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Phil Eagles The difference between AR and VR in learning

In my last blog I talked about augmented reality and how it’s affecting the industry, and now I wanted to clear the confusion between AR and VR (virtual reality) in learning.

What is the difference?

I find the easiest way to explain the difference between AR and VR is to use a 3 stage model. 

The Difference Between AR And VR In Learning

Let’s start with reality

Without getting all philosophical, reality is what we see around us; things that actually exist rather than as they may appear or are imagined. For example, right now I am sat in front of my laptop writing this blog. I can see the monitor in front of me, whilst hearing the birds singing outside and I’m starting to feel hungry! That’s my current reality… as I experience it.

VR is a form of reality that’s been computer generated for us. To experience this, a user wears a VR headset which consists of two high resolution screens that cover each of the user’s eyes. These screens act as a window into the VR environment. From there the user is able to look and move around their environment. This can be further enhanced by wearing headphones and special haptic feedback clothing where the user can experience the sensation of touch and force, which provides an even more life-like experience.

Augmented reality is like a hybrid of both virtual reality and actual reality. Rather than the entirely computer generated environment of VR, AR uses elements of computer generation superimposed onto a real life environment. A good example of this is the popular game Pokémon Go (see my last blog), or even the amusing photo filters included in Snapchat which superimpose a live computer generated filter over the face of the user in real time. The key advantage AR has over VR is that it’s easily accessible on most smartphones or tablets, whilst VR relies on expensive proprietary equipment. 


Use within the learning sector

Both AR and VR have great potential for use in the learning sector. Choosing the right technology can be overwhelming for someone trying to make that decision, so here are some examples of how both technologies have helped to enhance learning.

You could be forgiven for thinking that AR is a novelty technology. Whilst it has gained most of its success in the games and social media industries it can prove equally powerful in a learning environment.

New employees could use AR to discover where key places are within their workplace. For example, an employee in a large workplace might want to discover where the fire exits are located. They could use their smartphone which, via the use of the camera, gives them live directions to the nearest fire exit.  En route it could also point out the nearest fire extinguisher in event of an emergency and, if the employee didn’t know how to use one, a quick video could pop up giving them instructions.

Realistic scenarios could be developed. For example either AR or VR could be used to assist an employee in how to handle difficult situations such as dealing with a difficult customer, bullying or hazard perception, to name a few.

Another example is tackling geographical distances. Remote working is still a relatively new concept to many, but with the advances in technology a geographically separated office is no longer an issue. It’s now easy to always be reached, whether it’s via phone, email, instant messaging, webcam etc., so what if that distance could be bridged even closer?

Imagine putting on a VR headset and immediately you are transported to an empty room. One by one your colleagues start to appear. You hear someone calling your name and you turn around to see it’s a colleague from Japan. They want to show you something they have been working on. They hold out their hand and up pops out a 3D model of a product you have been interested to see. You are able to touch the product, rotate it and click on hotspots all whilst your colleague is talking to you. This makes the geographic distance between the person and their colleague no longer relevant as they are able to interact with each other in the same way they could in person.

Why this is important?

There are many advantages to using AR & VR in learning. These range from:

  • Low risk
  • Realistic developed scenarios
  • Remote working
  • Increased engagement
  • Time and money saving
  • Suitable for different learning styles
  • Innovative and enjoyable

I truly believe that AR & VR has a strong future in learning as long as it is used in the right circumstances and will enhance the learning experience. It’s slowly becoming part of everyday life and will only gain more popularity as it becomes mainstream in L&D. So right now is a good time to start thinking about how and if it is a technology that will motivate and engage your learners.

Want to talk more about how AR and VR can fit into your eLearning strategy? Get in touch with us today.

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Phil Eagles, Senior eLearning Developer, Bray Leino Learning

In my series of blogs I’ll talk about the components of eLearning design and development.

Copyright © 2016 Bray Leino Learning

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