In the Now: Five Immersive Technologies

by Carolyn Heinze

The emergence of truly immersive tech is no longer a novel concept—it’s here. These are some of the technologies that are reshaping the way we learn, work, and communicate.

Augmented Reality (AR)

For several years now, architects, automobile manufacturers, and product designers have been applying augmented reality to virtually collaborate more efficiently on 3D mock-ups, from disparate locations. More recently, at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, the Augmented Archives Project initially had students participating in the development of a platform that allows both onsite and remote museum visitors to “handle” and manipulate precious objects without ever touching them. In an effort to boost both visitor and student engagement with historic artifacts, students continue to act not only as technologists working in the realm of AR, but curators as well. Their next goal: sharing what they have learned with other institutions to develop best practices for marrying augmented reality with precious archives and objects.

Farmers Insurance Virtual Reality Claims

CREDIT: Photo Courtesy of Washington College

Virtual Reality (VR)

In 2017, Farmers Insurance, an insurer headquartered in Woodland Hills, California, created a gamified virtual reality-based program to train its claims representatives on how to conduct home damage assessments. The program offers up 500 true-to-life scenarios that employees may access remotely—including features that let claims representatives “walk” through damaged houses, open cabinets, and manipulate small objects—enabling the company more flexibility in how it trains both new and more seasoned professionals. Last summer, the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario, released a VR-driven app that gives visitors a 1,136-foot panoramic view of city landmarks, teaching them about their surroundings.

Farmers Insurance Virtual Reality Claims

Farmers Insurance Virtual Reality Claims

Dome

Located in the Bell Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium employs 360-degree projection and a seamless immersive display, placing visitors inside the data generated by the University of Minnesota’s Arts and Sciences Research Departments, giving them in-depth insight into our universe—and our brains.

Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium, West View Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium, South View Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium, Main Entrance

CREDIT: Courtesy of the Bell Museum and University of Minnesota

In Los Angeles, California, Intel Studios, constructed by the tech company of the same name, is a four-story, 10,000 square-foot geodesic dome. “Voxels” (what Intel compares to 3D pixels) transform the virtual setting into a multi-perspective 3D environment. This permits volumetric video capture, enabling moviemakers to film in all directions at once, and audiences to view content from any angle, including the protagonist’s point of view.

Intel Studios Voxels

CREDIT: Tim Herman/Intel Corporation

360-Degree Cameras

Traditional and autonomous automobile manufacturers experiment with 360-degree cameras to increase driver and pedestrian safety, as well as provide a deterrent against vandalism and theft. DreamVu, a tech start-up headquartered in Lafayette, California, has developed a 360-degree camera that captures 3D video, designed to give robots operating in industries like healthcare, security, automobile manufacturing, and services, deeper navigation capabilities.

360-Degree Screens

A redesign of the Santiago Bernabeu, home to the soccer team Real Madrid, specifies a 360-degree screen to communicate game information in-the-round.

The State Farm Arena, which the Atlanta Hawks basketball team calls home, has installed a 360-degree continuous display, providing NBA fans with an enhanced in-game experience.

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Atlanta Hawks Arena 360-Degree Screen

Atlanta Hawks, State Farm Arena

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