We receive many queries from organisations who would like to work with us on their ideas for Augmented Reality (AR) apps. Some of these applications are more suitable for Virtual Reality (VR) however, so we thought it would make sense to set out our thoughts on this as a post here.
Immersive Vs Non-Immersive Vs Minimal Immersion Experiences
In many cases, people hear AR but think VR. VR is an immersive technology whereby the headset wearer feels they are in a different place/world. In a business context, this can be very useful for training as it allows an employee to be trained up in a scenario, situation or on a piece of equipment which is hard to access in the real world.
We believe however that AR works best when a non-immersive or minimally immersive experience is required. When providing an operator with a piece of information to assist them to get their job done, we design on the theory that the operator should be present in the real world and so a non-immersive experience is best. What we mean is that if we are presenting the operator with data, text, images or video to assist them to do their job, they should easily be able to tell that the injected information is not a real part of their surroundings, and so they won’t mistakenly let it confuse them about what is real and what is not.
In some cases where training on a piece of equipment is required, AR can be used to give the trainee the impression that the state of the equipment is not as it actually is (image giving them the view that the filter is dirty, or the warning light is red, when it is not etc). We call this minimal immersion, as the trainee only sees a small part of their surroundings in an altered state. In general, they remain fully aware of their surroundings.
So to sum up, our approach in UtilityAR, when deciding between AR and VR, ask the question “How much immersion are you looking for in this application?” If the answer is that it should be an immersive experience, then go with VR. If you want the user to remain grounded in the location they are actually in, then AR is the solution for you.