Is AI another fad like VR? Real-world AI applications that go beyond the hype

I’ve been in L&D for a while now, and I’ve noticed something—everyone loves tech fads. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While the latest tech is often a flash in the pan, I can think of a number of innovations that have completely transformed the learning space over the past 25 years. We’ll never go back to the days before mobile learning, gamification, and immersive simulations.

Now, there’s a lot of skepticism around generative AI. Does it have staying power? Many people believe it’ll be like virtual reality: a cool toy with a few niche use cases, but too difficult to scale for mainstream learning applications. 

As a Principal at Blueline Simulations, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of GenAI in the learning and development space. AI is not a temporary trend. It’s here to stay, and it is poised to revolutionize various industries (including L&D) in profound ways.

Comparing the future of AI to VR

Virtual reality (VR) burst onto the scene with much fanfare, promising immersive experiences that would revolutionize everything from entertainment to education. The excitement around VR was palpable, with many envisioning a future where virtual environments would seamlessly integrate into our daily lives. However, despite its initial promise, VR’s impact has been limited, and has not achieved the widespread adoption many had hoped.

Where did VR go wrong?

One of the main reasons for VR’s limited impact is the high cost associated with the technology. We were teased with easily accessible proofs of concept like Google Cardboard. As ambitions for what could be possible in this new environment skyrocketed, so did the requirements to experience it.

The hardware required for an immersive VR experience, including high-resolution headsets and powerful computers, remains prohibitively expensive for the average consumer and even for many businesses. Especially at scale. How do you run a learner population of 2,000 through such an experience when you only have 24 VR kits?

Additionally, there are practical and technical constraints for VR, such as motion sickness, limited field of view, and the bulky nature of the equipment. This has further hindered its adoption. Users have found it difficult to stay engaged with VR experiences for extended periods, and the physical discomforts often associated with VR usage are a significant deterrent.

Add in the need for a physical space, few ‘killer apps’, a development cycle that required game engine expertise, and the unfortunate reality that it is miles away from being accessible to learners with disabilities and you end up with a formula that just doesn’t work.

Educational and training applications, which were initially seen as promising areas for VR, face significant challenges in content development and scalability. Creating high-quality, immersive VR content requires substantial investment in both time and resources, which many organizations were unwilling or unable to commit.

How is AI’s impact already different from VR’s?

In contrast, generative AI has taken a different path. Unlike VR, which attempts to create entirely new environments, generative AI enhances our existing reality by integrating advanced AI technologies into our daily operations and decision-making processes. The way AI integrates is not only more practical than VR, but also more consequential. Generative AI leverages data and machine learning to improve human capabilities, offering support and insights that enhance—rather than replace—human judgment.

For example, in the workplace, AI can analyze and assimilate vast amounts of data to provide actionable insights, automate routine tasks, and assist in decision-making processes. Using AI for these functions enables employees to focus on the more strategic and creative aspects of their roles, significantly boosting productivity and job satisfaction.

In the learning and development space, AI-augmented simulations can create personalized learning experiences that cater to individual needs and learning styles, making education more effective and engaging.

The practical applications of AI are diverse and far-reaching. From improving healthcare outcomes through predictive analytics to improving sales training through real-time simulations, AI is already integrated into various sectors. Its current uses indicate that AI is not a fleeting trend, but a sustainable technology that will continue to evolve and impact our lives. All of the limiting factors that have hamstrung VR aren’t present in the GenAI revolution. 

The growing influence of generative AI

The impact of generative AI is evident across multiple sectors, transforming how we approach problems and streamline processes. Vanderbilt University, for example, has harnessed the power of GenAI to open new avenues for research and learning. By integrating AI technologies, Vanderbilt aims to innovate and improve academic and operational outcomes. 

Doug Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science, suggests that efforts by some to ignore, or even ban, ChatGPT and other AI software are misguided: “They think this is a flash in the pan and are actively discouraging people from using it,” he says. “Our hypothesis is that in the very near future people who know how to use this stuff well are going to run rings around the people who don’t.”

In the professional realm, the influence of generative-AI is equally profound. LinkedIn’s chief economist, Karin Kimbrough, believes that generative AI will have a substantial impact on the workforce, particularly for middle-class workers. “By and large, what we’re seeing is there are different speeds of displacement, different speeds of augmentation happening, but it is happening across all sectors,” Kimbrough said.

According to LinkedIn’s recent Future of Work Report: AI at Work, 55% of its users will have their jobs impacted in some way by generative AI, illustrating the widespread and deep-seated changes AI is bringing to the job market.

The universal adoption of AI across various domains underscores that it is not a passing trend, but a fundamental shift in how we work and learn. Its applications range from enhancing productivity and efficiency in business operations to providing personalized learning experiences.

As we continue to integrate AI into daily operations, its influence will only grow. The technology’s capacity to augment human abilities, provide valuable insights, and streamline tasks ensures that it will remain a central component of our professional and personal lives.

Addressing fears: AI and job security

One of the most common fears surrounding AI is the potential for job displacement. While it is true that AI will change the nature of many jobs, we don’t foresee widespread unemployment.

Instead, AI can augment human capabilities, taking over routine and repetitive tasks and allowing workers to focus on more complex, creative, and strategic activities. Employees can expect more fulfilling work and greater opportunities for personal and professional growth.

As AI becomes more integrated into various roles, there will be a growing need for AI literacy. Workers who develop these skills will be more valuable and versatile in the job market. Additionally, with AI handling routine tasks, employees have more time and mental energy to innovate and think creatively, driving progress and new ideas within their organizations. In the field of learning and development, AI can create personalized learning experiences that are tailored to individual needs, preferences, and learning styles. Immersive simulations lead to more effective and engaging education. By addressing people’s fears and embracing the opportunities that AI presents, we can create a more dynamic, efficient, and fulfilling work environment for all.

Embracing AI literacy

To thrive in an AI-driven world, it is essential to become AI-literate. Not everyone needs to become a prompt engineer, but individuals should understand how to use AI tools effectively within their domains. As LinkedIn’s chief economist points out in the report linked above, gaining AI skills can help workers become more efficient and open up new career opportunities.

BEYOND THE HYPE

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July 24, 2024 @ 12:30 pm EST

Exploring real world applications of AI tools in L&D

Learn how to separate the hype from reality and effectively integrate AI into your training programs in our live web session.
 
Ask all your questions about AI and get answers from Blueline Principal Tim Burkowske.
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AI’s role in the future of learning and development

At Blueline Simulations, we are particularly excited about the potential of generative AI to enhance learning and development. AI can help us identify performance gaps, organizational deficiencies, and communication roadblocks more effectively than ever before. By leveraging AI, we can create learning solutions that are not only more efficient but also more personalized and effective.

Generative AI is here to stay, and its potential to transform industries is immense. The team at Blueline is committed to harnessing this technology to improve learning outcomes and support the growth of our clients and their employees. Together, we can navigate the challenges and opportunities of this new era, creating a future where technology and human ingenuity work hand in hand to achieve remarkable results.

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BEYOND THE HYPE

Live Webinar

July 24, 2024 @ 12:30 pm EST

Exploring real world applications of AI tools in L&D

Learn how to separate the hype from reality and effectively integrate AI into your training programs in our live web session.
Ask all your questions about AI and get answers from Blueline Principal Tim Burkowske.