January 17, 2023

Getting ÄKTA ready in virtual reality

By Conor McKechnie and Dodi Axelson

Getting ÄKTA ready in virtual reality

Conor and Dodi try their hand at learning to operate an ÄKTA ready in virtual reality. Their virtual journey takes them to Singapore and Miami, without leaving Sweden, Amersham, and Edinburgh. Join us on a journey into the metaverse.

Show notes

  • For more info on using virtual reality for customers: cytiva.com/vr
  • You can view the video version of the episode here, where you can see virtual Dodi and Conor interact with virtual Arron Greig (our expert guide).

DODI: Hey Conor. Today we're going to do something completely different.

CONOR: Okay, so are we going to do like surreal sketch comedy routines that make people roll around on the floor crying with laughter?

DODI: Well, that's every episode, isn't it? But today we're going to do something in audio that is primarily a visual experience.

CONOR: Okay? Let's not let the laws of physics and biology get in the way of innovation, right? But could this be confusing?

DODI: I hope not. We thought it could be worth a try. So dear listener, put on your ear goggles, and join us in Cytiva's virtual reality (VR) world where learning is doing, virtually speaking. We started our trip into VR with basic instructions on how to push which buttons on the controllers in your hands.

CONOR: And where you should stand while wearing the goggles so that you don't fall over or walk into something in the real world.

DODI: True. So here is the scenario: we've gone into a lab. It is just us and some equipment, and we're going to learn how to install a Flow Kit onto an ÄKTA ready instrument. We took on the persona of manufacturing operators who wanted to be trained in the hands-on processes.

CONOR: Our virtual guide, and our real-world killer expert is Arron Greig, the Sales Development Manager for our Nucleic Acids business in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. He's been involved in the development of Cytiva's virtual reality since its inception, a good couple of years ago.

DODI: We hear about people actually holding meetings in the metaverse. And this is kind of the equivalent of being in the metaverse for this kind of training. How common is this going to become? Is this going to become like, 'join me in virtual reality for training' rather than coming to a classroom?

ARRON: I think what we've seen just now is general acceptance, both professionally and into the kind of social sphere, right? What we're finding just now with some of the data that's coming out, this isn't going to be news to anyone, is that the traditional status quo way of learning is here's a bunch of SOPs. With this one, your hands basically going to want to do that...

DODI: So, I'm going from one o'clock to five o'clock. It's interesting, remember it’s an audio experience now with this whole immersive experience we're trying to describe for people's ears.

ARRON: If we grab the spanner, you will be guided by your augmented position in here, right? So, this spanner is going to be showing you exactly where it needs to be placed within the correct valve. And you're going to want to turn that from roughly four o'clock, anti-clockwise, up to about 11 o'clock.

DODI: Got it.

ARRON: And what you've done is you've loosened a nut on the top of the pump housing here, so there's one on this side, and then there's one on this side, which will go from seven o'clock to roughly one o'clock.

DODI: Okay, so that was the right side and the left side of an extruding box on our ÄKTA ready hardware here. Okay, and now I'm going to hang up the spanner.

ARRON: Just put it back into the correct location. What it needs is an extra couple of degrees back there, but I will pop that back for you. And you'll see here, we're able to take this away. So yeah, basically, where we're at, is by reading the information, we know that the retention rate is extremely low, right? Anyone who has read a lot of SOPs, standard operating procedures, or on the PC, learning about what they're supposed to be doing, the retention rate is between 5% to 10% So anytime you flip that page over, we know that the majority of that information has not gone in. Okay, we knew what we had to do was, especially through COVID for example, we had to make the switch from doing everything face to face, which was the old way of doing things, to try and deliver training over teams, right? Everyone had to switch to Teams and Zoom. And we know that that return rate is maybe 30%. So, it's slightly better than eLearning, you can watch what somebody's doing. There's roughly 30% of information retention by doing things through some kind of live demonstration. What we're finding is the best way of doing things is through is face-to-face training on a physical asset, you're clearly going to get the best retention rate. So that's a 90% retention plus, but you have to have a physical asset. So, you are basically bogged down a $250,000 asset, you can't have manufacturing output, you have to use consumables at great expense, and you have to tie up your resources, especially if you're doing it on one that takes a lot of time with a lot of potential manufacturing to decrease. With something like VR, the reason why we've gone so close to reality, and hopefully you can at least see this and maybe we can explain just what the finish is like on the assets that we're working on, we've made this as photorealistic as possible. The level of detail on each of the interactions on the number of actions is to be as detailed as possible. And when we know that the gold standard is face-to-face, you want to be as close to that 90-95% or even 100% information retention. Learning by doing in the virtual environment, we know that we can get up to about 80 to 85%.

DODI: You get additional activity you're actually participating.

ARRON: You're actually participant learning by doing right.

DODI: So, this is the first time I've actually touched an ÄKTA Ready piece of hardware and I'm not even touching it, but my memory is now going to tell me that I have handled this hardware, that I've been touching these valves, and that I have been opening the safeties and getting this machine ready to accept the single use tubing. What have you just lifted up there a small piece of the pump lid?

ARRON: I can take things apart. So, what we're describing a minute ago where we took the nuts off using the wrench there was effectively remove this. Right, so what we'd have to do when we're replacing the single use tube, and this is similar to what a peristaltic pump works, so we've removed this lid you can potentially walk over and place on the table to our left. So just over here, you'll see we need to pop that down on the table for a second.

DODI: I actually grabbed that and then put it down on a table on the left. And now I'm looking at all this tubing as well that is connecting into it. Do I hear Conor's voice?

SVITRI: That's Svitri, who's inviting Conor into the room here?

ARRON: Of course, let's see if I can invite him.

CONOR: So, what actually happened in that moment is Svitri Magnusson, who works with our Global Services team, started helping us without actually coming into the virtual reality room. He just kind of teleported in.

DODI: Right, because you can have observers plus participants. So, remember, we're in a lab with a lovely view of Singapore. It contains an ÄKTA ready instrument, some tables with parts on it, tubing, and a lot of space around us. Physically, Arron is in Edinburgh, Connor is in Amersham, and I'm in Uppsala, Sweden with Svitri. But frankly, it wouldn't matter where any of us are physically. Svitri is looking at us through the software and he's here to help. Isn't that just wild?

CONOR: I love that it doesn't matter where you are physically, you just need to be in the right headspace.

ARRON: Alright, so Svitri is not in virtual reality. He's joined just on his desktop PC, and that allows him to effectively have a standard stabilized platform, so he'll move around the environment using the keys on his PC or his laptop and he'll be able to record everything that we're seeing and doing.

CONOR: Dodi's legless avatar is floating magically toward the purification system and she's reaching toward a valve. Arron is helping her see exactly where it is that she needs to turn and she's grabbing the valve with her virtual hands. And she's turning it or attempting to turn it. Oh, there it goes. That's it. So, it's actually very, very photorealistic in terms of how the hand is being shown. You can see Dodi's hand actually grabbing onto the valve and opening it up.

DODI: Conor, can you see the pop-up menu on my wrist? I'm actually following the instructions that are popping up from my wrist. This is so simple. And it's what you were talking about earlier Arron, it's kinetic, I'm not just reading the instructions and thinking, 'okay, that's going to be the next step'. I see the instructions, and then I physically carry them out. And it's actually making me feel like I totally understand this process.

ARRON: You effectively pop that into each of the valves. So that's your outlets that you're putting in there on the right-hand side of this machine. You're sending them into the valve and now locking them into place.

DODI: Perfect. Now I'm on step nine, push the UV sensor in completely.

ARRON: This comes round on the front again.

DODI: Push ah, oh my goodness, I'm so excited about this. Where are you, Conor? Did you disappear?

ARRON: So, this is the joy, you're working with a team, I have someone else in the room as you can relate to pass things across to each other, which makes a big difference. Sure. So, when we talk about kind of levels of detail, this illustrates exactly what we're trying to do here, right? So, these are tiny little O-rings, I think these are millimeters in diameter. And obviously, if you haven't seen one before, you can see they are relatively small in the level of detail we're able to go to allows you to insert that into the pump tripping on the main part of the floor get right to you. That's it and you want to pop it there. And now what you need to do is just take this part, which I'm able to grab for you.

DODI: And twist. Oh, my goodness, I feel like walking into your brain, and I'm grabbing that.

ARRON: So, this one will be connected to this receptor here.

DODI: Do you know this is like threading my sewing machine. I sew a lot. And I feel like I am successfully threading my overlock sewing machine because there are lots of little things that have to go into special little slots.

CONOR: The realism of you picking things up, grasping them, attaching them to the various parts, and there's even sound effects that make it feel that you've installed them in the right place. And I'm currently on my knees looking at the very underside of an ÄKTA ready. For me what's really quite exciting is I can actually come up to the device, and I can read the labeling on the side of the device. It's extraordinary, the attention to detail here, the reflective capabilities of the rendering, is just wow... I'm not sure how I really want to leave Dodi.

ARRON: This is what we're doing in VR. Basically, what we want to do is where we can add the most value to customers in the very standard, easy to replicate processes, right? So, we've effectively taken all the manual interactions on flow kit installation, and we digitize them as much as possible. With things like applying a lubricant to the back of that part before you place it in, that's where we would still expect face to face training to be the best value giver because there is going to be a nuance in that. When applying Vaseline, you really need to understand how much you're putting on there, and how what that actually feels like So, that's more of a kind of routine cue to say this is what's going to happen in the real world. What we effectively want to achieve inside this kind of training or putting this kind of training in place in between reading the manual and then a face-to-face training, is we can effectively remove the white noise of some of these training experiences on ÄKTA Ready. So, you're going to take a cohort of five people who have never seen an ÄKTA Ready before, they've just been hired into the company, and you want to get them as operational as quickly as possible. What we found is we would send a Cytiva subject matter expert on-site and that would take them roughly two and a half days. Just to let you know what's happening Dodi, Conor has skipped a few steps that you were about to calibrate.

CONOR: Sorry. Me skipping steps is making Dodi skip.

DODI: Oh, yes, you are! Moved on to step 20. That's awesome. This is teamwork. I think it's great to kind of learn about it as, as a tool and even you were talking about the science behind how we learn and how the involvement here gets 85% of people to remember what they've learned because they're doing it as opposed to the 20% when they're reading.

ARRON: So, when I referred to information retention, it's 85% of the information itself, rather than 85% of people right. So, I will also grab a seat so we can sit down in the room it depends on whether you want to go and sit but we can actually sit at these tables. And we can also meet in Malibu in a boardroom as well.

DODI: Let's go to the boardroom in Malibu, all right, how do we get there?

ARRON: Svitri you can help Dodi get there. And Conor you've been there already. So, I think when you press your real world one button, if you click underneath the headset, you should see three little lines on the controller.

CONOR: What happened next is distinctly human. We agreed to go to a virtual room and then kind of left without clarifying who would open that meeting room and how we would get there, whether we had a map or anything like that. Eventually, however, we all found our avatars, and that's what sparked this conversation. You've joined me in my Malibu. But how does that kind of sort of etiquette pan out? Because this is certainly going to be something I think that's important for people to understand is that while the rules of physics apply exactly in here, as they do out there, how exactly do the rules of social etiquette apply? If somebody comes up behind me, am I supposed to be upset?

DODI: Good question Conor.

CONOR: I mean, almost 40 years ago on a beach, not unlike this one, I was studying exactly this question. What are the rules of social etiquette in a hypothetical virtual reality, and suddenly I find myself in one? And of course, the question comes straight back.

DODI: And you are still asking the same question. What have you learned in 40 years? Anyway, Arron what's the answer?

ARRON: So, I feel like because everything has been really digital for the last couple of years at least, I think social etiquette around digital meetings has probably evolved faster in the last three years than it has for the last 40. You can see what it was like. It's like leaving a Teams meeting and in a new room. And then everyone goes out and creates their own meetings in Zoom or in Teams.

DODI: Exactly. But this guy is going from chair to chair to chair, is that good digital etiquette? I think not Conor!

CONOR: I don't think it is. I was just trying to establish which is the best view and I do this in the real world. When I walk into a meeting room, I look around and say, 'Where am I going to get the best view?' And I'm not sure whether I want to look south along the Malibu coast or whether I want to sit next to Arron and look north along the Malibu coast. I think this is a nice view, because I can also see you Dodi, I'm sat right next to her and there.

DODI: So anyway, Arron do you find that that you run into these kinds of conflicts as you are teaching people virtual reality and that you have to establish ground rules or rules like ‘I created a room called Malibu,’ you two already knew about a room called Malibu. So really, I was the one left out of the party.

ARRON: I was given the advantage of knowing that Conor's room was created first. So, I saw that one, and I jumped in there, assuming that we would all end up there at some point. You went to the extra effort to actually rename it 'Malibu' so there were extra points there. But yeah, it's very much like us saying to each other, let's meet in a Teams call, and no one set an actual invitation in the calendar, and we hang up the phone, and then we actually don't do any calls, right? So, it's kind of the same concept there. The difference is, as soon as you enter any of the menus in virtual reality, because we're all within the same kind of friend group on the software, we can all see where each person is. So, it's quite easy to rectify, but considering the amount of time you have spent in this virtual tool, it's probably been certainly less than an hour. From my perspective, Conor is now sitting on Dodi's knee.

DODI: I can't even see this; I'm going to report this.

CONOR: So, Arron one of the questions that comes to my mind is how much does the virtual get in the way of reality? There are all sorts of things that you can do in that space that you can't do in the real world. Obviously, there's an element of people getting used to it, it's fun to begin with, and so on, but how much do you do the sort of what you might call the game physics of the virtual world get in the way of the learning and people getting used to the task at hand and staying on task? Because I'm certainly very distracted, albeit this is the first time I've been in here, what's the dynamic there? And what's been your experience with users?

ARRON: Yeah, so we've taken this to exhibitions, for example, right? When you take this to a customer site it's different from an exhibition, but the exhibition is where the chaos kind of happens. So, you take two people that are already in a kind of different environment than they are used to. They're certainly not on site. So, people behave differently in exhibitions than they would on-site. But you put two people into the same environment as we are in front of the ÄKTA and you expect them to follow the instructions either from a digital person who is in there explaining to them what to do, or certainly to somebody who's in the booth. But what you quite often see is that it descends into chaos a little bit for the first five minutes or so because they figure out, they can teleport, or they can pretend to throw things or they can interact with each other in a different way that you can't, in the physical realm. But when this is framed as a training exercise, it's something that breaks down that nervousness of like, 'Is this tool going to be useful? Am I going to enjoy it, like it or not?'

CONOR: We like to play, don't we? A lot of that is learning through play. And understanding the limits of what the tool can do. What children do with any new technology very often is to try and take it apart and then put it back together again, but essentially, that kind of playing with the limits of what it is. It feels very much like sort of when you're very familiar with a video game, and you're trying to go to the edges and see what's behind the walls and whether or not there are easter eggs hidden. Anyway, can we agree not to add a certain thing to the virtual world? Can we not add long, boring meetings, can we keep them effective, short, and decisive?

DODI: Or make them more playful meetings!

CONOR: Or, yes, make them more playful. I tell you what's very strange. I'm sitting in the real world on a chair, not unlike the chair that we're sitting on in the virtual world. And I've obviously got my foot on a table or something underneath the virtual table. And I can feel the leg with my real-world foot of the virtual table. And I'm getting some very serious cognitive dissonance between being able to actually feel something physically that I know isn't there. But it does feel like I'm touching this table.

DODI: And what's happening in your eyes doesn't match what you're actually feeling.

CONOR: Exactly.

DODI: Arron, this has been, I'm going to say eye-opening for Conor and me, I hope it's been ear-opening for the listeners. It is a big challenge to bring people in the podcast environment into virtual reality. I hope it's been an interesting experience. And certainly, we also recorded this in video. So, we will be sharing that on YouTube so that you can see what we've been through here. This has been an extra special and unusual episode of Discovery Matters. Thank you, Arron for being our guide. And thank you Svitri for being our NPC if we could stick with that one.

CONOR: Our non-playing cameraman. I think that's what it's called.

DODI: That's what it is.

SVITRI: Thank you so much.

ARRON: Thanks again. It was a pleasure. I'm glad you had fun. I'm glad you had some cognitive dissonance and I'm glad you took something away. Dodi, it'd be great to get you in front of a physical ÄKTA ready I think at some point and just check how much of that you remember from just five or 10 minutes, right?

DODI: Yeah, that'd be great.

ARRON: Bye for now.

DODI: Bye for now.

CONOR: I'm standing here in Malibu. I'm sorry, folks.

DODI: Well, we saw, we learned, and we installed! That was quite fun.

CONOR: For our customers who want to try it, you can contact our team at cytiva.com/vr. Let’s keep good etiquette in VR – be as virtually kind as you’d like to be treated I...R...L. Oh, I feel so young saying that.

DODI: Oh, I know that one. I'm not too old for that one in real life. Thanks, for real, for listening. Discovery Matters is produced with the help of Beth Armitt-Brewster. Editing, mixing, and music is by Tom Henley and Banda Produktions. My name, as ever, is Dodi Axelson.

CONOR: I'm Conor McKechnie both virtually and in the real world. Make sure you rate us on Spotify or whichever platform you use to listen to your podcasts. We'll be back with another episode of Discovery Matters soon.

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