Category Archives: Augmented Reality

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Should Next-Generation Education Use Oculus Rift?

“This technology is going to revolutionize the way we live, learn, work, and play.”
– Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus VR

It might be time to move virtual reality out of that ‘cool things that never came to fruition’ box. The Oculus Rift is coming to town, and it’s bringing with it not only a revolutionary approach to gaming, but applications that stretch into education and e-training.

Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey certainly views his device in a broader context: “Virtual reality provides more freedom for content creators than any other form, and allows us to simulate other art forms like movies, books, or traditional games. In that sense, it is the ultimate medium.”

Here’s four ways in which we think VR could become the ultimate educational tool.

1. Escaping the classroom
Research has shown that game-based learning exploits the natural competitive instinct in order to motivate, encourage and reward productive behaviour in the classroom. So surely VR could make this an even more powerful learning experience?

Naysayers insist that few educational games based on standard computers have made it into schools. Some suggest that too many adults associate video games with the propagation of violence, sleepless nights and an unhealthy obsession with artificial worlds and avatars.

But World of Warcraft has been successfully translated to the classroom, ‘gamifying’ the school day to increase productivity and pupil satisfaction. Similarly, a modification to online simulation game Minecraft is being used in over 1,000 schools to create hypothetical scenarios and reconstruct history.

The opportunities are boundless: PublicVR, for example, have created a virtual forest in which students can record measurements and make observations on tree species, canopy closure and tree biomass. It’s just one excellent example of VR-based experiential learning.

2. Learning from a distance
Imagine being able to join in with a lecture from one of the world’s top scientists from thousands of miles away. You’d be wearing a pair of goggles and have headphones in your ears and you’d only see each other as avatars. But would it be as engaging as being there in person?

Research suggests so. This type of digital teacher-student interaction could be even more valuable than the real thing by utilising ‘augmented gaze’. This involves digitally manipulating the avatar of the presenter to make constant direct eye contact with every participant separately.

Behavioural studies show that this simple strategy increases attention, naturally regulates conversation, and heightens physiological responses. The presenter or teacher becomes more influential and more persuasive as a result. We read this as better education for all.

3. Skills-based training
Practise makes perfect, but it’s not always practical. At PAULEY, we’ve created interactive and cost-saving e-training tools for companies who can’t always access the ‘real thing’, whether it’s checking the safety of train engines or training police officers to use new hardware.

VR really comes into its own in this arena, and hardware such as the Oculus Rift provides the closest thing to reality we can currently achieve in digital terms.

It’s no surprise that gory operation game Surgeon Simulator 2013 has already been adapted for Oculus Rift. Could something similar be used to train surgeons and health care professionals in complex surgical procedures?

4. Meditation & reassurance
Primary school teacher Mathieu Marunczyn has been using the Oculus Rift to help manage students with disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).

He’s found software such as BlueMarble has a remarkable ability to calm down students – something he’s dubbed ‘digital meditation’: “The student was immediately engaged and was calmly yet actively exploring the world he became immersed in. He was no longer physically ‘acting-out’ and I noticed that his whole body became more relaxed.”

The technology could also be used to help children and adults with learning difficulties, or disorders such as those on the autism spectrum, to practice social exchanges and real-life situations in safe, controlled environments. Access to a fine-tuned 3D environment would allow people to repeat certain processes – perhaps the recognising of emotional cues, or the correct way to interact with a sales assistant – until appropriate behaviours are achieved.

Here at PAULEY, we think that experiential learning through VR and digital technologies is justifiably on the up. The benefits are numerous for streamlining efficiencies across multiple sectors. Why shouldn’t we imagine a not-too-distant future in which a Ray Mears-esque avatar leads students on virtual school trips through jungles and across mountains?

Let us know what you think.

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New Technology: A Challenge And A Solution For Retailers

Development in consumer technology has created new challenges for retailers but also appears to offer potential solutions.

Today’s consumer is aided and abetted by technology. In a digital age where consumers are choosing to shop online rather than in store, retail managers are being forced to make the in-store experience more engaging and attractive. There is a growing demand amongst consumers for the ability to be able to interact with digital technology and have a seamless experience across all available channels (omni-channel retailing), which is resulting in many stores now investing in the trial of innovative touch screen and immersive technology to find ways to fulfil the needs of their consumers.

Ironically though, it was innovative new technology that encouraged consumers to move away from the store and retailers are now looking to employ constantly evolving new technology to bring them back!

More than a decade ago e-commerce abstracted some aspects of shopping from the store into a digital context, offering additional benefits to both the retailer and the consumer. The abstraction, however, left key parts of the shopping experience behind which retailers are now refocussing on – the store’s multi-sensory and naturally social context, shopping as an event and destination, and the promise, though not always met, of personal assistance. To its advantage, e-commerce added easier access to reams of information, created new social realms and commercial spaces with new participants, and made shopping ever easier and more convenient. Retailers have continued to augment and improve their customers’ online experience with better content, search, personalisation, security, lists, reviews, checkout, and the like. Most recently, they’ve been adding barcode and QR code search, Web sites optimised for mobility, and mobile apps.

Mobile technology and the ability to shop online at anytime from anywhere is changing the face of the retail store. Over the past few years, the world has witnessed the unprecedented growth of smartphones, changing the way consumers shop and browse. Reports from eDigitalResearch and IMRG have been tracking the growth of the mobile market in the UK. Smartphone ownership now stands at 60% of the overall UK population, having continued to grow at a solid pace over the past 12 months. With the introduction of new, more innovative devices, as well as emerging technologies, such as 4G, ownership looks set to increase in 2013 and signals just how important a channel mobile is becoming to retailers and brands. The report clearly shows the steady growth in the number of smartphone owners who are using their devices to shop and browse. In the latest results from April 2013, over half (54%) of smartphone owners claim to have used their device to browse for products, whilst just under 40% have gone on to make a purchase.

With more convenient digital ways for a consumer to shop, retailers are struggling to keep the consumer engaged in their stores. Immersion seems to be the key to success, with the implementation of technology in store including reality-augmenting magic mirrors, interactive displays, and shelf-edge video to name a few.

The ideas and the innovations of interactive digital signage, online shopping and mobile browsing are here to stay and are being used every day. Retailers can now vastly improve their customer in store experience by providing technology and solutions which help customers to share the online experience they had at home and to revisit the phone browsing experience they had on a train and, by joining up the dots in the digital map, create an engaging multi-channel experience for customers shopping in their store. Combined with a multi-sensory experience that cannot be achieved on mobile devices and a sense of community, the retail store will remain an essential part of our shopping experience. Retailers are just having to work harder to come up with and invest in innovative ways to remind customers why its still important to visit stores and what the benefits are.

There are a vast array of interactive options available to retail outlets, from self-service touch screen kiosks, interactive screens that enable the consumer to explore and order items from product ranges, to augmented reality engines that can help to engage shoppers in unique ways.

Tesco, for example, are trialing the use of augmented reality in their children’s clothing ranges in store. The technology allows children to stand in front of a screen and choose different garments in various sizes or colours etc. to try on. Without needing to go and find and touch the clothing items, they can get an idea of what they would look like in them. Tesco are also using touch screen kiosks in store that customers can use to look up what stock exists in the warehouse and order / pay for an item that is not currently in store.

John Lewis department stores have a pop-up style shop in Exeter which is about a third of the size of a normal John Lewis store. Due to the reduction in floor space, the retailer has had to become more ingenious in the way they use technology in-store. Instead of displaying multiple plates on offer, the Exeter store has a ‘plate wall’ with one of each dish and a kiosk alongside where consumers can order the number they want and have them delivered home. Julian Burnett, head of IT architecture at John Lewis, in a recent edition of ‘Integrated Retailer’ said “Everything that we do is about creating an interactive, engaging and energising experience for our customers”.

Example of augmented reality use in a retail store

Example of augmented reality use in a retail store (Credit: http://www.consumerinstinct.com)

With substantial upfront investment required, retailers are yet to prove that this new technology is having a positive impact on their bottom line, even though visitors appear to love it. There is hope, however, that increased brand engagement techniques and an improved experiences in store (created by new technology) will encourage consumers to continue to visit and buy their products over a competitors.

Not all digital technology has to be interactive. Large format projection screens can also be used to liven up open spaces in retail complexes and provoke the senses to create a more immersive experience as soon as the consumer walks in. Video advertising and product ranges can projected onto screens across what would otherwise be empty windows/dead space to liven up the environment. Moving graphics will catch the eye of consumers and help to enhance their experience right from the first moment they walk into the centre or store. Digital advertising in store can also be used to drive customers to redeem a discount code on their mobile for example, creating a multi-channel experience under one roof. A combination of immersive and engaging technology ensures the correct brand messages are successfully communicated.

Application of Rear Projection Screens in Shopping Centre

Application of Rear Projection Screens in Shopping Centre

Rear projection screen applied to empty shop frontage

Rear projection screen applied to empty shop frontage

So the physical retail store can still offer an experience to consumers that cannot currently be had through mobile commerce. Virtual reality stores can get close to the real thing, but there is still a way to go before digital technology can claim to completely replace the retail store. Until all of our senses can be successfully stimulated through digital technology – sight, sound, smell and touch, the physical store will still add to a consumers experience. And although numbers of in-store shoppers have been dropping, with the development of new technology and highly visual and interactive experiences, consumers will become privy to the benefits of the in-store experience.

Another consideration for the rise in e-commerce and mobile commerce is the impact on logistics and our environment. Because consumers cannot ‘try before they buy’ when they purchase online, we’ve seen a rise in postal returns, the effects of which are unrealised by so many. Increases in fuel consumption for increased deliveries and increased paper usage (even though the order was digital), are having a negative impact on our environment. Trying goods in store can alleviate this to a degree.

Ultimately success for any retail brand is measured on sales. New technology is also aiding retailers in creating what is now widely known as an omni-channel consumer experience, giving them the digital tools to be able to fully understand a consumers journey and activity across multiple channels and to offer a ‘preferred’ and ‘personalised’ experience for each and every individual consumer.  Every digital device, whether it be a touch screen kiosk in store or a mobile phone, can be linked to remote networks to pass behavioural and purchase history information on a consumer to a central database that can then be mined to learn about each consumer and provide them with a unique offer. This is a retailers ultimate goal as it will ensure that a consumer remains loyal to their brand based on a consistently excellent experience of the brand both online, through mobile and in store. With so many consumer digital touch points to monitor and optimise, this is a real challenge.

Perhaps we will be looking towards a future where a global sizing standard is implemented and where scanning technology can tell you exactly what size to order? This would certainly reduce the amount of unnecessary returns, but could also potentially offer a wider range of goods to consumers based on the insight gained from ‘body size’ statistics. For example, a new ‘wider’ foot range may be introduced when its realised that a larger percentage of consumers actually require this. 3D printing technology may also offer a future where goods tailored to an individual can be created quickly and cost-effectively based on a body scan. This could completely change the concept of the retail store.

Combined with the technology now available to create an amazing visual experience in store, the future of retail, although extremely challenging, is exciting and is one industry in which the major benefits of any new technology could be exploited to their maximum for the benefit of both the consumer and the retailer.

If you require help in creating your in-store immersive experience or wish to brainstorm ideas, contact PAULEY on 01908 522532 or [email protected]

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Transparent interactive touch foil with rear projection in action

A Future of Endless Interactive Training and Virtual Learning Opportunities

Advances in computer graphics and technology have already offered us opportunities to enhance training through the use of virtual environments, 3D product modelling, touch screen, and mobile devices. But there is much more to come as manufacturers continue to innovate and create even more engaging opportunities for interactive training and virtual learning experiences.

Unfortunately, many training tools and content that exist today, are still static, unintuitive, overwhelming, and disconnected from the real world. They don’t relay information as an instructor would in a live training session. Live sessions themselves however, can be expensive, limited in reach, and hard to schedule. Virtual  environments can be used to replicate real scenarios in a digital environment and facilitate interactive and virtual training from practically anywhere without the need for a live instructor. This facility currently empowers companies to accelerate user learning, reduce training costs and decrease expensive live training by being Visual, Immersive and Scalable. Training can be tailored to individuals or groups and is accessible 24/7.

Instructional information can be displayed as interactive content that mirrors the real world in both ‘form’ and ‘function’. Simply put, this means it looks like the real thing, and acts like it. Particularly useful for technically challenging training and system operations and maintenance, interactive training can transform the learning experience and offer flexible options where it is difficult to get the individual to the real life equipment. It is becoming increasingly difficult to align tutors and end users with physical equipment.

Key benefits to using a fully interactive solution, include:

  • Learn-by-doing
    Unlike static text or images, 3D interactivity adds unprecedented depth to training and technical publications by turning passive observers into active, hands-on participants.
  • Fault-based Scenario Training
    3D interactive training available can create true-to-life immersive scenarios to troubleshoot faults and tasks as they would occur in the real world.
  • Lower Training Costs
    Reduce the travel costs, facility expense, and instructor fees associated with live training for operating & maintaining equipment. No need to print paper-based materials or ship equipment to and from each location.
  • Train Anytime, Anywhere & Reduce Operational Risk
    Train large, distributed workforces to perform complex tasks with no risk to staff or equipment, on WEB, PC, MOBILE & TABLETS.
  • Crawl-Walk-Run
    Multiple modes of instruction to Explore, Study, Practice and Evaluate.
  • Easy Deployment
    Content modules are designed and developed to promote reuse of 3D content across the training curriculum. Critical updates are pushed out to the field immediately.
  • Competency Management
    Digital reports can be generated as a result of tracking when an individual has read/viewed training material, making it easier for management teams and tutors to keep a record of what training has been completed and when.

Interactive virtual training is currently deployed in many different industries, but is still really in its infancy. There are industries where interactive training can be extremely effective. In manufacturing, transport and logistics and engineering, for example, Simulation and Interactive 3D Visualisation can be used to train staff in how to maintain and operate machinery using interactive tools and the application of that training to the live environment can be completed with relative ease. Virtual training is also very useful for re-training or ongoing assessment, so even if an individual has been trained in a real-time environment in the first instance, there training updates can be conducted through a virtual interface, saving on ongoing training costs. Interactive training courses can help staff deliver effective after sales service too.

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

Vision of the future: In store touch screens

3D graphics and virtual environments can also be used in the retail industry, online, instore or even on touch screens within window displays. Touch screens are also used to capture visitor data (eg, brochure requests etc) and for way finding around shopping centres and large stores. The medical industry are also using technical animation as a sales tool to demonstrate products and train staff in their use and application.

In classrooms, smart boards can now be seen, which allow teachers to create a more interactive experience for their pupils. These are likely to be superceeded by fully interactive classrooms when the pupils have an element of control over what they see and learn, and the speed at which they progress.

So you may ask yourself, how can technology improve your opportunities even further?

The simple answer to this is innovation in manufacturing – The evolution of ‘Glass based’ touch screen technology.

Interactive learning is becoming the expected delivery method amongst our younger generations as tablets, smart phones and tv’s become mainstream tools in our homes, and as the mobile phone turns 40 years old and is becoming the most popular gadget in the world. But the opportunities for even greater levels of engagement is likely to mean that it will become the ‘norm’ and exist not only inside , but also outside every classroom across the globe.

Technology already exists that will facilitate interactive learning during every action that we take during our day, not just within a classroom or working environment, but it is currently unaffordable at the sort of scale required. A company called Corning have a vision of a future where transparent glass touch points could exist in our house, cars, at outdoor venues and in schools and offices (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Cf7IL_eZ38). Transparent glass could be applied to doors, windows and even dashboards in cars that could be configured to produce a touch dashboard controlled by software on a mobile tablet. Further innovation in manufacturing could make this a reality in the not too distant future.

So not only can we now create 3d virtual environments and projections that you can interact with, but we will also be able to display these graphics on many different devices from small hand held tablets to large scale walls and windows. This increases the scope for our whole world to become a virtual learning environment, from learning what products are available in the interactive store window as a consumer, to selecting what to buy from the virtual supermarket, to learning how to operate heavy machinery as a skilled engineer at work or following the curriculum as a school child. Everywhere we go and look there will be a touch point that we can engage with. Physical objects may become less and less familiar to us during the course of our waking hours.

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

Visions of the future: Virtual consultations in operating theatres and Interactive tables in classrooms

The technology will impact all of us in some way or form. It is in fact opening up opportunities for fully immersive ‘virtual’ experiences in environments that wouldn’t have previously been able to facilitate it. For example, sterile glass may now make it possible to create a virtual operating theatre to train surgeons, and other medical staff, allowing them to collaborate remotely with other experts in an emergency situation. This could also be applied to forensics labs and reduces risks involved with using real patients. Surgeons can even operate on real patients from the other side of the world via virtual and realtime interfaces.

Touch screen tables and video walls that facilitate collaborative learning can already be seen in interactive galleries in museums and heritage centres and in exhibition environments. There is no reason why the use of these will not soon be extended into our offices, classrooms, and houses globally.

Capacitive touch, which is now widely accepted, allows more than one touch at once to be recognised. It is regularly cited as one of the key drivers of smartphone popularity and allows you to pinch, zoom and twist using multiple fingers. But 2014 could be the year when touchscreens are launched which react in three dimensions, not even requiring touch to recognise what action the device should take.

A prototype of a new touch screen has been developed that would allow apps and devices to be controlled using human (3D) gestures. A small USB device that you plug into your computer consisting of cameras and led lights, recognises, to an unbelievable degree of precision, your hand movements. Although Nintendo have already made strides towards this with their Wii devices, further development has the potential to change the way we interact with virtual environments and video games in the future, opening up a further wealth of opportunity when it comes to learning.

Transparent interactive signage already exists and can be informative, aesthetically pleasing and interactive. However, opportunities exist for the execution of this technology on a much larger scale if manufacturers can find a solution to hiding electronics and cables whilst retaining optical clarity. Transparent screens could create walls in large open spaces that remain clear when there is no display, but become an interactive show that enhances the landscapes when in use (known as “Smart Glass”).

Augmented reality is another up and coming educational tool. This allows for real environments to be augmented with additional relevant content (in 3D) through the use of transparent glass tablets with onboard 3d cameras.

The endless opportunities we have available to us are causing not only a significant shift in the way we communicate and engage technology, but are creating a future of ubiquitous displays, open operating systems, shared applications, cloud media storage and unlimited bandwidth . What have previously been obstacles, may now become an obtainable reliable reality.

Inspired by the innovative opportunities that might be open to you? Get in touch with us and we can help you make them become a reality! Email [email protected] or call 01908 522532.

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