When it comes to virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality (MR), most of the general public still think of video games. While gaming and other forms of entertainment are likely the first experiences we have with these technologies, they are fast being adopted in other sectors of society. Let’s examine how AR and VR are used to teach, to enhance and to advertise.
AR and VR are changing how we learn new concepts by making education training more interactive, practical, and customized. What makes AR/VR powerful within classroom settings is an emphasis on visual references. Whether it’s early or advanced education, it’s much easier for students to learn concepts when it appears to sit directly in front of them.
Rather than physically dissecting a frog, high school students can now use Froggipedia, an AR app for the iPad that allows users to peel back layers with the Apple Pencil and view a frog’s anatomy from any angle. Students gain an understanding of the organ, bodily structure and life span of a frog through a safe, humane and ethical educational experience.
Within advanced education, academic hospitals are deploying Surgical Theater, a visualization platform for medical students that provides a 360-degree view of the human anatomy through VR headsets. Within a VR classroom, surgeons and professors collectively walk residents through medical cases and demonstrate surgical techniques and approaches. VR classrooms also allow residents to receive training from renowned medical experts remotely through telemedicine sessions.
AR technologies are blending the physical world with the virtual to enhance our experiences and how we interact with others through multi-user AR experiences. Digital content is now being “pinned” to real-world objects and viewable through AR glasses or through smartphone cameras.
The tourism industry is taking advantage of AR to provide travellers with information, navigation, and translation through their smartphone. The Discover Moscow photo app Histars provides information and experiences based on visitor proximity. Tourists can use the app to “meet” historical figures such as writers, poets, and musicians in areas relevant to their history. Users can then take pictures with 3D-models of famous people and share them with other users.
Within the workplace, AR is being used to onboard employees quickly. Beam, a design and marketing agency, has created an AR-based onboarding program. During off-hours – and to avoid awkward encounters – new employees are encouraged to use AR headsets to gain knowledge about the business, the office space, and their colleagues. As the employee walks through the office, they can gain insight into seating locations, what each person does and how to connect with them. Clicking on a person unlocks a video of the employee saying what he or she does, and shares personal information to help new employees remember their new colleagues.
With online shopping and retail giant Amazon becoming more popular, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are integrating AR technology into the in-store experience.
Lowe’s In-Store Navigation mobile app combines AR with geolocation technology to make the physical shopping experience easier and faster. Within the app, customers create shopping lists, and the app will guide them through the store turn-by-turn using the quickest route possible.
As a medium to advertise products and services, AR is quickly being adopted in many retail industries. High-end cosmetic brand Charlotte Tilbury, has incorporated AR into a “magic mirror” installed in their stores. Without physically wearing any makeup, the mirror uses AR to scan a face and then presents ten of the brand’s iconic looks in under a minute. Similar to social media filters, the iconic looks are layered over a face to create a tailored look that is accessed through an interactive touchscreen.
Within the next decade, AR will continue to both combine and blur the lines between our digital and physical worlds. But as these examples have shown, AR is not the future, it is the now.