We have been talking about Virtual Reality in eLearning for quite some time now, and are actually very proud to have produced one of Canada’s first Virtual Reality eLearning modules (which, by the way, we will be presenting at DevLearn later this year!). But there is always the question “What’s next?”.
Of course, one of the next steps is to improve certain processes in the production of VR eLearning modules, to increase the effectiveness technology-wise and learning-wise, but in terms of new technology, in my opinion it would be to also develop eLearning modules with Augmented Reality (AR).
So, what’s the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
In VR, the user (or learner) is presented with an immersive environment in which the reality that is perceived, is completely different from what the user “regular reality”. For example, in our VR module, you could be sitting at your desk in your office, but then your office is replaced with a completely different environment, in our case, a 360-degree image of the Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Also, it is immersive because this “new” reality, nullifies the perception of what I would call “normal” reality, meaning your office.
In AR, however, your reality is not replaced by any other environment, but rather enhanced. But enhanced how? Well, let’s think about you sitting at your desk in your office, in the case of AR, you would still perceive (see and hear) your office, but now you have an extra layer that can provide different kinds of information, for example, information about different items in your office, your geolocation in your company’s building (if you are lucky to be working at company that owns its own building).
So, is AR better than VR? I would say it isn’t, as it would serve for a different type of training (in the eLearning field, of course), for example, onboarding training. Think about your first day at your job, what did you learn? Most probably, you got to know about the facilities, about different people working there, different useful places you might need in the future (e.g. the washroom), and all of this was either presented to you by another employee or a booklet given to you in some sort of “welcome” package. If we think about the same experience from the AR perspective, we can have a layer on top of your reality to give you the same kind of information or even more, and gamify it and make it more competitive at the same time.
How would we achieve this? We must make use of current mobile technologies to make it, well, mobile or portable, to allow learners to move through a defined area. Of course, we have to carefully choose if we are going to build a native mobile app or a web app for this purpose. The difference is that a native app offers more stability and reduces the usage of resources in mobile devices, whereas a web app is much more customizable and faster to build.
One of the cons of a web app is that as of right now (keeping in mind that you need the camera of your phone to add that extra layer to the AR), is that accessing the camera of the mobile device for streaming into an html component, is only compatible with Android devices, however, it found out that in the next release of iOS, this will no longer be the case, giving us the chance to extend this technology to Apple devices.
Stay tuned to learn more about future development of Augmented Reality here at Pathways Training and eLearning!