Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality – What works best in the learning space?

There is lots of buzz around the various “Realitys”, particularly due to technology finally catching up with expectations. Before looking at when to use each type, let’s touch base on where the technology is today.

From AR Software Development Kits (SDKs) to AR/VR/MR headsets, it’s been loads of fun watching the various technologies evolve. Apple, has released its much anticipated SDK “ARKit” for iOS. Combined with the AR capabilities in new Apple mobile devices, the release of Apple ARKit has triggered a deluge of AR apps in the iOS world. Android released their version of an AR SDK called “ARCore”. Microsoft released their Hololens headset which is packed with Mixed Reality technology, and also supports Augmented Reality. There are still other promising technologies that have been sitting on the burner for quite a while. For example, since purchasing Oculus Rift, we continue to wait for Facebook to gain momentum since they announced Oculus Go, and launched Facebook Spaces. The price of the Facebook Oculus Go VR headset, still planned for release early this year, should start at $199.  This is expected to entice the VR gamers, VR socialites and VR Business applications to jump into VR sooner rather than later.

The progression of immersive realities is pretty commonly recognized as going from Actual Reality, adding digital imagery to engage Augmented Reality, adding more interactions with live avatars, mobile devices, A/V equipment, or other platforms to immerse into Mixed Reality, and of course, completely replacing Actual Reality (audio, video, etc.) with fully immersive Virtual Reality.Going from left to right, the experience becomes more immersive and the learning environment more engaging

A critical consideration when determining into which reality to immerse your learners – Cost:

Typically, the more media you add to Digital Reality, the more costly the solution. While AR can typically run and stand alone on a mobile device, MR and VR solutions usually require more computing power, storage, graphics capabilities and network bandwidth. The more 3D modelling, animations and simulations you need, the more costs are involved. Also, Heads-Up Displays, or HUDs require programming skills and tools.

Each SDK and headset solution has offered “get on board” pricing to help businesses and home consumers make the leap to a new immersive reality. These prices are expected to drop, but one of the most sought after tools, the Hololens, is still priced in the thousands of dollars.

Another major consideration is the User Experience you are attempting to address:

If the content requires the learner to access specifications, manuals, computer screens or interact with components, these can all be digitally popped up in front of the learner in their AR interface. If there is a comparison to be made between digital images / content and the real world, AR, or MR are usually more effective solutions. Some of this can also be done in VR, but the higher costs would need to be justified. In either format, properly designed interactions add to the immersiveness, and increase retention.

Team building skills, particularly 3D gaming and simulations in which the users interact to achieve a certain objective, can justify both MR and VR because they are reusable, fully immersive, and provide solutions that promote learners to store strong habits in long-term memory. A properly prepared safe room, one in which the participants can safely move around is highly advised.

Safety Considerations:

Since AR allows the learner to see the real world around them, there is less of a chance that they will accidently bump into an object or individual when walking around. Whereas in VR, the learner only sees what is being displayed inside of the headset.

Select Content Domains for AR / MR / VR Learning:

Healthcare, Military, Technical Training, Engineering, Cyber, Leadership, Team building, Live Events, Gaming, Retail, Telecom, Financial, Automotive, etc.

As with all learning modalities, it is best to start with detailed Curriculum Design, and ensure that the medium is properly matched with the message. In this case, we believe that AR is going to become a desktop tool to replace most of the technologies on your desk, including your monitor, laptop, keyboard, mouse, phone, and sound system. Your normal daily tools will be accessible through AR, and it follows that learning will take advantage of this immersive environment as well.

We know how to map and design your content to leverage this exciting and fun modality.