The increasingly rapid pace of technological advancement presents continual opportunities — and challenges — for the research and education communities. Most recently, advances in head-mounted displays (HMDs) for both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have made dramatic improvements in the devices’ efficacy and affordability.
Since the early 1990s, higher education has been experimenting with VR, which is a computer-generated environment that simulates a realistic experience. Historically, however, these efforts have been focused on large room-scale systems driven by dozens of displays and computers (such as cave automatic virtual environments). Because these efforts were extraordinarily expensive and required experts to operate them, their deployment was primarily limited to large research institutions. AR, which offers a live view of a physical, real-world environment that has computer-augmented elements, has been an area of interest since Harvard’s Ivan Sutherland created a rudimentary AR headset in 1968. AR has been difficult to implement, however, and the required processing power, real-time 3D spatial mapping, and display technology have all been historically insufficient to create high-quality AR experiences.
Today, new HMDs can provide these high-quality immersive experiences at consumer price points, reducing costs by almost two orders of magnitude. Because of this paradigm shift, VR and AR are poised to become an integral part of the higher education technology environment; on some campuses, this is already the case.
[ Read the full article at EDUCAUSE Review. ]
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