How to Successfully Implement Immersive Technology in Libraries

March 26, 2019 Jen Cheng

From space traveling simulations to healthcare applications, immersive technology has been around for a while and is here to stay. We recently spoke to Kapil Chhabra, founder and CEO of Silver Wings Interactive Solutions Pte Ltd and an expert in virtual, augmented and mixed reality,  for advice on how to implement these technologies successfully at your institution. 

Q. First off, can you tell us the difference between AR, VR and MR?

A. Virtual Reality (VR) provides users an immersive experience in a newly created environment. It usually makes use of a headset which completely blocks out the real world and brings the user to a new one. The environment can be either computer generated, a 360-degree video, or a mix of these two.

Augmented Reality (AR) is where the real world is mixed with additional computer-generated images. There can be interactions between the two. AR needs an interface which is usually a mobile phone. Pokémon Go is the most famous and widespread example of AR.

Mixed Reality (MR) is basically a variant of AR. In MR, an experience is delivered through a headset instead of an interface (e.g. a mobile phone). The headset provides the user an experience to see computer-generated images projected on to the real world. The Microsoft HoloLens is the most well-known example.

Image: User trying on the Microsoft Hololens

Finally, the term Immersive Technology embodies all these technologies together.

Q.You mentioned that there are different types of VR. Can you share how they are fundamentally different and what they’re typically used for?

A. Typically, there are two main kinds of Virtual Reality:

  1. Passive VR: three degrees of movement freedom (rotational movement only)

With three degrees of movement, users can look around in passive VR. The term Passive is a bit misleading because all kinds of interactivity can still be created using a controller, a head movement focus function or even eye tracking.

The experience is still very immersive, and you will be able to experience the virtual world all around you! Examples of passive VR include the Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear (phone based), and the Oculus Go (standalone).

  1. Interactive VR: six degrees of movement freedom (rotational and translation movements)

Besides being able to look around in VR, users can move forward, sideways, upward and downward as they would in real life.

Image: user “walking the plank” in VR. Right image: what the user experiences in VR

It’s undeniable that an interactive VR experience feels “real”. We witnessed this when Wiley colleagues in Singapore visited us at the MediaCorp campus and ‘walked the plank’. Our visitors had to step out the top of a building and walk on a plank. It was absolutely nerve-wrecking for some to do that!

Q.How about the education sector? Can you share some interesting applications of these technologies happening there??

A. It’s all about finding the best way to educate and make sure that the knowledge ‘sticks’. Research has shown that experiencing is the most effective way of learning, instead of reading, listening or watching.

Using immersive technologies to deliver learning experiences in 3D can provide students a better visual understanding of a subject.

For instance, details of a working heart inside a human body can be easily shown and explained with the help of immersive technologies. Users can examine the insides of a heart and zoom in for a closer look. The blood flow of a pumping heart looks as if it is real and functioning. We can also create interactivity, where different elements can be selected and labeled. Knowledge can be tested through simple actions like pointing and clicking.

Image: A working heart in AR

The Education sector has major opportunities to explore immersive technologies. Other examples include:

Using AR to bring a book to life

Pointing a smartphone at images in a book to see visuals in 3D, or to play a video/audio explanation provides learners more interactive and interesting ways to ‘consume’ content.

Explaining complex theories

Seeing the explanation of Newton’s First Law of Motion is surely more fun than reading about it in a book. There are already many applications available in VR to support the curriculum of secondary students for several subjects, especially in physics and biology.

Operating machinery

Interactive VR also provides users a safe environment to learn and operate various heavy-duty machineries effectively.  Examples include operating a forklift and launching a lifeboat from a ship.

I could go on and on since there are many examples where immersive technologies add value in education. Depending on the specific needs of an organization, suitable solutions using AR, VR or MR can be proposed.

Q. What is a typical set up required for organizations to start using these technologies?

A. The first step towards digitization is understanding its possibilities. Explaining the advantages of immersive technologies may be difficult and abstract because it's very experiential. People need to try it to fully grasp the potential it offers.

We help organizations achieve that through the creation of in-house experience centers. These experience centers provide employees and clients opportunities to understand what immersive technologies could offer to the organization or business.

The introduction of immersive technologies doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. There are many kinds of VR, AR and MR and often a few portable stand-alone headsets are all the hardware a company or institution needs.

You might not even need any hardware if an experience is delivered through mobile phones. Once again, the solution completely depends on the problem that we're trying to solve. And it’s always an interesting challenge for us to come up with suitable solutions!

Q. Lastly, can you share with us the biggest challenge for organizations to successfully implement these technologies?

A. As with all new developments and technologies, people need to embrace it and adapt to changes in the way things work currently. A typical argument we encounter within organizations is: “Things have always been done in a satisfying way and there is no need for change”.

These changes take time especially if the organization implementing it is large and has numerous stakeholders involved. Time is required for colleagues to understand, accept and embrace the added value that these technologies bring. Internal company politics do not always make these changes easy to implement.

Organizations and their employees need to see these technological developments as opportunities for improvement instead of threats to the existing equilibrium. With the right mindset, they are more likely to adapt these immersive technologies successfully.

Have you implemented any of these technologies in your library? Share your challenges and tips in the comments section below.

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Credit for all images in this post: Murali Pariyarakaran, Wiley

About the Author

Jen Cheng

Content Marketing Strategist, Wiley //

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