Augmented verses Virtual Reality: Which Is Right for Your eLearning Needs?
Technology continues to advance at a faster and faster pace. What was once relegated to the realm of science fiction is now reality. Take virtual reality and augmented reality for instance. Not too long ago, these were just fanciful imaginings, but today they’re part and parcel of daily existence for many people. They’ve also become powerful tools for training and eLearning. Both AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) can be used in the classroom as well as in businesses and other organizations for ongoing training, but which one is right for your needs?
What Is Augmented Reality?
Let’s start our discussion with a look at what each of these technologies does. Augmented reality is really little more than taking an image of the real world and overlaying additional information on top of it. You’ve seen this sort of thing everywhere, from Microsoft’s HoloLens to the heads-up display used by fighter pilots. Generally, learners wear some sort of headgear or glasses that provides a view of the real world. The system then overlays images, data, text or other information on top of this. In a sense, this is an “open system” in the sense that it doesn’t close off the learner from the world around them.
What Is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is the opposite of augmented reality in terms of openness. VR systems replace the real world with something completely different. In order to do that, the learner needs to be completely isolated. Most systems on the market, such as the Oculus Rift and even Google Cardboard do this with a display system that covers the eyes and provides a visual image of the virtual world. Some systems are more expansive and include a full helmet featuring speakers to provide an even more immersive experience. Where AR is open and allows learners to see and interact with the real world, VR systems are closed, preventing the learner from seeing anything around them.
Which Is Right for You?
Obviously, there are many differences between AR and VR. While they’re similar, they’re far from being the same thing. Organizations, schools and businesses must choose their solution carefully, and that decision should not be made before you have a full understanding of what you need to achieve. That requires knowing the requirements of your learners, how the material they’ll be learning can best be presented, and more.
For instance, a school field trip to a physical historic location would definitely benefit more from AR, as students could wear their glasses and be presented with information about different site features as they physically explore the world around them. VR, on the other hand, would be better suited to virtual exploration of ancient sites for classes unable to reach that location in person. For example, a group of sixth grade students in Vermont would be able to use VR to explore the Coliseum of Rome in both it’s current form (ruins) and how it looked during the peak of the Roman Empire.
To further extrapolate, VR might be a great choice for training employees on how to use equipment if they weren’t able to physically be onsite. AR would be a better option for training employees on how different things worked when present in the area. For example, a learner could use an AR headset to learn how different pieces of actual physical office equipment operated, while a VR headset could let a learner at a different location virtually operate a metal shear in a fabrication shop.
Both AR and VR have tremendous implications for all types of eLearning, but they’re far from the same. Each organization will need to assess the needs of their learners, the type of content that must be delivered, and how best to achieve those goals before making a decision on AR or VR.
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