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“Extended Reality” is a term used to collectively describe augmented and virtual combined environments. It consists of Augumented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Industry experts believe that these immersive technologies together will revolutionize the way businesses and even entire industries work in the future. Health care, entertainment, automotive and education are four industries predicted to be most affected. Education is a key field when it comes to VR and AR. The way we learn has not evolved much in decades. Although the formats have varied to some extent, the main methods are still largely the same. The use of XR can significantly change and improve the way we learn new things, not only at school but also in the workplace.

What is VR?

VR stands for virtual reality and is a computer technology that allows the user to enter a rendered 3D world. This simulated environment has infinite possibilities and can therefore be designed to be real or completely fictional.

What is AR?

AR stands for augmented reality, which means that the technology comes into our daily lives and complements what we see with the help of computerized images. This form of technology does not have as large an interface as VR technology, but should be seen as an extra addition to what we see and experience.

New technology, but not yet

The technology offering VR/AR has developed rapidly in recent years and has become more mainstream. In fact, this technology has been around for a long time. Back in 1962, the first VR experience was test-driven by filmmaker Morton Heillig, but the phenomenon was called Sensorama. In this scenario, the user drove a motorcycle through the streets of Brooklyn, with the help of several devices such as a vibrating seat, stereo sound and a fan, the first VR experience was created.

The first AR aid was launched much later in 1992 and was developed for the US Air Force by Louis Rosenberg. This was primarily to train pilots and was used for training purposes.

Already here we can see that these two forms of technology were cemented into different areas, VR towards a more entertainment purpose and AR with a focus on education. However, the rapid growth of technology in these two forms of experience has resulted in the original uses being mixed together.

Schools’ approach to digitalization and the impact of the pandemic

In today’s digital age, people are adopting technology at a young age. Despite this, the school system has lagged behind with more proven analog methods of learning. As society becomes increasingly digitalized and reaches more vital functions, the school system is also affected.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck around the world, physical classrooms were quickly converted into digital meeting places with the help of services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This forced the school system to embrace digital methods in order to continue daily teaching. As a result, digital learning methods were given a major boost and schools started to look at alternative learning methods. The younger generation is already familiar with technology and thus very receptive to VR and AR implementation in an educational context.

The use of VR and AR technologies in special education has proven to be very broad. This is mainly for students who have ADHD, concentration difficulties, autism or motivation problems. The technology makes it possible to stage various situations from everyday life and thus de-dramatize them. As a result, the learner will be better prepared and thus experience less stress when dealing with these scenarios.

Applications of the technology for other segments of the public sector

The technology can also be used in areas such as the police, the armed forces or the prison system. Technology enables the trainer to tailor situations for people in these professions. Professions like these are heavily based on unpredictable scenarios and where technology can play a vital role in prevention and training. The user learns how to make decisions, act according to the situation and the emotional experience that can occur under high stress.

In prisons, the technology can be used to acclimatize inmates who have been detained for a long time. This can include situations as mundane as going shopping in a store, using public transport or other everyday situations.

The technology is currently used as a form of therapy for inmates with aggression problems. The concept originated in the Netherlands under the name Vrapt, which stands for viritual reality aggression prevention training. The concept is based on three different parts, a system that runs the VR experience itself, a tablet controlled by staff and a VR headset.

The concept of Metaverse and the role of technology in it

When Mark Zuckerberg coined the concept of the Metaverse, it quickly became a major talking point in tech circles. The idea of Metaverse should not be seen as a new platform but more as an extension of the internet as we know it today. The Metaverse will presumably consist of different 3D rendered worlds where users can meet without being tied to the same geographical point.

VR and AR technology will be a big part of how the Metaverse is used and experienced. The question to ask is how far the development of VR/AR has come when Metaverse becomes a reality. At present, the technology is not sufficiently well-developed to be produced cheaply and for the general public to be able to use the full potential of the Metaverse.

The cost of AR and VR

The cost of a VR/AR experience can vary greatly. Occulus Rift and similar quality-assured VR products can cost you 6000 to 8000 SEK, though there are cheaper alternatives. Google Cardboard is one of the cheaper alternatives on the market, using corrugated cardboard as a frame and using your smartphone as a screen with the help of an application.

For those who don’t want to break the piggy bank further, there are low-cost applications as well as free versions that allow for virtual visits to other countries, such as Rome and Tokyo. There are also applications for experiencing historical events and eras, which can be implemented in education for a small amount of money.

How is the technology used today?

Today, VR technology has established itself and become more commercially oriented towards games and experiences. This is mainly because the technology to create a rendered world is cheaper than creating an interface for ours, which AR does. Much of this has to do with companies like Occulus Rift and HTC creating a product that is cost-effective enough for techies to jump on the VR bandwagon.

AR technology created a huge trend when Pokemon Go was launched in 2016. With 250 million users per month, the public got to experience a free version of what AR can do. In fact, this launch put AR on the map and has contributed to the continued rapid development of the technology.

Google also tried to launch its own version of AR technology, which unfortunately flopped badly. The price tag of 1500 dollars, a battery life of 3 to 5 hours and a very ugly design resulted in the product never really taking off as intended. The scope of use of the product was also not established, was this a product to be used throughout the waking hours of the day or only for specific functions. Would it be a fashion statement or would it be used in a company’s daily operations.

Final words

There are several companies that have embraced VR/AR technology and enabled consumers to experience it in alternative forms. Animech is a company that offers businesses digital visualization of their products. This enables the consumer to enjoy a 3D representation of the product and where the design interfaces are deep. With the explosive growth of e-commerce, this is an important tool for the consumer where the physical preview of the product is missing.

Animech’s collaboration with Volkswagen is a good example of this. Volkswagen Sweden needed to attract potential buyers to pre-book their new flagship model Arteon, without the prospect test-driving the car. To make this possible, Animech used its proprietary software Aniconfigurator and its solid in-house knowledge of 3D.
With in-house expertise and an HTC Vive headset, Animech managed to create a complete experience that was used in showrooms around the country. The result was a real-time car configuration where the customer was given the opportunity to explore the exterior and interior of the car and where configuration and design were at the customer’s disposal.

Animech is a pioneer in VR/AR technology and will continue to expand and spread its expertise in new areas where the service can be implemented. This makes us a name to remember as knowledge and technology applications expand.

Want more information on how VR/AR can be implemented in your business? Book a free demo with one of our experts today.