Virtual reality no longer a gimmick

Dec. 16th 2019

VR and AR change the way we learn and do business

When virtual and augmented reality arrived on the tech scene, they were shiny new toys everyone wanted to play with. Fast-forward several years and not only have the technologies improved, we’ve also got a better handle on how to use them to our advantage.

What were gimmicks for many years, now have many applications – and unlimited possibilities. The education sector is using the technologies to provide more interactive and engaging real-world learning experiences, while businesses can help clients visualise new furniture in their own homes, or drop a multi-million-dollar housing development into place without spending a cent. There are lots of practical and simple applications too.

The difference between VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR) experiences transport you to a simulated, enclosed reality. You are fully immersed within a reality only you can see through a headset. Traditionally, VR has proved an excellent medium for gaming and 3D films, but with advances in the technology, and VR equipment more affordable for widespread consumer use, it’s fast becoming a useful tool for schools and businesses.

Augmented reality (AR), on the other hand, combines the digital and physical worlds. Digital imagery is projected or overlaid on the user’s existing environment. The applications for AR in everyday life are growing quickly, thanks to mobile devices and their extended functionality, increasing internet speeds and the development of AR technology.

Teaching and learning from new perspectives

Some education providers are a little hesitant to embrace these new technologies in the classroom, but research has shown the benefits – and we’ve been lucky to witness them first-hand.

Teachers can use VR to facilitate lessons and deliver information in innovative ways. For example, VR can be used to demonstrate the sheer size of our solar system from a different and interesting perspective, rather than simply looking at 2D pictures in a book.

For students, VR is an engaging and interactive way of learning. It can be a great way of immersing them in an experience they wouldn’t normally have, like visiting a museum, science lab or art gallery, allowing them to critically observe and encounter real-life simulations in a safe environment.

We’ve seen how VR can enhance collaboration between teachers and students in classroom-based teaching or distance learning, as well as increase student motivation and engagement at all learning levels. For instance, after a short stint in a VR experience, students at Gladstone Primary School will write about what they’ve seen and heard, and how it made them feel – improving memory and communication skills.

Businesses using new tech to their advantage

Some industries already use VR and AR extensively to better serve their clients. The technologies are also reshaping the way we make purchases, providing opportunities for more personalised shopping experiences.

Architects can use VR to place clients into a simulation of their new home before it’s been built – and make changes without major additional costs or setbacks. For those industries already harnessing the power of 3D software or drones, VR can add another layer of efficiency, allowing them to place their 3D models in a simulated real-world environment – before implementing the real thing.

We’ve seen big housing developments, with staff across the country, use VR to walk around construction sites. We’ve also seen VR used by a flooring company to significantly reduce the cost and time of a sculpture project. What would have run to tens of thousands of dollars in build expenses, amounted to only 10% of the original budget in VR. People were then able to walk around and view these sculptures, just as they would if the sculptures were physically there.

Then you have retail and e-commerce businesses using augmented reality to help their customers make faster and better-informed purchasing decisions. Consumers can place new pieces of furniture in their homes, or change the colour of their kitchens, before making any permanent changes.

Embracing the technology

While the opportunities are endless, bounded only by our imaginations, the realistic applications have their limits. The experience must exist in the real world, so you might not always find what you’re looking for – yet.

Like all new technologies, VR and AR will continue to advance rapidly, so if you’re considering integrating them at your school or business, there are ways you can embrace the technology – before making any big investment.

We have two VR kits which allow schools and businesses to test whether it’s right for them. Even in the time we’ve had them, the kits that first came out with tethered headsets are now wireless, adding a whole new dimension to the experience.

VR is not what some expect it to be, while others thrive. But when you’re ready to take the next step, we have the resources and skills to help.

Ready to give it a go? Talk to the Isometric team today.

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