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Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) are immersive technologies that advance the quality and level of human to computer interaction by expertly mixing the real and virtual worlds. Virtual Reality has moved from a science fiction mode into the gaming industry and now into mainstream day to day applications. The purpose of this paper is to
While the terms Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality refers to a unique experience defined by its hardware, new platforms are emerging, capable of combining more than one immersive reality technology. As Clay Bavor, the head of AR and VR for Google stated these are not distinct terms but are labels for different points of a spectrum (Bavor, 2017).
Extended Reality (XR) XR is an umbrella term that refers to all real and virtual environments and includes the entire spectrum from complete real to complete virtual environments.
Virtual Reality (VR) Technology creates a realistic three-dimensional environment that can be perceived as real and even allows us to interact with in very realistic manner (Lacoma, 2018). VR uses head-mounted displays (HMD) to simulate realistic sounds and images and offers an immersive experience by replicating a real environment. The experience could be created using real-world content, computer generated content or a mix of both. VR is best used for conveying experiences and applications.
Augmented Reality (AR) is an overlay of computer-generated content on real world where a live view of a physical environment is supplemented by a sensory input such as sound, video or graphics. The augmented content however does not recognize the objects in the real world. Mobile and tablets with its cameras became the most common medium for AR. Pokemon Go and Instagram face filters are popular examples of AR. While the technology to overlay information has been around what is differentiating it now with the technological advances is the amount of information that could be retrieved from the real world (2018, April 02).
Mixed Reality (MR) is where the real and virtual worlds merge and produce new environments where the imagery placed on a real world can interact and respond to an extent with the physical world. While Google did not include the term Mixed Reality in its spectrum, it is more of a branding term choice that the companies such as Google and Microsoft are adopting. Microsoft uses “mixed reality” as a blanket term to cover its entire spectrum of upcoming hardware, from tablet-based AR to VR headsets to the Hololens. Mixed reality is a term used by others in AR and VR, not just Microsoft (Stein, 2017)
To get started with VR the prerequisites are content and headsets. Two major types of VR content are 360-degree videos and 3D animation.
360-degree video is used when real life images are to be captured. 360 videos are an economical yet effective way of making VR content. It requires a spherical camera with 360-degree lens and tripods or drones to capture the video. 360Heroes, RICOH THETA, Samsung gear 360 are a few cameras that are used to capture 360 videos. Special editing software such as videostitch is used to edit and bring together all the visuals in a high-quality resolution.
3D Animations: There are many tools and platforms available to create 3D environments. Game engines such as Unity also needs Google VR SDK, a headset and an android phone and It can build 3D animations, models and interior designs The ENTiTi Creator platform and YouVisit’s Experience builder enables users with noprogramming experience to easily build VR applications (2018).
Once the content is created the basic piece required to play the content is a VR headset. VR headsets were developed as early as 1990s which did not do commercially well due to the limited technology available to support it back then. A prototype of a commercially successful headset was developed in 2010 that later evolved into Oculus Rift. It is a virtual reality headset with integrated headphones providing a 3D audio effect, rotational and positional tracking designed to be used with custom configured computers that support it and controllers mainly used in gaming industry. It was soon followed by other products such as HTC Vive and Sony Playstation VR. Priced at less than $10, Google cardboard is a very affordable and widely available head mount that offers a limited experience VR. It can be used with cellphones with content that can be downloaded. It is not highly immersive when compared to the experience the high-end VR equipment’s offer but meets its goal to encourage interest and development in VR applications.
Google also offers other VR platforms such as Daydream that uses Google and specific Android smartphones that supports it. Daydream lets players use virtual reality apps, including YouTube, Google Maps Street View, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Photos in an immersive view (Mogg, 2015). Daydream head sets are priced at about a $100. Samsung Gear VR and Microsoft HoloLens are other products that use the smartphone as a screen and processor that costs in hundreds of dollars, more economic when compared to the high-end models. There are growing number of apps available for download on the Android and iOS app stores that range from 3600 photography and games to documentaries. Discovery has a set of content that lets the user experience travel adventures using a mobile phone app and any HMD such as a google cardboard or Oculus. While the Google Glass a non-gaming AR headset released in 2013 was not as successful as it was anticipated to be, it has been used across industries including in healthcare, media, construction and design.
The tethered headset for the business category is led by VR A-listers, such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and Sony Playstation. These devices support lateral movement and offer exceptionally high-quality visuals. However, it comes being tethered to a powerful PC by a four-meter cable and require a customized configuration of a strong graphics card and enough hard disk space computers to run applications and games (“The Pros and Cons of Mobile and Tethered VR”, 2018). To provide a more immersive experience these are also paired with hand controllers and base stations which as a bundle would take the cost to thousands of dollars. With the VR, AR platform evolving the prices of even the more advanced equipment aredrastically dropping every year making it more accessible to a larger user base.
The applications of VR, AR and MR are evolving across industries and business fields. A few real-life examples are:
University of Maryland researchers conducted one of the first in-depth analyses of the educational use of VR and found that people remember information better if it is presented to them in a virtual environment (“People Recall Information Better Through Virtual Reality, Says New UMD Study”, 2018)Virtual Reality provides new ways for students to interact, gain hands-on experience and enhance learning transforming education. VR enables students to experience places, objects and situations that otherwise would have been impossible to access. Education is made more interactive, immersive and engaging especially in learning about planets, animals, human anatomy, engineering, architecture etc. The characteristics of VR provides an opportunity for increased student engagement augmenting the learning experience with immersive scenarios that otherwise students are unlikely to experience.
Expeditions is a commonly used immersive education app that allows teachers and students to explore the world through over 800 virtual-reality (VR) and 100 augmented-reality (AR) tours. It lets students swim with sharks, visit outer space, turn the classroom into a museum, and more without leaving the classroom. This way of learning can spark new interest in subject matter, provide a shared experience for better classroom discussion, and improve overall engagement(Ferriter, 2016) The use of VR is not limited to using in classrooms by schools. It is evolving to play a key role in Higher and continued education. Online education enables both educators and students to expand their reach. Despite that there are still limitations in providing the interaction, and engagement with the professors and fellow students that the traditional classroom learning offers.
VR promises to bridge the gaps and bring the best aspects of traditional and online learning into a single platform. With the digital representations of themselves professors and students can be in the same room thus improving student engagement, networking. To provide distance education students more immersive experience engineering students at Penn State developed an immersive virtual reality (IVR) system using the Oculus Rift, a haptic glove and interactive 3-D simulations. The haptic glove prototype was developed by the students and allows the users to manipulate and interact with virtual objects. It was found that students could complete a task in the IVR environment in less than half the time that in the non-immersive online environment (Meyer, 2015)The online VR courses are not limited to subjects such as engineering and medical fields but are being explored by business schools too. MIT’s Sloan School of Management using AvayaLive Engage technology went virtual with students creating customizable avatars and beaming themselves to class, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when they couldn’t make it to the campus. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business created a virtual campus of its own for its LEAD Program students to immerse themselves in a 360 degree learning environment also by AvayaLive Engage (EDTECH,2018)Medical schools use VR in medical training aiming to transform healthcare education by offering clinical training exercises and surgical skills training in realistic simulated environments. The Body VR is one of the many medical training applications that offers the experience for students to travel through the bloodstream and discover how blood cells work to spread oxygen throughout the body(BodyVR,n. d)
Cancer surgeon Shafi Ahmed performed an operation at the Royal London hospital using a VR camera connected to the Medical Realities website which gave real-time access to all interested parties that wished to participate in the operation. Such medical VR applications enable students to visualize procedures and gain hands on experience along-side lectures. With a growing number of use cases in education, there is a renewed interest and adoption of VR technologies in education. The results of the use of VR in education is promising. For a wider adoption the current hurdles are the professional skills to create and support content, affordability to create the content and the affordability of the tools required to use it such as headsets and the computing power to run the applications. With the technology advancing the cost of implementing and applying VR in education is getting more affordable and in turn will help the implementation of VR applications and services in the next years.
VR is progressing to change the face of healthcare as we know it. There are pioneering virtual solutions making significant improvements to the lives of people with autism, chronic pain and other medical conditions. Startups such as Floreo use VR to deliver therapy for autistic children using mobile to engage them with virtual characters in a scene. The parents can tailor the environment as well as the sensory complexity and these applications seems to have a calming effect on children. According to a study that was done on the effect of VR on pain management of hospitalized patients, it was found that virtual therapy can help reduce pain by 25 percent (JMIR Ment Health, 2017)Virtual Reality Therapy has been proven to stop the brain from processing pain which in turn shortens the stay of the patient in the hospital resulting in reduced costs.
Karuna Labs is a company that uses immersive virtual reality to treat chronic pain. The product teaches chronic pain sufferers how pain works at various levels of the brain, rehabilitates them, and eventually allows them to live a normal, less painful, life again. Products like IrisVision, though, help the low vision patient regain their sight via a VR experience by magnifying desired objects in the visual scene without losing awareness of the overall environment around them. The user gets to choose the magnification they wish, along with things like contrast, ambient level, and text options, and perform eye-hand coordinated activities (i. e. playing the piano or scrambling eggs) with relative ease.
MindMotionPro is an application that simulate the movement of fingers and arms for patients with stroke. This provides engagement, motivation, and attention with visual and auditory feedback. The resulting mental effort helps their traumatized nervous systems to recover much faster (Usman, 2018)Surgeons at UCLA use medical VR technology to test run highly sensitive surgeriesIt is also widely used in treatment of phobias. Treatment is typically completed through graduated exposure, in which the fearful stimulus (a spider for example) is presented in steps. (Opris, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. , 2011)VR’s immersive technology is proving to be a revolutionary solution. VR therapy is making its way to center stage in the US healthcare system, As VR technology, biometric sensors, and the software for each continue to improve, the capability and reach of VR based therapy will undoubtedly increase. This could well change the landscape of future psychological treatments, potentially making treatment both more accessible and more effective.
Gartner categorizes VR technology and its applications as emerging. VR is a rapidly growing technology and market that is reshaping the interactive experience. Gartner predicts that immersive Technologies and Devices will transform personal and business Interactions in the next 5 years. By 2022, augmented reality (AR) surpasses virtual reality (VR) as key driver for head-mounted display (HMD) usage, with AR HMD representing 55% of unit sales, from less than 5% in 2017. By 2021, 25% of large businesses in mature markets will pilot and deploy mixed reality (MR) solutions, from 1% today. By 2021, consolidation will result in Apple, Microsoft and Google capturing 60% of the revenue from immersive solutions in the hardware and platform markets (Roberta Cozza, Anthony Mullen, Annette Jump, Tuong Nguyen, 2018).
With its application in varied fields being explored and implemented, VR definitely is one of the most impactful emerging technologies. While Applications are getting developed and used at a smaller scale today, increasing technological advancements in creating high quality graphics and in developing cost effective headsets and supporting environments will make it more and more mainstream and very integrated part of our day to day lives in the next ten years. 1. Bavor, C. (2017, May 02). VR / MR / AR / RR are not separate and distinct things. They’re convenient labels for different points on a spectrum.
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