Page 38 - Campus Technology, June 2017
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CT: What are the different types of technologies that exist in the immersive media space — at least the main categories?
Bowen: Immersive media exist in four main categories: 3D, 360 video, virtual reality and augmented reality.
Today’s 3D media technologies are very much like the movies you would experience in a traditional movie theater, where you would put on 3D glasses and be watching a film that just sort of comes out of the screen.
But the interesting part of all that is, as 3D technologies continue to evolve and improve, we see higher and even vastly higher quality images being produced. So, what is happening — even what we see in a regular movie theater — is a transition into hyper reality, where the images are of such high quality that our visual experience is so much greater than what we would normally expect to see in the natural world.
The ultimate applications of that kind of hyper reality are still unknown. So, pinpointing its implications for the future is difficult, as this is such a growing area.
Let’s move on to the next level, where you will find 360 video — our second major immersive media category. This is simply video that is captured all around the camera. Viewers may look anywhere they want to while the video is playing.
360 video has many values, but primarily it is recognized as the easiest immersive media to create. And there are now many inexpensive 360 video cameras on the market. Plus, you can use your cell phone to experience and view these videos. So, 360 video is a very accessible technology, in practical terms.
When working with 360 video, headsets that use your smartphone can be economically added to the mix, starting with Google Cardboard at a few dollars and moving up to the Samsung Gear VR technology at maybe around a hundred dollars — so we can find very inexpensive solutions for creating and viewing 360 video and making our immersive connections.
Next, we look at virtual reality. VR is a completely simulated environment. And unlike 360 video, where viewers can change where they are looking but not where they are going, with VR, they can change both. With VR, you are controlling both what you are looking at and the path you are moving along.
With VR, where you are using a headset, you have a kind of complete denial of reality: The “real” world that surrounds you is no longer visible. The real world has been completely replaced by what you see through your VR headset. But the value of that is that you can overcome the limits of reality. Your experience can exist in ways that aren’t physically possible, or where physics does not apply in the usual way.
This allows you to simulate unlikely or impossible or unsafe environments — or interact with virtual representations of things or people.
A great example of using VR for teaching is the First Class technology that was designed by Ann Clements, a professor of music education at PSU. In this environment, pre-service teachers gain experience by interacting with virtual students.
Finally, the fourth category is augmented reality — and I would include mixed reality here. Like VR, with AR you have control over what you are seeing and where you are going. But unlike VR, with AR, reality — your real-world environment — is still present. You can still see everything that’s around you. It’s simply been modified to include additional, virtual elements. You can begin to see things in your real-world environment that aren’t actually there. You can add information, you can display visualizations ... you can do any number of things in this environment, and you can make those things interactive. Microsoft’s HoloLens is, I think, the best example of augmented reality technology.
Those are the four major categories of immersive media. If you want to survey immersive media in higher education, you will find work being done across all of these four categories. Higher education is beginning to experiment in each one of these categories, as each comes into its own state of maturity.4

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