Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Introduction to Virtual and Augmented Reality

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Introduction to Virtual and Augmented Reality

Article excerpt

Virtual and augmented reality (VAR) is not a new concept, but over the past couple of years, these technologies have become more accessible to the public, and libraries are at the forefront of this access.

This report provides an overview of virtual and augmented reality and how it can be used effectively in libraries. This chapter focuses on the history of virtual and augmented reality and the current standing of these technologies. Chapter 2 discusses the use of virtual and augmented reality in libraries and how these technologies are being used to enhance patron learning. VAR technologies are becoming prevalent in many different types of libraries, though the uses differ depending on user base, and chapter 2 looks at these applications and the anticipated future of VAR within libraries.

Chapter 3 addresses software applications that can be used in the classroom or workshops in order to both teach virtual reality--themed lessons and to develop them. According to the ACRL Framework, information creation as a process is especially relevant when discussing virtual and augmented reality in libraries, and there will be a discussion of how libraries can help with the knowledge-creation process even with virtual applications. (1) Chapter 4 looks at user engagement and potential real-world applications of virtual and augmented reality. The final chapter delves into the future of virtual and augmented reality and how libraries are able to help shape that future.

History of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is described as an experience that encompasses most of the senses, including sight, hearing, and touch, and represents an alternative to reality. The concept of virtual reality has made appearances in media going back almost a half century, usually shown as a futuristic plot device in books such as Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, or films like The Matrix. Thanks to advances in technology, the fictional virtual reality is coming close to actual reality. While virtual reality has been used in the private sector for a while, it has just recently become available to the more general public through a variety of devices for home use that have been released onto the market.

The origins of the concept of virtual reality are debated, mostly because there is no definitive time line that determines what an attempt at virtual reality would look like. In fact, one of the reasons why pinpointing an origin is difficult is that those who were trying to create a virtual reality didn't have a cohesive term to use when describing their work. It wasn't until the 1980s that Jaron Lanier of VPL (visual programming lab) Research coined the term. (2) So though it did not have an established name until the mid-1980s, work was being done in this field far earlier.

Some people look at the panoramic paintings of the 1800s as the first attempt at virtual reality. By creating larger works that could be spread around a circular room, panoramic paintings allowed the viewer a more immersive experience than a flat scene. Although they lacked the complete sensory displacement that is associated with modern virtual reality, panoramic paintings gave viewers an experience that they would not have received by looking at a flat piece of art.

While these paintings could be thought of as the first steps toward virtual reality, other people believe that the development of photography brought us closer to the modern idea of virtual reality. Photography itself was created in order to capture reality, which it did much more precisely than the aforementioned paintings. In fact, the idea of putting two photographs side by side with mirrors in an ocular device in order to trick the brain into seeing three dimensions is something that was developed in the 1830s by Charles Wheatstone and called a stereoscope. (3) His idea was then improved upon by William Gruber, who released the first View-Master and founded a company that still survives and adapts for virtual reality today. …

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