Alfred University News

Alfred University's Division of Psychology collaborating with CACT and EthAR LLC of Huntsville, AL, wins $275,000 grant to investigate augmented reality-supported training processes

A collaborative venture between Alfred University's Division of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT), and the Huntsville, AL-based EthAR LLC has been awarded a $275,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to explore the use and value of augmented reality (AR) devices in the training of industrial work groups.

 Professor Danielle Gagne, Chair of the Psychology, Gerontology, and Communications Studies Division, will serve as the lead co-primary investigator for Alfred University's shre of the project.

“Our purpose is to investigate cognitive and personality variables that affect users’ experience with augmented reality,” Gagne says.

Distinct from virtual reality devices, AR technology “allows users to experience and interact with virtual objects that have been superimposed or integrated with real-world environments,” Gagne explains.  “This is done in real time through the use of head-worn displays, hand-held mobile devices, or projection displays. Think of it as mixing the real world with virtual elements to enhance the experience."

 CACT Director John Simmins serves as co-primary investigator in the collaboration and notes the project “addresses significant mission-critical challenges for leveraging AR tools in manufacturing environments.”

According to Simmins, students in Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering will use AR devices in learning how to operate complex equipment. The research will assess the efficacy of AR relative to written and video training and will generate quantitative analysis useful for developing future training protocols.

The project, he says, will investigate the use of AR in “informing and guiding workers without the unsustainable, unscalable need to individually design instructional interactions. Additionally, we likely will show that AR produces measurable improvements in efficiency, quality, and worker safety versus conventional work instruction approaches.”

CACT emphasizes workforce development in its efforts to support the ceramic and glass industry in New York state, which currently is suffering a labor shortage from technicians to engineers. According to Simmins, the shortage has negatively impacted the ability of ceramic and glass companies to operate and grow in New York. 

“We hope the success of programs such as this mitigates many of these workforce challenges.”