Introduction to the Field of Virtual Technologies

Virtual and augmented reality soft- and hardware solutions are gaining importance in many different sectors of society. For example, smart glasses such as the Google Glass or the Vuzix Blade and other similar technologies have already been implemented into regular processes within several industries pathing the way for future work within the educational environments. However, definitions for applications, such as the smart glasses, are often not specific enough in respect to their actual usage. The definition for smart glasses corresponds to the understanding of a head-mounted-display-system (HMDS), a wearable computing system (WCS), ubiquitous computing as well as an augmented reality system. Yet, thus far, a delimitation of different technologies, especially with respect to the educational sector has not been sufficiently conducted[1]. In addition, currently, no deep understanding exists of how one or another technology application can be assigned to just a single area of the reality-virtuality continuum.


Figure 1: Reality-virtuality continuum. The scale shows the transition between the real and virtual worlds.[2]

This is a continuous scale, which provides an understanding of the area of mixed reality, ranging from the real environment to the other extreme, the virtual environment[3]. Therefore, in being able to gain a better understanding of existing technologies and in order to analyse their appropriateness for use in the educational sector it is important to delineate where the differences in understanding between the terms mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality lie.

 

1.1       Mixed Reality (MR)

Milgram and Kishino (1994) defined Mixed Reality as a “reality spectrum” ranging between pure “reality” (without computer intervention) and pure “Virtual Reality” (a computer-generated environment). MR is any environment that incorporates aspects of both ends of this spectrum, such as overlaying virtual objects on top of a user's field of view of a real space[4]. While mixed reality was primarily explored in design and construction[5], uses of MR has also been explored for educational purposes[6].

Augmented Reality applications, such as the Google Glasses or the Microsoft Hololens and the Magic Leap, are wireless, self-sustaining sets through which the user completely descries the real world. Within this spectrum the user can interact with virtually imported objects by use of natural user interfaces or reality-based user interfaces. Here, one expert from Germany expects, that these systems will continuously evolve into inconsiderable mobile data-glasses which provide users with visual and audio data in real time, enriching the user’s reality. The Microsoft Hololens was introduced by Microsoft as a mixed reality technology resulting in a widespread common understanding of the Hololens as a technical standard. The main characteristic of the standard is the Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technique, currently the most effective method to match and render virtual pictures via real objects to the spatial geometry in real time. SLAM localises sensors in connection to their surroundings and simultaneously creates the geometric structure of the surrounding area. Within Milgram’s et al. (1995) model, the Reality-Virtuality (RV) Continuum, this technique would, more specifically, be considered as augmented reality.

 

1.2       Augmented Reality (AR)

In recent years, the evolution of technological applications has tremendously impacted on the individuals’ media usage and behaviour. More specifically, mobile devices and an increasing mobile speed have led into an always on mentality. Further, latest developments and industry predictions propose the advance of another media technology, called ‘Wearable Augmented Reality Devices”, where smart glasses (such as Microsoft Hololens or Google Glass) represent prominent examples. Smart glasses, such as the Microsoft Hololens, have gained ultimate attention during the past years. Broadly speaking, these glasses are wearable augmented reality devices which capture and processes a user’s physical environment and augments it with virtual objects[7].

In general, augmented reality describes a process through which additional information, objects or abstract elements are blended into the users’ field of vision. Yet, oHYin comparison to virtual reality applications the user is still able to notice, observe and participate with the real environment. Text, objects and elements are experienced as co-existent to the real surroundings but can be interacted with by use sensor-functionalities in real time. Though, in recent years the term augmented reality is used as buzzword for many different scenarios and applications[8]. The following table provides an overview of the currently established devices.


Table 1: Devices for Augmented Reality
[9]

 

1.3       Virtual Reality (VR)

While VR technologies and environments reached mainstream popularity only within the past few years, the conceptual idea existed as early as the 1950’s. Back then, scientists and various academics created and tested early devices that tried to give the user the possibility to experience various environments. Following these early attempts to create a fully immersive experience, many other technologies and head mounted systems have continued to evolve[10].

Academic literature provides many different definitions for the phenomenon of virtual reality. Reasons for a different understanding of the term lie in different user environments, different user settings, various areas of application and foci on different aspects of ergonomics. Brill (2009) describes virtual reality as a simulated reality setting where interactive elements provides a fully immersive environment[11]. Moreover, Luckey (2012), founder of Oculus VR and developer of the Oculus Rift system, indicates that virtual reality is best understood as a stereoscopic perspective with increased visual range, which creates a feeling of diving into a different world[12]. The feeling is often described as immersion which Sherman & Craig (2002)[13]pinpoint as one of four key elements in the formation of a true virtual experience. Yet, for a true immersive impact, further elements are important; the virtual world itself, the sensory feedback and interactions between the elements of the virtual world and the user. These elements a key in forming a true virtual reality. Contrary to a true perception of reality, virtual reality allows the user to choose and change between different positions (within the virtual world) and points of view on elements of the virtual world. By doing so, events, occurrences of the story within the virtual world be actively be influenced and created[14],[15].

The main difference between virtual reality and augmented reality devices are the completely shut cases and the lenses, which are adjusted in front of the various screens – two criteria, which are considered as important in fully immersing into the virtual world without being interrupted by light effects of the real world[16],[17].

The following Table 2 provides an overview about currently available devices, divided into full-feature, mobile and low-budget solutions.


Table 2: Devices for Virtual Reality
[18]

 

The purpose of the ViRAL Skills Survey Report of VR Applications is to present and evaluate the results of the survey that partners have implemented about the available and emerging VR technologies (hardware and software). In order to facilitate and increase the widespread utilisation of VR technology in adult education, especially as a potentially motivating medium for low-skilled and low-qualified adults, as well as to develop a ViRAL SKILLS training program two technologies have been examined by each partner. Within the following sections the report will present the main hard- and software solutions on the market, including a SWOT analysis evaluating their applicability in the field of adult education.

 

BACK TO VR DIGEST OVERVIEW

 

Sources:

[1]Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany, Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.

[2] Adapted by Gamper, H. (2019). Audio augmented reality in telecommunication. Diploma Thesis, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Retrieved 2019-04-04, URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268328418_Audio_augmented_reality_in_telecommunication.

[3]Milgram, P., Takemura H., Utsumi, A. & Kishino, F. (1994), Augmented Reality: A class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum - Proceedings of Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies. pp. 2351–34, Retrieved 2019-04-04, URL: http://etclab.mie.utoronto.ca/publication/1994/Milgram_Takemura_SPIE1994.pdf

[4] Milgram P., Kishino F. (1994), Taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays, IEICE Transactions on Information and Systems, pp. 1321-1329.

[5] Liarokapis F., Mourkoussis N., White M., Darcy J., Sifniotis M., Petridis P., Basu A., Lister P.F. (2004), Web3D and augmented reality to support engineering education, World Trans. Eng. Technol. Educ., 3, pp. 11-14, Retrieved 2019-04-04, URL: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fotis_Liarokapis/publication/38174320_Web3D_and_augmented_reality_to_support_engineering_education/links/02e7e5167fbdebebf7000000/Web3D-and-augmented-reality-to-support-engineering-education.pdf.

[6] Chalhoub J., Ayer S. K. (2018), Using Mixed Reality for electrical construction design communication,

Automation in Construction, Volume 86, February 2018, pp. 1-10. Retrieved 2019-04-04, URL:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926580517304296#bb0250.

[7]Rauschnabel, P. A., Brem, A., Ro, Y.K. (2015), Augmented Reality Smart Glasses: Definition, Conceptual Insights, and Managerial Importance, Working Paper, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, Retrieved: 2019-04-04, URL: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alexander_Brem/publication/279942768_Augmented_Reality_Smart_Glasses_Definition_Conceptual_Insights_and_Managerial_Importance/links/5721ec2e08aee857c3b5dd6c/Augmented-Reality-Smart-Glasses-Definition-Conceptual-Insights-and-Managerial-Importance.pdf.

[8]Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany,Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.

[9] Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany, Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.

[10]Maravilla, M. M., Cisneros, A., Stoddard, A., Scretching, D., Murray, B., Brian K., Redmiles, E. (2019), Defining virtual reality: Insights from research and practice, iConference 2019 Proceedings, Retrieved 2019-04-04, URL: https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/103338/Maravilla_et_al_Poster.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[11] Brill M. (2009), Virtuelle Realität. Springer, Berlin.

[12] Luckey, P., on BBC (2012) Oculus Rift virtual reality headset gets Kickstarter cash. BBC News Retrieved: 2019-04-04 URL:  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19085967.

[13] Sherman, W. R., Craig, A. B. (2002) Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface, Application, and Design, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, CA.

[14]Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany, Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.

[15]Sherman, W. R., Craig, A. B. (2002) Understanding Virtual Reality: Interface, Application, and Design, Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco, CA.

[16]Interview Jochen Dickel, Expert P4

[17]Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany, Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.

[18]Zobel, B., Werning, S., Berkemeier, L., & Thomas, O. (2018) Augmented- und Virtual-Reality-Technologien zur Digitalisierung der Aus- und Weiterbildung – Überblick, Klassifikation und Vergleich, IN:Thomas, O., et al. (2018) Digitalisierung in der Aus- und Weiterbildung, Springer-Verlag GmbH, Germany, Retrieved 2019-04-04 URL:  https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-56551-3_2.