The term Digital Reality (DR) is an umberella term to cover the terms Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality. The difference between the terms is explained as follows.
Augmented Reality (AR) adds to your field of vision but doesn’t obscure what you can see and hear. For example in an AR environment, a shopper in a large store who is unfamiliar with the layout of items, could enter what they are looking for and be guided to the location of those items. Information on price, colour options and remaining stock can also be displayed. Click the “Augmented Reality” button above for more information.
Virtual Reality (VR) cuts out the physical world (to a degree) and immerses you in an artificial environment. With your sight and possibly hearing essentially highjacked by a visor and earphones, you are immersed into an artificial and semi controlled environment. There may be elements that you can manipulate and assess the effects of your actions, but these effects are also simulations in a virtual world. Click the Virtual Reality button above for more information.
Mixed Reality (MR) is essentially a combination of AR and VR. At present MR aims to create a seamless blend of the reality presented by a person’s senses overlayed with an AR/VR combination that is context relevant to the goals of the user. MR requires complex hardware and sensors that can recognise the user’s physical movements (such as hand gestures) and maniulate the AR/VR information as required. An early example was a holographic workstation for financial trading where 2D and 3D models of data can be overlayed and manipulated on a person’s real desk by following the user’s physical gestures. A highly fantisised depiction of this was in the movie “Minority Report”
Digital Reality in the Public Services
The brief outline of the various DR technologies above have a broad range of applications in the Public Services. These are some examples:
|Simulated Environment||Training conducted in simulated environments is cheaper and safer in some circumstances. For example the training of Defence Forces or Fire Fighting personnel can be done in part in a simulated environment, without the inherent dangers and costs associated with typical training environments in these fields.|
|Enhanced Immersive Experience||Tourists and museum guests can be given an enriched experience with AR enabled goggles providing extra information. People can also visit sites of historical significance remotely.
Local Councils can allow prospective tenants to view a house remotely room by room to determine it’s suitability. Linked to generally available applications, prospective tenants could also review the surrounding district using Google Maps etc.
|Visualise and Interact with Data||Scientists, engineers and medical personnel can manipulate a model and discuss what-if scenarious.|
|Proactive Maintenance||An engineer can look at a structure and compare its current state with a prime example depicted on AR goggles. The images can be relayed to other experts and the matter discussed as though all were present.|
|Enhance Education||Students can access education from anywhere and can collectively visualise environments that can be remote or simulated. What-if scenarious can be developed and the consequences discussed.|
Issues with Digital Reality
Despite all the promise of DR, there is a general issue that hampers the field. Due to ongoing technological advances, DR sites can quickly become obsolete and it can be costly to update them as technical components these sites depend on get updated or become obsolete. However Papadopoulos and Schreibman who were both involved in the Contested Memories project, wrote a paper Towards 3D Scholarly Editions: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge and argue that the effort is worth it due to the richness of the experience provided.
In addition to discussing the problem of technical obsolescence and its impact on the longevity of these sites, this paper also serves as a good introduction to the history of VR as it moved from “Virtual Museums” where the viewer could walk around the environment but not interact with it, to “Research Laboratories” where key variables of the environment can be changed and the effects simulated. Finally they mention “3D Scholary Editions” which combine the advantages of all the above and allow a more immersive experience.
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