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Learning from the Stone Age

Graham Melley
Graham Melley
POSTED April 6th, 2021

Scope AR recently launched a completely revamped, all-new augmented reality authoring tool called WorkLink Create.

Why is that you may ask? Why should you care?

In order to answer that, I need to talk to you about why augmented reality learning tools are such a great thing. 

And in order to talk to you about that I need to tell you why all the accepted instruction methods we use right now are so terrible.

“Plain English” (or French.. Or German)

If you look around at the more complex tasks in your life today you’ll find no shortage of examples of instructions. The basic model is everywhere. Listed text steps attempting to break down any process into bite size statements describing pieces of effort. On the surface it seems to be the simplest approach, what could be more basic than short sentences? If you’ve ever been in charge of writing instructions for a moderately complex task though you have an idea that it’s not entirely that simple. What you need to do is translate an inherently physical, spatial concept… ‘things’ being manipulated by hands and tools, into markings on a page. Written language of course is a pretty complex form of encoding. It takes a good chunk of the amazing brain we have to perform this particular trick, and it’s the same trick in reverse to decode that into something meaningful at the other end. You’re doing it now.. Congratulations! It’s working pretty well for these conceptual thoughts but watch someone try to read a recipe for the first time and note the puzzled frown.  Plenty has been said about the imperfections of written language, but it’s rarely more evident than when you’re trying to communicate even the mildly complicated motion of a few objects into words. 

Fortunately, we have pictures right?

“A Thousand Words”

If we return to those instructions in your daily life, you’ll note that where things get particularly tricky, pictures are added… and they do help. Your brain doesn’t naturally understand little square boxes full of color as being ‘real things’, animals certainly can’t do it, but it’s at least a shorter path for your brain to decode them into representations of the objects in question. Maybe the photos are well taken and up to date, or maybe a professional illustrator did a pretty good job of isolating the key information, but one thing is certainly true… Just as with text, the process of visually communicating through these tools is not an easy one. It takes skill and it takes time. It is immediately evident when the job has been done professionally because it takes less time for you to decode it into something you understand. Consider IKEA instructions. They’re well illustrated, technically perfect and they always are proven to contain all the information you need to not put that chair seat on upside down… when you go back to them to figure out why you put that chair seat on upside down. 

Surely video is the answer… the most modern of instructional tools.

“Youtube It”

Video instructional tutorials are a huge step up. It’s still just colors in a flat little box but it’s certainly a lot easier to understand that activity when it’s moving. There are some drawbacks of course. We don’t think about it this way since we are so used to television and film, but it would be really helpful to choose what you’re looking at exactly and from what perspective to really understand when an aspect of the instruction doesn’t seem to fit your expectation. Being able to choose where your focus is, where you view from and the rate at which that instruction progresses is just another one of those things that we give up with our modern tools. The fact is, when push comes to shove, everyone knows that the best way to learn how to do a thing is to just see someone DO it.

“The Stone Age”

Our brains are capable of some pretty impressive contortions when it comes to understanding encoded information, but they are 100% designed… hardwired in fact, to do one thing extremely well.. Understand the space immediately around us and what is happening in it. AR Instructions may seem like the height of technology, but the purpose of that technology is to eliminate all of this encoding and decoding and the effort and error that goes with it and go right back to the first primitive human showing off their technique for tool sharpening and the rest of the tribe just watching and understanding. We are very, very good at this.

For the first time in history we can TRULY show someone how to do something without being there in person. We can go one step further and show someone how to do something without the SOMETHING being there in person. Every day I see people use AR to drop a piece of equipment into their workspace, virtually of course, but then absolutely refuse to walk through it. These instructions are being understood by their viewers as real, three dimensional additions to the workplace, whether assisting their day to day activity or allowing them to train on equipment that’s 100 miles away. 

All of which bring us back to the beginning.

Scope AR recently launched a completely revamped, all-new augmented reality authoring tool called WorkLink Create. Why should you care?

WorkLink Create lets anyone learn to make AR instructional material, easily, in a web browser, with no code, no scripting and no prior training. 

It’s time to embrace a truly Stone Age level of communication.

Tell me and I’ll forget

Show me and I may remember

Involve me and I learn

— Benjamin Franklin