Immersive technology has become a cultural phenomenon in recent years, with technological advances allowing the lines between reality and technology to become blurry. Immersive technology has received a bad reputation recently, with the question of ‘when will it end?’ being asked. But, it’s undeniable the benefits that immersive technology provides, both in entertainment and learning. With the technological advances mentioned, it’s important to distinguish the differences between different types of immersive technologies.
Augmented Reality (AR) combines both real-time information and computer-generated content. AR uses images, videos and three-dimensional objects, and projects them onto the real world around the user. AR is used mainly on small devices and uses the environment around them to project images. Think of Snapchat filters and Instagram effects – it projects a computer-generated image or sounds over the real world. AR is more of an enhancement of the world around the user, rather than changing it or altering it completely. One source uses Tony Stark’s Iron Man helmet as an example – it shows the world around Stark while projecting information and images on top of the physical world he sees.
Virtual reality (VR) is a bit different. It’s an immersive digital environment, based on reality. It’s an ‘interactive, computer-generated depiction of a real or artificial world or activity’ (Lenovo). You’ve probably seen VR headsets before; also known as a head-mounted display that tracks the player’s head movements, while engaging the hearing and seeing senses, immersing the user in the digital environment. The head-mounted displays allow users to immerse themselves in the virtual world and explore all that it offers. It’s most commonly found in video games.
And finally, mixed reality (MR) combines both AR and VR. MR is similar to VR in the way that one may wear a headset that engages the senses, but is similar to AR in the way that it projects computer-generated images and sequences, while still capturing the real environment around the user. MR tracks the environment of the user, allowing the content to merge with the real world. With AR, the image and content can’t be altered, whereas, with MR, the image and content can be engaged with.
Not only do the different versions of immersive technology include entertainment, but also could assist in learning. Whether it’s used in a classroom or for employee training, the possibilities for education through immersive technology are endless.
Augmented Reality (AR) can assist in many different fields when it comes to training. AR can provide on-job guidance and equipment training. With the ability to overlay images and text on the reality and environment around it, AR can provide guides and instructions to employees or students while they look at the task in real-time. For example, if an employee is being trained on how to assemble an object, AR can provide a how-to guide on the screen with step-by-step instructions on how to assemble said object. It can also help train employees on how to use heavy machinery properly with similar step-by-step instructions.
Virtual Reality (VR) can be essential in specialised training, especially for those in the army or military. It can simulate environments that one may encounter, allowing for the time to learn how to make decisions in those environments. It can be incredibly beneficial to police officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and any high-stress, quick-judgment jobs that have specific ways and methods of handling certain situations. VR can simulate a house fire, allowing firefighters to learn the essential steps and requirements needed for the specific situation. The possibilities are endless for VR simulations, allowing the technology to be used in any field that may require immersive training.
And lastly, mixed reality (MR) can allow for hands-on training where the employee can be in a real-world environment with visual cues and content created by MR. For example, it can help train people in CPR. The spatial awareness of MR can allow the user to practice CPR with accuracy. MR can show a scan or image of a ribcage, whether it be a child or adult, showing the exact area of a ribcage, allowing the user to use the image to aid their task in a real environment with more info than studying images can provide. In addition, MR can help avoid exposure to blue light, unlike most computer monitors.
When technology first hits the market, it can be scary, and seem overpowered, as was the case with AR, VR and MR technology. But if harnessed by the correct people and for the right reasons, the information provided could be priceless and train hundreds of thousands of people in a safe, controlled manner.