3D technology, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality are no longer only restricted to virtual gaming. The evolving technology, especially Metaverse is positively impacting many fields and industry sectors, including education, skill development and training.
Metaverse is a boon to the education sector, as it helps in creating engaging digital classrooms, retaining students’ attention, provide an interactive learning environment, along with activities like workshops, projects, and experiments, that happen in real-time, enabling effective student participation.
While this positive disruption is slowly picking up, Skillveri Metaverse and XR Simulations, is using Metaverse in transforming vocational education and skill development. In this interview, we conversed with Mr. Sabrinath C Nair, Founder and CEO, Skillveri Metaverse and XR Simulations, who over the years, have been revolutionizing vocational training using simulators and providing smart solutions.
Below are a few excerpts from our conversation. You can watch the full video interview on our YouTube channel.
Q: Please help us understand the term “Metaverse” and its components.
A. The term “Metaverse” is intriguing because Facebook lately changed its name to “Meta”, and since then, many people have started using this term. It can be challenging to explain the terms Metaverse and meta, but in general, Metaverse have to do with immersive Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).
The fundamental components of the Metaverse:
Real-time collaboration skills
Q: What are the benefits of simulation-based training?
A. In Learning Theory Pyramid, e-learning and conventional classroom teaching methods are just 30% effective. If you look at Practice by Learning, it increases it to 75%, so that’s where Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or any type of immersive learning helps. Because when a person is seeing something on the 2D screen on a computer or mobile screen, it does not feel like anything is being done, but when a person is wearing a headset, and are immersed in Virtual reality, it feels like the person is interacting with the virtual environment with their hands or with tools. Therefore, at 75%, the retention rate is substantially higher.
Metaverse is a collaborative environment in Virtual Reality. People are working together and learning happens at a rate of 90%. That makes it three times as effective as traditional learning methods.
Q: How has Skillveri leveraged technologies like AR, and VR in skill development and training in providing smart solutions?
When an individual watches a 2D movie, they are seated and are aware that the action on the screen is happening elsewhere. However, objects are moving towards them when an individual is wearing 3D glasses, while watching a 3D movie. Virtual Reality is therefore one step ahead of that because, in contrast to 3D movies, it allows one to view in all directions, giving the impression the individual is actually inside the film. Additionally, one can move around and engage, which is not possible in a 3D movie, making Virtual Reality more advanced than a 3D movie.
A: At Skillveri, in addition to teaching students how to paint, we have developed an Augmented Reality (AR) application that will assist painters while visiting a client’s home, surveying the walls, and mapping out the walls that need to be painted. This information is converted into a 3D drawing that is uploaded to the cloud, where it can be used to generate a code that informs the client about the area tp be painted, how much it costs, etc.
We partnered with Nippon Paint, where we educate painters to paint at an advanced level. The painters have access to superior technology for project execution, assessment, visualization, and cleaning. This keeps both the work environment and the workers themselves clean and promotes far higher levels of the dignity of labour. So, this is one development that has occurred on the industrial side.
We have also created additional modules for ITIs. For solar technicians, the program will show how to accomplish it step-by-step for the technician to go to the place and install the solar panels and inverter system. This tool was created in collaboration with the Selco foundation and Selco is now taking it to Tanzania. A tool that was created in India is now travelling to Africa.
We recently developed a tool for AC repair mechanics, which will revolutionize the industry in the coming years. We tested this with a few AC technicians, and they were quite pleased with it. The technicians claimed they have 15 to 20 years of expertise, and it takes 3 to 4 years to bring a new employee up to their speed. And now the training for the technicians can be shortened to three months using our tool.
Q: Has COVID-19 resulted in a positive change in technology adoption?
A. Yes, COVID-19 has definitely brought a positive change in technology adoption in technical and vocational education. We sell our products to institutions in Canada and the United States from India, as the teachers wanted to make it easier for the public to adopt. We would purchase simulators for each of the students and then ship them to their homes. Considering that a standard e-learning module can be completed remotely using a laptop or a smartphone.
However, students need to learn by doing, especially if it is anything like an AC repair where the student has to perform some action. They have to grab a tool and do some movement with their hands. Students have to practice to learn it. The US and Canadian institutes could therefore afford to buy one simulator for each of their students and transport it to their homes at that time in early 2020 for the western market.
For the Indian market, it was not feasible at the time. However, when COVID-19 eased, we established a state-of-the-art, multi-skill Metaverse lab at the government ITI in Cuttack, Odisha. Six simulators, one shared server, and a lot of analytics were present. The welding, painting, solar technician, AC repair mechanic simulators and lab combined these skills into one. Given that there are six systems in the entire ITI unit, the lab only costs a few tens of lakhs compared to the number of students it serves. Twenty students make up one unit for each ITI, allowing all students to access it. Each ITI purchased one or two simulators. With one simulator, one person will be performing, and three others will observe.
With the introduction of Facebook’s Oculus VR gear, the price of the headset was substantially reduced to between 30,000 and 40,000 rupees. Also, today the hardware also doesn’t cost much. The ITI Cuttack has at least 2500 students, 1500 of whom are enrolled in the multiverse XR metaverse lab. Hence, it becomes quite affordable when you divide the setup cost by the number of students that profit each year.
Q: What was the outcome of lab testing in other locations?
A. From our experience, we learned that by using simulation-based training, training institutions abroad have been able to draw more students. In India, we have ITI Cuttack, government ITI Aundh, and a few other ITIs that are slowly adopting simulators as a mode of training. Currently, ITI Aundh has about 17 simulators.
We soon realized that allowing access to everyone in the classroom was a much more efficient method. Having 5 or 6 simulators is preferable to having one. We have several circumstances where students are more social media savvy. The initial glitch was that Indian policymakers used to consider that India is impoverished and take only scaled-down products. Due to the use of UPI for payment purposes, even street vendors now accept digital payments, meaning that India is where FinTech is being used more frequently than in other countries.
Another misconception is that people in rural India are not tech-savvy, which is untrue. Today, a lot of people have smartphones, a lot of people use mobile internet and 4G is widely available. The majority of the viral Instagram Reels are from tier 3 or tier 4 towns.
Q: What is your advice to the youth of India regarding the benefits of simulation-based learning?
A. Students do not need to be wary of technology. Compared to trainers, students adopt technology far more quickly. Students are far more adept at using the gadget in various ITIs. For instance, when we introduced our AC repair training to one of our ITI clients, one student rapidly picked it up, and the rest were instructed by that student. The fact that the students are catching on quickly is commendable.
In a study conducted in 2014 that matched students’ aspirations to opportunities, nobody wanted to be a welder or a construction worker, even though there are many career prospects in these fields. Instead, many preferred to work in easy trades like the banking and finance sectors. Compared to a software engineer, a crane operator can make significantly more money.
People might not be aware of this, but once they are, career advancement is much better. There is a blind b-line for entering the IT and software industries, making it feasible for people with many skills to pursue substantially more rewarding occupations with considerably higher earning potential and social mobility. Therefore, students should explore and learn. The metaverse provides them with the chance to try these things out without getting hurt. Discover the basics of the trade before making a choice.
Q: What are the partnership options with Skillveri?
A. We have partnered with a diverse group of people. We worked with practically all the paint companies in the paint sector. But in particular, the project with Nippon Paint has been an outreach effort that has extensively targeted real NGOs. Where regular painters are trained to become much more productive painters who can complete tasks at a rate that is four times faster than they currently can. The earning potential increases by three to four times. We are already partners in the welding, painting, AC repairs, and solar technician industries, and we are also willing to collaborate with newer partners. ITIs or polytechnics is one of India’s underutilized sectors. If you attend an ITI rather than an engineering college, the chances of landing a job in some fields are significantly higher. The government also acted swiftly and the syllabus is now in line with what the industry demands.
If the top three ITIs in a state are excluded, the other ITIs’ equipment is old and out of date. The ITI lacks the necessary equipment, thus even with an up-to-date syllabus, students cannot receive hands-on practice. To upgrade the equipment at ITI and integrate it with the metaverse lab, we collaborated with JCB, Cognizant, Titan, and many other companies. 2000 students at the ITI are positively impacted each year. Therefore, if anyone is interested in collaborating, they can email me at email@example.com, and we can talk about possible partnerships.
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