An Industry View of Virtual and Augmented Reality

The recent VR & AR World event in London provided an overview of the current state of Virtual and Augmented Reality.  Part conference, part trade-show, the event provided some visions of the future (such as the market being worth $120 Billion by 2020); but mostly provided an opportunity to see products and companies that had already launched.

Two presentations that stood out from an education and training point of view were from Boeing and the company Ubimax.  Both provided case studies that showed augmented reality guidance/instruction could reduce the time taken to complete tasks, while at the same time improving the accuracy of those tasks.

Ubimax have a number of augmented reality supported applications for manufacture and maintenance; but the application demonstrated was to support picking items in warehouses (you can see a demonstration video here).  The most beneficial aspect seemed to be the timely presentation of context-specific information – particularly in highlighting errors.

The Boeing presentation described a study comparing different ways of presenting information.  Participants were tasked with assembling part of an aeroplane wing using instructions either on a desktop screen, a mobile tablet, or through augmented reality.  The content was roughly similar to this published recording, and summarised in this online article.

Something that came through from the variety of things on show was how broad the definitions of virtual and augmented reality have become.  Two products under the same label could have substantially different features; whereas something labelled as augmented reality could have very similar characteristics to something else labelled as virtual reality.  I’ve produced a summary of the different attributes that either might have, and included it below.

Infographic defining the categories of mixed realities as content, level of activity, presentation, viewpoint, relation to place, connection to place and perception.The main distinguishing characteristic between augmented and virtual reality is the perception – with VR enclosed and AR transparent.  It is also the characteristic that by far has the biggest impact on the user’s experience.  Are they separated from their physical environment and transported somewhere else, or is data brought in and added to their surroundings?

With current technology levels many AR projects demonstrated had relation to place (e.g. guidance on a task that the user is currently engaged in); but the information was detached and free-floating in the display.  In contrast there were HTC Vive demos that included physical objects (e.g. a car seat) that did have a connection to place – with the virtual car and seat perfectly aligned with the virtual environment.

Photograph of car seat in the centre of an open space, with a person using a HTC Vive.

Virtual Reality Demo where a virtual car is align to a physical car seat. The participant is to the right of the image (partly obscured by the pole)

The VR content that people are most likely to be exposed to are recorded real-world content, where the viewer is mostly passive.  Whereas VR games would generally need to use computer graphics in order to allow interactivity.

It was widely acknowledged that virtual reality in particular had been around for over 30 years in various forms; but that it was the new wave of technology (arguably reignited by the Oculus Rift) that is starting to allow actual experiences to meet user expectations.  However, there were also warnings that poor experiences (with low-budget equipment and/or badly designed environments) could still give people bad impressions; and so there was a responsibility to make each individual’s first use of the technology as positive as possible.

Use of TEL in a Management of the Business Environment module

Written By Mike Briggs (Senior Lecturer: School of Technology-Engineering)

BusinessSimGraphicDelivering a module on Business Management to young engineers and product designers can be a fairly daunting task as it very easily becomes a dry and dull module for young people chomping at the bit to redesign the Eurostar or at least a very minor component in a very fast car.

I have previously used a range of paper based resources to explain the use of spread sheets in relation to business planning, budgets and book keeping etc and also introduced aspects such as psychometric analysis when dealing with employing the right type of person for a specific role.

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A Place for Competitions in Education?

Some rights reserved by Mark McLaughlin

Some rights reserved by Mark McLaughlin

…and not the general concept of competition between students (such as the annual Derbot challenge); I mean competitions organised and judged by third parties, but still in the same field as a student’s area of study.

Would encouraging students to seek out and enter such competitions, provide valuable real-world exposure to their intended occupation, or unnecessarily restrict the boundaries of their learning and divert attention away from their studies?

Not wanting to sit on the fence, I would argue that they can be very beneficial – particularly within the creative disciplines, where they seem most common.

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Top Posts of 2012

5. Event Review: ALT Large Scale Curriculum Redesign 21st May 2012

4. Is education just a boring game?

3. Visualise this!

2. MELSIG comes to the University of Derby

1. Learning Tools Interoperability

With almost twice the number of views as the second place post, the overview of LTI originally posted back in September of 2011, remains one of the most viewed articles on the blog.  It perhaps suggests that despite the wide variety and usefulness of available learning technologies, getting them to connect together is still one of the major challenges.

App Inventor – Fast Track to Android Apps

Back in March there was quite a bit of hype around a system called App Inventor.  It was an online tool for creating mobile apps (android), originally developed by Google and later provided by MIT.  You can never tell how long these things will last, but it is still available, and still free.  If you want to create your own apps, then this is probably the quickest and easiest way.

Continue reading for an overview of how the system works.  Note, you will need a Google ID in order to use the system – for example from GMail or Google+.

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Pace Yourself with Technology

Scene from a marathonBreaking a large task into smaller tasks is a tried and tested method for making something seem more manageable.  However, you still have to actually complete the smaller tasks as some point.  Recently I found two online services that try to help you pace yourself through these smaller blocks of activity – while being at opposite ends of the literary spectrum.

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Updating your Course Resources Test

For many people it is time to start updating your tests delivered through Course Resources (Blackboard).  Anyone that requires assistance or guidance should contact Ian Hallsworth ( in LSR as soon as possible. However, one of the benefits of delivering tests through Course Resources is that they are very easy to update yourself.  You can do this by following the brief steps outlined below:

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Why I Finally Installed Microsoft Office at Home

For a long time I avoided installing Microsoft Office at home, and instead opted for the free alternatives – e.g. Open Office or Libre Office.  They had mostly the same functionality, and could open Office files (although there were occasionally issues with the formatting).

Two recent developments made me change my mind.

  1. Price.  Although not a fortune, it was a bit too much for the privilege of working at home.  However, as a member of staff at the University of Derby you can now buy the full Microsoft Office suite for £8.95.  Visit this link to find out more:
  2. PDF Output.  Office 2010 now also supports (which Open Office always used to) saving documents as PDFs.  For example , to save a Word document as a PDF you simply click on the File tab, choose Save As, and choose pdf from the Save as type list.

Choice of file type when saving

Using a Horseman’s Pick to Hammer in Nails

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Maciej Szczepańczyk

The initial title for this post was going to follow the cliche of “technology as a double edged sword” – the basis being that a sword sharp on both edges wielded wildly could do you as much damage as your opponent.  Of course in education we’re hoping not to harm anyone; so the idea of a horseman’s pick – with a potentially useful tool on one side and a potentially painful mistake on the other – seemed more appropriate.

On the whole we’re very encouraged to see an increased use of Learning Technologies in appropriate scenarios; but some of these recent uses have encountered problems.  As well as being frustrating for academic staff and students, it is very frustrating for us to see somebody take a technology, apply it in an ideal learning context, but then be put off using it again because of problems encountered.

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Augmented Reality as Master

Below is a recently released student film that seems far more interesting that the Google’s Project Glass.  Some of the highlights are at 1:15, where the real-world environment is turned into a game, and the main talking point at 3:07 – when the dating app comes in.

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

However, despite the unsettling ending (which you might expect from Science Fiction) the reference to Master in the title of this post isn’t Master-Slave.  It’s in reference to Augmented Reality’s potential uses in the Master-Apprentice relationship – learning under individually tailored, guided instruction.

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