The future of technology is all about “Augmentation” – with a big A. An intelligent world made of “augmented humans living in augmented realities”, where everything will become smarter and everyone will have super powers on demand to create, solve, and enjoy enriched lives.
In some ways the future is already here – Smart devices can be worn to augment our health, our strength or overcome disabilities, others like headsets come to augment the world around us with holograms. Yet, we are still scratching the surface of the potential of augmentation, in particular in the area of learning.
The realisation of augmented learning can be seen on a spectrum. Today, we live with smarter and smarter AI assistants that can translate the complex augmenting world for us into simpler concepts and possibilities. That’s what Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are proposing with Assistant, Alexa, or Cortana.
In the distant future, we could augment our brains with implants and “merge” with artificial intelligence. Elon Musk certainly thinks so, and is working on it.
In the middle of this spectrum is the question of how to augment our own intelligence with more efficient learning, based on available augmenting technologies. This is where the concept of “Augmented Learning” comes in.
Personal computers, Internet, and mobile phone technologies have brought a lot to E-learning, with near infinite sources of content, tutorials, videos, courses, moocs, online classes, mobile apps. E-learning offers the chance for any individual and any organization to transfer knowledge in rich, autonomous, and scalable ways. But we all know that knowledge, in and of itself, is not enough for learning to take hold. We also need to learn skills and behaviors.
Skills and behaviors are hard to express, digitize, and transmit. This is where E-learning’s flaws and limitations appear, usually compensated with in-person and classroom learning, which in return fail at scaling.
Augmented Learning (A-learning) has the potential to not just transfer knowledge, but also skills and behaviors, efficiently.
Experts in every organization create new knowledge, skills, and behaviors (KSB). Their challenge is to spread the new KSB in the organization as efficiently as possible. That efficiency could come from augmenting both the experts and the apprentices, in order to close the gap between teachers and learners. To leverage A-learning, we need to look at existing roles and how both teachers and learners can be “augmented”, at scale, to close the gap.
The teacher needs better ways to translate his know-how into digital KSB. This digitization process is complex when it comprises more than just information such as definitions, rules, formula, recipes, or secrets. Know-how is a mix of information, motion, and emotion. The augmented teacher must have the ability to capture and transfer those three components seamlessly with a high level of accuracy. The augmented teacher needs very efficient ways to record and put together the knowledge he applies, the gestures he makes, the behaviors he performs, and the sensations he feels while performing his know-how. And, he must do so naturally with the lowest possible effort and loss.
Today, we have powerful technologies to start augmenting teachers effectively in that direction. Wearable cameras, microphones, motion sensors, bio sensors, even brain sensors could be combined with cloud computing and AI algorithms to get closer and closer to the teacher’s perspectives, sensations, thinking, and inner states, and model his expertise in a digital way. The captured know-how would be transformed into new kinds of learning material, capable of being efficiently transferred to augmented learners.
The learner needs better digital ways to develop and acquire KSB. Learning requires not only understanding and remembering information, but also mastering gestures, postures, and behaviors; likewise, building reflexes, automatism, and controlling reactions and emotions are as important and complex to exercise digitally. The augmented learner must have the ability to practice and assess all those aptitudes seamlessly.
Like the teacher, the augmented learner needs very efficient ways to acquire and apply new information, motion, and emotion to form his know-how. And he must do so naturally, with the lowest possible friction, and be well supervised.
With Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, we realized that we can enable learners to apply knowledge more often and in context, to practice physically, emotionally, and personally, to repeat information, motion, emotion, and remember better, to fail and retry safely, and to receive feedback and coaching faster.
At the same time, we have other powerful technologies available to augment learners. Motion sensors, bio sensors, brain sensors, cloud computing, and AI algorithms could be combined with AR and VR to bring the learner closer and closer to the teacher’s perspectives, sensations, thinking, and inner states, and ingest his expertise in a digital way.
A-learning is already here, it’s just not equitably distributed.
People and organizations need to understand augmented technologies, to accept them, and adapt to them. They need to change habits and change paradigms to succeed in the intelligent world. And this is a challenge, not for the future but for today, because augmenting technologies are cumulative: the more you have, the more powerful you are, the more successful you’ll be.
People and organizations missing the train may never catch up.
So, here is the challenge: how to build the best conditions where people and organizations embrace the augmented world happily and successfully in a sustainable way?
An augmented humanity will thrive only if all people and organizations can understand, acquire, appreciate, and master the augmented technologies. Augmented Learning, then, seems to be the best move to build a prosperous, augmented society.
A new era
The fact is that the shift from E-learning to A-learning is already happening. It just hasn’t had a name, until now. At Uptale, we started with an intuition: that Virtual Reality could help people learn better, faster, smarter. Through trial and error, we came to the conclusion that immersive technology was just a first step toward augmenting teachers and learners. Thus, A-learning was born and it feels like the possibilities are countless, the potential infinite!
Uptale has one mission: to bring teachers and learners closer together through Augmented (A-)Learning. With Uptale, the eyes, ears, and hands of the teacher are captured with new types of cameras and motion sensors. The teacher can digitize his knowledge, skills, and behaviors to produce impactful A-learning experiences. These experiences are then efficiently proposed to the learner who can practice them with all his senses. We are working to bring A-learning to all the people and organizations who have the ambition to thrive in the augmented world. Here you are! And it is just the beginning.