Virtual reality (VR), extended reality (XR), the metaverse. Many organizations are grappling with how to use these technologies effectively. Michael Thiel recently interviewed Tom Pizer, GP’s Director of Technology and resident expert, on his work with creating VR and Metaverse experiences.
What Is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is an older term to describe a virtual reality space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment. This interactive environment can be accessed through virtual reality headsets and viewed through computer and phone screens. The environment can be designed as a large convention center for events, single or sets of classrooms, workshops, meeting spaces, concept visualizations, digital worlds, and much more.
Watch the interview and see what a flying building with multiple rooms can look like along with how Tom is working with companies to deliver Metaverse learning experiences.
What Are the Differences in Technologies and Terminology?
- Virtual reality (VR): VR is a virtual environment that shuts out the real world and creates another virtual environment before your eyes. To experience VR, you need a special headset that immerses you in the new reality.
- Augmented reality (AR): With AR, the real world remains central to your experience and is augmented by virtual details. Normally, the virtual details are superimposed on the screen of a phone or tablet, enabling you to learn more about an object by pointing your device at it.
- Mixed reality (MR): MR is a combination of both virtual and actual realities, allowing you to interact with both at once.
- Extended reality (XR): XR is the term for when these technologies are used together. Now that the technology is here, it is time to refine and expand upon it. We need to think about blending augmented and virtual realities, enabling hybrid learning experiences between virtual and face-to-face environments.
- Metaverse: A persistent VR space available and accessible anytime by users. These can be created with a variety of purposes in mind.
What Types of Learning Can Be Put into the Metaverse?
VR technologies are getting better and more accessible, so the capabilities and what can be built in the Metaverse is expanding constantly. At the moment, learning in the Metaverse has been effective in three categories.
- Hard skills development: The Metaverse can provide opportunities to learn and practice these skills in a variety of ways, such as operating a vehicle, safely operating complex machinery and equipment, going through procedures such as plant start-up activities, putting on the correct safety equipment, and more.
- Soft skills development: Designers can use the Metaverse to simulate and create branching customer experiences from sales scenarios to customer support, to work through concepts like emotional intelligence, or to facilitate live coaching and mentoring.
- Collaborative workshop environments: While this category overlaps with the previous two, it can also be used to work with others outside of skills development, such as attending and delivering lectures, hosting meetings or productivity workshops, sharing resources, working in digital office spaces, and more.
How Is the Metaverse Transforming Learning?
Learning in the Metaverse creates a level of presence from both the designer and learner perspectives. By using the VR headset, it limits how much users can multitask, for example, making it easier to stay on task.
The simulated environment can be accessed globally, eliminating the constraints, logistics, and budgeting for travel. Offering persistent digital environments can also help to remove some of the time constraints for teams with complex schedules and across different time zones.
What Is Special or Different about Learning in the Metaverse?
It is surprising how easily our senses can adapt. In this example, even though users are moving around and discussing these ideas as cartoon avatars, the 3D aspect provides a large sense of scale. The experience feels like a personal space, and there is a sense of realism, while also providing capabilities users would not have in the real world. Examples of these capabilities could be leaping from building to building like a superhero or shrinking to a small size to float through an exhaust system to better understand the inner workings.
Any content that could be pulled into a website could also be pulled into a 3D environment, and users can explore and manipulate it.
The Metaverse can get highly realistic as well, but it depends on the size of the project and the processing power of the program and user interface.
Create and Update the Environment from within It
Developing VR and Metaverse environments, programs, and projects is becoming more streamlined. There are many templates to get started, apps available to provide tools with less coding, and companies that can partner to deliver more complex VR experiences.
Designers can download prepopulated rooms with lights, workstations, stages, classrooms, and more with the tools to customize each element with user content. Examples of user content could be meeting agendas, images, videos, shareable files, email, notepads, and more.
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