Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – The Future

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – The Future:

Over the last few years, huge changes have occurred in the production of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). In some cases, we have seen this push within our more mainstream media consumption – i.e. through 360-degree cameras, or virtual reality headsets that allow the outside world to drop away while focusing on the generated tasks and games in front of us.

The History:

Some of our first experiments in AR and VR have included VR gaming headsets, QR codes used to unlock apps, prizes and website additions to users, and of course the infamous Pokemon Go game – which allowed users to download an app-based game and utilise the camera on their smartphone to find and ‘catch’ pokemon with a visual on-screen representation.

AR vs VR – What’s the Difference?

Augmented reality means the user is still in the world – but something has been added to it, enhancing or intensifying our experience. A VR headset, however, closes the rest of the world off, transporting us into a different mental state. Virtual reality is often described as a ‘fully immersive’ experience – offering sights and sounds and blocking out the outside world using technology such as headsets. With VR some users experience something akin to a dream – where they can feel emotions and physical sensations if the visual effect is hyperstimulating.

Where augmented reality could best be described as digital overlays such as HoloLens by Microsoft which adds windows apps to your surroundings, and allows you to view windows apps almost as if you are inside a computer screen. This, VR headsets and 360-degree video have illustrated the future revolution of a digitally edited reality.

Lesser known MR (Mixed Reality):

MR – or mixed reality – is another newer version of an editorial reality. Mixed reality is a somewhat more sophisticated version of augmented reality where the digital overlays perform a task or operate as a tool or useful technology within the world. The two interact and react – the real world and the virtual tool and play off one another.

How can they work in the real world?

It’s no secret that the virtual world has spilled over into the real world in more ways than one. While virtual reality has taken off in the gaming industry – other industries are becoming interested in adopting some of the VR, AR and MR techniques to evolve current standards of practice. VR can be used to take virtual tours of properties, homes and holiday destinations in the real estate and travel industries. Gaming techniques have and can be adapted to education, and mixed reality tools and overlays are peaking interest in manufacturing and advertising – giving users a taste of new products.

How can VR and AR help your business?

Some of the market drivers behind VR and AR predicted to involve a cost-effective and otherwise efficient nature. Construction, manufacturing and other large-scale, expensive industries could potentially benefit from further digitised planning and walkthroughs when it comes to building major architecture. For the education industry students could benefit from the attention-grabbing nature of a fully immersive experience. Remember the Magic School Bus? Students could, in theory, be sitting in a room that takes them through a field trip detailing the solar system, or the depths of the ocean. Medical students could use augmented and mixed reality tools to simulate operations, diagnoses. Emergency response teams could offer more in-depth training sessions using mixed reality to create scenarios that force first responders to utilise critical thinking skills and problem solve in a fast-paced environment.

Why you need to include VR/AR in your business strategy

Virtual reality and augmented reality: buzzwords with a shelf-life or here to stay?

For a while there, virtual reality was a gimmick to get the technology started, an obvious and natural segue into gaming software and hardware advancements.

But the moment you open up a new technology to consumers, and the cost-point isn’t too prohibitive, you have the opportunity to develop better, more effective and even more creative uses for the technology. Such is the case with VR/AR technologies.

Today, VR and AR technologies are touching every sphere. Consumers, businesses and technologists are keenly watching its rise, waiting to see how its applications will evolve when people use and interact with it.

Besides its early-stage application in spheres as diverse as project management, gaming, and healthcare, augmented reality and virtual reality have a real business use.

Employing VR and AR as part of your business strategy can streamline your processes, help you bring in more customers, train your employees more effectively and boost profits and productivity.

Customer product trials

Some aspects of VR/AR technology have a direct impact on your bottom line and business, while some simply enhance the customer’s experience, thereby trickling down and positively affecting your sales and/or brand perception.

Product trials and ‘demos’ offer that kind of customer experience enhancement. Product trials through a virtual environment allow the customer to experience the product, touch it, look through it, feel it and build an emotional connection.

Consider the fact that this sort of experience of a product not only helps drive more value, educating the customer, it ends up subtly convincing and converting them. It’s hard to walk away from a memorable and tangible experience such as the one virtual reality affords customers.

Driving marketing efforts

Experiential marketing and location-based promotions have always been one aspect of marketing that draws people in and creates an instant customer connection.

Leisure events, pop-up booths and promotional materials are a traditional use of marketing dollars but not usually one that can be directly tacked on to a specific number of sales.

VR/AR emerging technologies are poised to change all that. Through geolocation, a company’s AR app could deliver a promotion specifically when a customer walks into the designated geographical zone. Through AR, a customer could then experience the product offering right then and there.

Travel companies, for example, demonstrate a creative use of VR technology by offering users an ‘immersive’ experience into their tours.

LiveNation, an online events promoter and ticket hub, similarly used VR apps to allow users to stream concerts through their headsets, giving them a sneak peek into the action and creating an urgency for purchase that is far more emotional and subtle than the simple words-and-graphics combination that most ads offer.

Training an aging employee population

One of the best ways to retain talent, according to a Gallup poll of ‘disengaged’ workers in companies and organisations today, is to invest in and actively support employee ‘L&D’ (learning and development) initiatives.

At the same time, 73% of all workers today who are 50 and over say that one of the most significant issues they face with online courses for workplace training is the amount of time it takes to learn to navigate their way around the software or platform.

AR and VR could change all that. Part of business development is skills development. Incorporating VR/AR technology into online training can help to shorten the onboarding process, help employees retain skills more effectively, and allow them to complete the training in a hands-on way.

Working with clients by ‘seeing what I see’

For agencies that want to articulate a vision or outline a campaign, using VR or AR allows them to not only enhance the presentation but use these virtual environments to convince clients of a project’s viability.

AR apps, for example, allow users to ‘see what I see’, and businesses can use this feature to create a presentation that is interactive and demonstrative.

Spotting time and money drains

What if you could fast forward down the progression of a project and identify any pitfalls or possible issues through more than just hypotheticals?

Another great reason to incorporate AR and VR into your business strategy is the opportunity it affords companies to do precisely this. Using VR environments or interactions with an AR app, employees or project managers could essentially spot issues that are likely to arise in a given future context.

Predictive possibility, promotional viability and enhanced performance, productivity and profitability: incorporating VR and AR into your business’s everyday strategy could serve you on multiple fronts.

How you can apply VR/AR to your customer experience

Part of the reason why technologies that are ’emerging’ progress so quickly is the way that businesses focus on new technologies for the purposes of competitive advantage.

And thank goodness they do, because a business’s natural pursuit of profit is what can take VR and AR technology — both hardware and software — to the next level of maturation.

Namely, applying it within a customer experience context.

VR’s potential use in customer experience

The very nature of AR enhancements and VR environments can make an impact in various situations as part of the customer experience. Their potential use spans various touch points and, together, interaction to interaction builds an experience of an environment — which is a stand-in for the brand

Immersion — Enhancing customer experience

First off, the experiential environment should be immersive. This is, of course, part and parcel of virtual reality environments that encapsulate the user in its entirety.

But augmented reality is all about enhancing the experience of a real-world environment by offering up more information or a sensorial experience of, let’s say, a product within a real-world environment.

Amex’s recent initiative of a shoppable AR feature is the perfect example of immersive customer experiences that enhance purchases. At Coachella, the yearly music and arts festival in California, Amex, via AR, allowed cardholders access to merchandise using Coachella’s own official app and camera anywhere on the grounds.

This is a form of experiential marketing that helps customers make two specific connections: One, that Amex is the purveyor of a heightened experience and that, secondly, Amex customers have access to opportunities that regular cardholders simply do not.

These memorable AR experiences are also prime marketing moments on social media, bringing the financial and credit card brand organic traffic.

Emotion

Immersion is directly related to emotions. The truth is that our buying decisions are far from rational. Rationales and justifications are the logical reasonings we give for our entirely emotional decisions.

Your AR and VR environments relating to your customer experience should be designed to elicit an emotional reaction.

The New York Times’ VR app, for example, ‘enhances stories where time and place is key, putting the reader alongside journalists at the front lines’. In 2015, the news outlet behemoth decided to launch a VR film about three children displaced by war in order to allow viewers to ‘experience what it’s like to be inside a refugee camp, from the viewpoint of those affected.’

The resulting positive experience of readers — essentially the customers of the Times — fuelled further interest in VR stories and subscriptions.

Because of the use of augmented or virtual reality environments, companies can create truly imaginative experiences that encourage an emotional connection to the product or service. They also give the customer easy access to information about the product or service.

Demonstration — Supporting the online shopping experience

To allow customers to benefit from the ‘try before you buy’ aspect that VR and AR afford consumers, IKEA worked together with Apple’s ARkit unveiling. They created an app on the platform that would allow customers to virtually ‘place’ furniture around their homes.

Together with ARkit, IKEA’s app was able to scale and place products in real-world settings with a 98% accuracy point. For the customer, this is invaluable. They can skip the whole ‘at home measurement process’ and try things right away.

This also empowers them to make faster and more knowledgeable purchase decisions — with less of a chance of returns due to miscalculated size or orientation.

Michael Valdsgaard, director of the Digital Transformation department at IKEA Systems says of the initiative, ‘Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster.’

Integration — Creating educational moments

Another great way to enhance the customer experience using AR and VR is to integrate it into the everyday. That’s just what Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple did at the Steve Jobs Theatre in September 2017. In conjunction with the MLB — ‘Major League Baseball’ — association, Schiller and Apple decided to create an Bat’ app, which uses AR functionality to allow fans and audiences to learn more about players in real time, simply through their own devices.

Using Statcast, MLB’s analytics tool, the app delivered detailed stats on each player’s past and current performances. The trick, of course, was to provide just the right amount of data to create a story that would engage but not overwhelm ‘regular’ game-watchers while still keeping die-hard fans enthusiastic and involved.

The most critical function of VR and AR in customer experience is to provide a healthy middle-ground for customer experiences, taking them from a case of ‘either physical or digital’ to ‘both physical and online’.

Augmented reality, in particular, can serve a potential customer well when they’re trying to shop for products online and they want to ‘try’ them out before buying. Meanwhile, virtual reality can allow in-store shoppers to experience the product. Big brands are already taking advantage of AR and VR, and are developing more creative ways to elevate this technology from novel to necessary.

The Virtual Future of the Digital Classroom: Does VR Have a Role in eLearning Development?

The most innovative development in eLearning used to be gamification.

Now, it’s virtual reality.

But is VR ready for its moment in the learning spotlight? And has eLearning matured quickly enough, reaching a large enough swath of the population to warrant an integration with VR and AR?

Indeed, the global VR market is still on the rise: a Zion Market Research report puts the global VR market at $26.89 billion by 2022. Ever since Oculus Rift came out and was bought by Facebook, consumers have associated VR with gaming.

But, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just for the gaming industry. It’s also popular in educational software. Goldman Sachs reported that educational software incorporating VR and AR is set to bring in $300 million in revenue by 2020, rising to $700 million by 2025.

So the big question is not simply whether or not VR has a role in eLearning’s development — because it clearly does. The question is why VR and AR are enhancing eLearning and how they will be used within the eLearning industry as the two entities mature.

A More Perfect Union — Bringing VR Together with eLearning

Why is the present moment the right time to start integrating VR/AR technology into eLearning? Marketers can answer that one for you: No one is quite there yet, which means eLearning course developers are relatively free to test new strategies and see what learners respond to, where the opportunities lie and how the technology can be improved on.

Immersive and Hands-On Training

Digital learning is, by nature, a medium that requires connection and immersion.

When MOOCs were first created, they were intended to provide a ‘constructivist’ perspective of highly connected, ‘nodal’ learning. In other words, students took learning into their own hands, forming diverse networks of connection between each other as peers.

VR

Rather than a top-down model of instructor-led lectures, digital learning relies on shared and open-source information across a vast network.

And VR/AR technologies take that nodal learning one step further, catapulting them to a truly immersive experience. This allows eLearning to go further, offering students hands-on learning opportunities, simulations and trial-runs that might not otherwise have been possible. Tactile or kinaesthetic learners, for example, can truly benefit from this addition.

Engagement Ramps Up

Which leads to the next aspect of digital learning: engagement. ‘Engagement’ is a big deal for companies who invest in digital learning and e-courses as a way to both retain their top talent, making them more competitive, as well as engage them through these L&D (learning and development) initiatives.

Ideas for VR Use in eLearning

So how exactly does VR fit into the broader eLearning landscape? And how can course developers begin to use VR/AR technologies to give students a leg up, making sure they gain tangible value from their digital experiences?

In other words, where do we go from here?
Product demos

While product demos aren’t necessarily relevant in the world of MOOCs, consider how useful it would be to be able to have an engineering student take apart and explore the components of a machine. Or what it would mean for an emergency first-responder in training, who is doing distance education, to be able to perform procedures in virtual reality.

VR

‘Demos’ or demonstrations can help bring a lesson or a crucial learning objective to life, actually imbuing the student with real and memorable practice. Alternatively, VR environments can also be used as a form of assessment.

On-Boarding new learners

To help reduce the time it takes to get individuals comfortable with online training tools, VR/AR technologies and the environments that come with them can help learners become comfortable faster.

This is especially useful for employees who are taking online training since these individuals are working on projects simultaneously and don’t have extra time to spare.

Interactive walkthroughs

Students learn a great deal from activities that enhance learning such as pair-programming (usually done with some kind of screen share software, if being done remotely) or through watching an ‘over-the-shoulder’ walkthrough.

But VR/AR technology integrated into eLearning allows learners to engage with these walkthroughs, within interactive and hands-on environments. These ‘simulations’ do more than simply invite a learner’s attention. Instead, they nurture and necessitate interaction, making the walkthroughs far more effective, memorable and personal.

VR

VR and AR technologies have a bright future in eLearning. But it does come with a caveat: We’ll need to see hardware reach the hands and behaviours of consumers. In this, it’s not only cost that can be prohibitive — it’s also a question of size and convenience.

For example, the purchase of an Oculus headset is something users found tedious or even extraneous if they weren’t already gamers. Consumers who don’t show a proclivity for gaming may prefer if their mobile devices — the hardware they already use — could be adapted for VR/AR.

It’s these modifications and adaptations that will make consumers more likely to adopt VR into their everyday digital experience. Once this happens, we’ll see a real maturity of VR/AR technologies in eLearning. In the meantime, the fact that global investments in VR technology increased to $3 billion in 2017 will have to be a good enough indicator for the future promise of its evolution and eventual integration.

Brendan Moloney
CEO Darlo Group

Companies Killing it with VR and AR

Today, companies that provide e-learning receive excellent marks when they use virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for student and employee engagement. Both of these technologies immerse students in a course, and therefore enhance and add value to learning.

Learning the Difference between AR and VR

To better understand how this is done, you need to define and distinguish augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Typically, augmented reality or AR uses a smartphone or camera for engaging digital elements. Pokemon Go is an example of AR.

Virtual reality (VR) allows for a total immersion experience – shutting out the physical world. VR users experience both imaginary and real-world scenarios, all which makes learning fun and exciting. For instance, the technology can transport you to a colony of penguins or take you on a magical ride on a dragon’s back.

Mixed Reality (MR)

When you combine AR and VR, you create a mixed reality or MR experience – one where digital objects and real-world elements combine to enforce learning and entertainment. An example of this technology is HoloLens by Microsoft.

Now that you know something about reality technologies, you can better see how these vehicles can aid in training and learning. Indeed, the e-learning industry has reached a new level, thanks to the implementation of VR and AR.

Total Immersion Technology

These reality simulations permit students to fully immerse themselves in a learning or training experience. The use of headsets blocks out distractions and allows a student to deal with each learning module or task. Tactile sensors are sometimes introduced to include the sense of touch. For instance, a student can pick up an item or touch and sense it in his or her hands.

While face-to-face and online sessions offer the benefits of blended learning, they still lack the immersion that VR or AR technologies provide. Employing these simulations enables corporate or academic learners to get in touch with real-world activities. For instance, VR permits students to learn in a training area and interact with facilitators in real time.

VR Technology and Training – an Example

It comes as no surprise that VR training is one of the most important applications used by today’s businesses. For instance, in 2017, major retailer Wal-Mart partnered with Strivr, a VR creator, to prepare its employees for Black Friday. By experiencing Black Friday through VR, workers managed better when faced with larger crowds and longer queues on the day of the event.

Personalised Learning

With the addition of VR and AR learning, students can better connect with the training content. In turn, learners can explore various paths, based on their learning objectives or current gaps in their development. For instance, an e-learning evaluation may show that a student needs to improve his problem-solving skills. In this instance, the learner selects the VR or AR training module that centres on this type of instruction.

As technologies advance, Big Data will keep up with the pace as well. By using AR/VR simulations, e-educators can feature more detailed analyses to monitor the progress of e-learners. Future plans include adding sensors to determine a student’s level of awareness and emotional state. By using these techniques, training organisations can improve their bottom lines and return on investment (ROI).

Overcoming Learning Barriers

Currently, without the use of AR or VR, certain technological barriers exist. These barriers often emerge when users rely on video conferencing or online platforms for learning or training. AR and VR make it possible for learners to relate face-to-face with peers and instructors.

For instance, the creation of a virtual meeting area, using VR technology, can be facilitated to present online training. VR headsets enable learners to work collaboratively in real time and engage with 3D models and similar educational tools and devices. Learners, in turn, can role play, and improve on the interpersonal skills and experiences.

A Better Learning Experience

Indeed, e-learning is evolving in interesting ways. Implementing AR and VR benefits learners as much as it does the industry. Not only do students receive a better learning experience, but instructional designers can also manage digital learning in new and creative ways.