Developing an AR Platform to Better Train American Workers

September 27, 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently handed out 43 awards totaling $39 million through its Convergence Accelerator pilot. The program is “leveraging multidisciplinary research teams and laying the groundwork for public-private partnerships with Fortune 500 companies to apply Big Data to science and engineering and create technologies that can enhance the lives of American workers.” Informatics Professor Kylie Peppler is part of a multi-organizational team, led by Professor Karthik Ramani of Purdue University, that received a Convergence Accelerator award worth $1 million for its project, “Skill-LeARn: Affordable and Accessible Augmented Reality Platform for Scaling Up Manufacturing Workforce, Skilling, and Education.”

The project comprises a multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, mechanical and electrical engineers, psychologists and education researchers. The goal is to tackle bottlenecks faced by small and medium enterprises in terms of time and cost when addressing the need for larger-scale rapid training.

“The landscape of the future of work in the U.S. is changing substantially,” says Peppler. “Taking bold steps to pre-skill the next generation of workers will help learners — and the industries in which they aspire to work — approach these shifts with confidence.”

In particular, Peppler is working with a group of graduate students and research staff at UCI led by Joey Huang, a Ph.D. candidate in learning sciences and a researcher within the Creativity Labs — where Peppler serves as director. The project focuses on human-machine interactions and involves developing collaborative uses for an augmented reality (AR) platform and other physical prototyping tools.

“Through the lens of learning sciences, we aim to create and improve current approaches to pre-skill a new generation of workers as well as refine our approach for industry re-skilling efforts in our future work,” explains Huang. “For example, we are working to collaboratively develop and examine a cloud-based educational network for cooperative AR that high schools and colleges can leverage to help shape the future of the workforce.”

As Peppler notes, “this project will be an exciting opportunity for UCI students to be on the cutting edge of real-world AR applications.”

Shani Murray