Content Types Explained
Digital technology and display types have exploded over the last few years. All the terminology and the benefits of one kind of content or device over another can be very confusing.
Neural Impulse Media creates several types of digital content for our clients and this explanation will be limited to the ones we create or are experimenting with. We hope this explanation will help to clarify some of the acronyms and put some context around these technologies to make it easier to determine which one best serves the needs of your project.
Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Let’s start with the most popular terms, Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Collectively, the different “realities” are called Extended Reality or XR. So XR includes AR, VR, MR, and 360 mono and stereo video. The short definitions below describe what makes these content types different.
Extended Reality (XR)
Extended Reality (XR) includes all technologies that combine the real world with a virtual representation in some way on a computer, tablet, mobile device, or wearable device.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented Reality (AR) combines a camera view of the real world and adds digital assets to it. The digital assets are typically 3D animated models that are superimposed over the camera view on a cell phone, tablet, or headset. The placement of the digital asset can be anchored to a key image or object. It can also be placed in the world after the device scans the surrounding area to provide context and an anchor point.
For most AR content, the user is prompted to move the device around and the digital asset stays registered to the view of the real world so that it looks like it exists in the same space.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality (VR) utilizes a headset, blocks out the world entirely, and presents a view of digital content to the viewer in stereo. Stereo means that a slightly different view of the scene is presented to each eye much the same way our eyes perceive the real world. This trick creates depth and perspective for our brains to perceive as a real space we can move around in and interact with.
VR creates a very immersive and engaging experience. Creating the content has to be done with care, however, as the use of movement without proper control can induce nausea. Neural Impulse takes great care to create environments that are completely nausea free.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Mixed Reality (MR) takes AR a few steps further. As with AR, MR superimposes digital assets on our view of the real world, but without the camera in some cases. It uses glasses or a headset with a clear visor or lenses that display digital assets over the world seen through the headset.
Some devices also scan the surrounding environment so that it can place the digital assets behind objects in the view of the real world. Some also allow for digital objects to “sense” the surrounding environment and act accordingly depending on the complexity of the content. The current MR displays are very new so there are quite a few limitations that may affect your use case.
360 video is sometimes referred to as VR, but there are differences. Most 360 content is created with a video camera. A 360 camera is like a standard video camera but records video from several lenses facing in all directions at once. Software programs stitch the separate videos together and create a video sphere or partial sphere of the video content.
360 video is commonly viewed online like normal video but with the ability to use the mouse to move the view around. It can also be viewed in a VR headset so that the video sphere surrounds the viewer and they can look in all directions by turning their head. A more sophisticated camera setup creates a stereo view of the spherical content so that depth and perspective can be perceived when viewed in a headset.
3D animations can also be created in 360 and viewed in the same ways. 360 video and digital content can be combined to create very compelling experiences. The addition of interactivity can change a normally passive experience into a much more engaging one.