treating ADHD. One of his points is that attention is both an active and a passive filtration exercise, and that the filtration is deeply coupled with vision.

The eyes lead the mind

What happens in your brain when you pay attention? | Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar TED Talk July 12 2017

He devised an experiment that tested attention among competing stimuli. It had two flickering lights at different rates, and a brain signal scanner on the subject. Sure enough, the brain signals synchronized perfectly with whichever flickering light that the subject looked at.

This is huge– it shows that the eyes guide the neurological filtration “algorithm” of our minds.

In one of my last blogs, I discussed how the eyes were the highest bandwidth data port into the brain — and that it was a first principles reason why augmented reality is so effective in the real world. 

Data rates, pure and simple. But that’s not enough.

High speed or high attention?

Ask any teaching or training professional, they would argue that the success of their students isn’t just about maximizing the speed at which they learn, but that they pay attention for enough time. Homework is designed for that purpose: to force you to spend enough time paying attention to the subject. The result is a grade.

For employee training programs it is a bit more complicated. While some are scored with tests, they have found that real world training success rates track closer on training “engagement” — a measure of how much attention was paid. Indicators of real world success rates include time to first satisfactory “production” execution, mean time between execution failure, and rework rate.

That’s why corporate training and compliance programs, especially video-based programs, have employed draconian measures to force their students to engage. Disable fast forward. Countdown timers before multiple choice responses can be submitted. Captcha quizzes along the way, etc…Not visually engaging nor interactive, despite being temporally sufficient.

These often fail spectacularly.  This frustrated, disengaged engineer went so far as to publish a blog for how to hack training videos to play at 4X the regular speed

The best video programs prompt trainees for interaction frequently. “What should you do in this situation?”  prompted before moving on. The interaction drives the engagement.

High speed AND high attention, is the answer

When visually engaging training tools are used, net success rates go up, and training times to reach competency go down.

And that is why augmented reality works brilliantly for training. It is both engaging and visual, a stimulating graphical superposition of the computer world on top of the real one.

When you add the standard internet advantages of anytime & anywhere, you open up order-of-magnitude gains to your organization.

The Impact is real

A Scope AR medical device customer deployed AR to train their field service and sales teams on their broad product line as part of their strategic imperative to deliver their global teams with state of the art training.

In under a year, they capitalized on their new ability to remain agile, train faster, and provide immersive value at a distance. They were able to capture a multimillion dollar cost savings from travel avoidance and higher first-time performance rates. AR has ultimately become key to their end customer differentiation and perception of excellence in the medical device market– based on the first principles of keeping their trainees fully engaged, at the right speed, and without “paying” attention.

More details on this use case are coming soon!