21 Functions

Blair M. Taylor, David Thrumston, and Andrew Max Derby

Interactive Technologies are constantly changing the way the world works, no matter what you use it for, be it entertainment, education, or in some distant business, technology reinvents many aspects of life. The term interactive technology describes many different types of digital media hence the technology. What makes these media interactive, is that they all respond to the user’s actions (Interactive Media). As one could imagine there are so many different types of interactive technologies, from the internet to video games and even into the future with augmented reality. The uses for these technologies are endless, and new uses and interactions are created each day.

In this section two types of interactive technologies are discussed, augmented reality and video games. Augmented reality as you will find out deals with casting a digital component on to the real world, this technology has been and will continue to be used with in many fields including medical, manufacturing, and education. We will also look at the various functions of video games.

Augmented Reality 

Augmented Reality or AR for short, is an extension of virtual reality (Mind Commerce). Virtual Reality is a way of mimicking reality with technology, physically it’s a three-dimensional computer-generated environment (Virtual Reality Society). Augmented Reality is a way of added a virtual aspect to our day to day live. These additions are typically interactive platforms that are meant to enhance some aspect of life (Reality Technologies). These enhancements target our senses, for instance they can be used to improve how we see things. Augmented Reality is essentially overlaying a virtual component to the physical world and allows for further user interaction.

Augmented Reality has had a growing interest. This interest has many advantages that virtual reality does not. One of these advantages comes from the idea that developers do not need to spend as much time or effort working on AR as they do on VR because they do not need to develop the entire virtual scene (Mind Commerce). Another component of growing popularity of augmented reality has to do with data speeds becoming LTE. With cellphones now having LTE data this allows for greater speeds to perform tasks. This along with smartphones having global positioning software (GPS) and geomagnetic sensors, allows developers to interact with these aspects of new more interactive ways.

Education and Entertainment 

“There is a desire for virtual reality in our culture that one can quite fairly characterize as a yearning” (Penny, Simon). This yearning for VR is almost and expectation for AR. Augmented Reality has and will become a great teaching tool across many different fields. Let’s begin with talking about entertainment. Augmented reality can be used throughout different media platforms, video games are one of the strongest examples here. A model app game that was quite popular happens to be one of the most recognized instances of augmented reality. Pokémon Go was an extremely popular game that combined the use of the GPS system and cameras any other technologies found in smartphones to deliver an Augmented Reality experience. Users would be able to use a space they physically occupied and use their phone as a lens to see digitally rendered Pokémon and capture them (Isaac). If you are interested to find out more about the AR experience that Pokémon Go provides the following link takes you to an article detailing the experience. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/technology/pokemon-go-brings-augmented-reality-to-a-mass-audience.htm

Moving beyond Pokémon Go is something that some diehard fans of the game are still not able to do, but other forms of entertainment are able to give you the same AR experience. Smartphone applications such as Snapchat develop a AR by overlaying digital components on you face.  Entertainment might be one creative element that AR has many active roles but are by far the least important.

Augmented reality technology is also a great teaching tool across many different fields, and for any level of education. Children best learn by having hands on experiences with the material, learning is promoted when children can create and interact with the material (Nesloney). Augmented reality allows teachers to create sections of digital information which fold over the natural world (Nesloney). Children are able to manipulate and control these layers. Museums use this augmented reality digital overlay to interact with patrons and this same thing is now used in class rooms. But besides just being another information layer that you can move around and see the topic at different angles, augmented reality can also be used in many other ways. Some applications allow students to see result from chemical reactions before they complete them. Moving away from children Augmented reality has been used during training within a few different professions for many years. NASA uses a mix of VR and AR to train astronauts and the use of these technologies in education of any kind is only on the rise.

Healthcare

Augmented Reality in the healthcare field has help save lives. Being a health care professional there are many different pieces of information that is needed to accurately treat patients. One simple way that augmented reality is already being used to help in healthcare is essentially a vein scanner. A common problem with children or the elderly when blood needs to be drawn is often locating a vein, this leads to more pain for the patients and taking more time. AccuVein is one of the leading companies in this vein scanning technology which is a digital overlay that shows the user the location of the veins so that they can be more actuate with the procedures (Levski). This is just one way that is already in use of augmented reality in the health care field and there are so many more.

According to Medical Futurist there are two different ways that augmented reality will improve the medical field. The first being used during training and education of doctors and other healthcare professionals. The second is to enhance the accuracy of procedures, diagnosis, and future care. Procedures become more actuate when surgeons can better visualize, and can access data in real time. Smart glasses can allow this to happen without the doctor having to take their eyes off the patient, for more information about smart glasses please look at the aside. With diagnosis patients will be able to better inform the doctor of symptoms, and doctors would be able to get to the root of the issues faster. More specifically, augmented reality would be used to show visual statistics and almost x-ray like depictions, which would aid in diagnostics and during procedures (Levski).  As for the third advantage augmented reality would be able aid in is future care, augmented reality could potential show patients, what and how much they need to take, or an action they need to complete in real time. The doctors would also have access to this regimen to keep track of how the patient is doing, and get up to the moment information.

Manufacturing 

Augmented Reality in manufacturing can be used in so many different ways from general operations to maintenance and quality control. General operations deal with planning of manufacturing, one why this occurs is through floor plans, augmented reality can transform the way that these plans or worked out. The way that a factory floor is set up needs to be practical and safe, when developers can physically be a part of their plans it can help them be more successful. With augmented reality developers can see their models in detail and plan how best to use the space. This same planning and execution with augmented reality works just as well in the terms of an assembly line or another process in manufacturing. This goes beyond the development and can be used during production as well (Barkai).

Mobile applications in the business world help tackle some large manufacturing issues as well. Beyond being able to use in maintenance and troubleshooting issues with machinery, technicians are now able to read levels, check systems, and get advanced assistance without having to look further than their phone. These mobile apps use your phone’s camera and displays the different parts in highlighted colors, and identifies problem areas. If for example you where try to make a repair you could see the steps done for you as you try to complete them in real life. Doing this with your cell phone might be convenient but being able to use both hands is an advantage that smart glasses give. In manufacturing the most popular use of smart glasses are in maintenance. The major advantage of augmented reality in maintenance is that it commonly cuts down on repair time, which saves the company money in the long run (Cerasis).

The aid of augmented reality in manufacturing promotes the best quality products. When it comes to manufacturing its nearly always in bulk so if there are mistakes they can be very expensive to fix. Catching mistakes and preventing them in the first place is what every company want to be able to do well, otherwise they can lead to recalls. Some companies have been able to use AR to project directions to the workers on to a work surface so that they can follow the most exact instructions. As far as quality control goes some companies have taken a practice of displaying what the product should look like on the product that needs to be reviewed so any differences would be seen better (Light Guide Systems). AR has been in the manufacturing world for many years now and its potential uses are always growing.

Smart Glasses- Ever since 2012 augmented reality in the form of wearable technology has become a topic of much intrigue. In April of 2012 Google announced project glass, which introduced the world to Google Glass which while not the first is the most famous smart glasses technology (Glass Almanac). Backing up from Google Glass for a moment, smart glasses in general are glasses with a digital display of some kind. Most are able to project images, take pictures, give live feedback, and some can even allow the wearer to manipulate three dimensional objects (Glass). Google glasses are the most widespread and used smart glasses. Another Popular brand is Icis, which are appealing because they look like average glasses. Google Glasses are used in the medical field, in entertainment, and in manufacturing the most. To find out more about the uses of Google Glass visit http://www.x.company/glass/.

The expectations for media platforms are now to be interactive, augmented reality is a natural progression. AR is ultimately a way of making digital technology help any tangible object work better for the users. Augmented reality can come in endless different forms and have infinite uses. With its growing fan base and the advantage, it gives to developers, it is simple to see that augmented reality will only gain relevance. From finding veins in hospitals to learning about the solar system augmented reality service many functions to many fundamental part of society.

Video Games 

 Video games are a growing form of media and are becoming competitive with the film and music industry. In recent years, there have been many films that have turned into video games. These type of video games allow players to change potential storylines and character developments of the film counterparts. The user is given a new sense of creativity and most enjoy it. By giving players the control to change things from the movie, opens up the game and change the outcome and makes the plot more unique. By creating video games based upon films it gives the user control and allows them give new plots and storylines to their favorite characters. Within a lot of fanbases of video games communities form and these groups try to enhance gameplay by making modifications or mods.

A major function of video games is entertainment. The entertainment world gives some individuals creativity, inspiration a better sense of culture then known previous. A lot of these traits are common in video games among other forms of media. Critics believe some forms of entertainment allow people to escape from their problems, and promote cultural stereotypes unofficially. Video games allow the user to escape their daily lives into an artificial world made by developers or one they created themselves.

Modding 

Video game modification or modding for short, allows players to immerse themselves into the video game even further. With the use of cheat codes, or rewiring coding within the game, users can make changes to the game (Sotamaa 244). Modding allows players to showcase their creative and artistic side in games such as The Sims franchise and Grand Theft Auto franchise. Most mods in games usually tend to be infinite health, infinite weapons, new clothing and infinite money. Players create mods to help and make the game more enjoyable for other players and themselves. The Modding community also allows players to meet other individuals with similar interests. Video game developers are very against the modding community, because they are rewiring the game and using 3rd party files to compromise the original data (Sotamaa 249). Gamers typically use mods to make the game enjoyable use after use and make each playthrough different then the last. Most of the mods are not only for game customization but also allows the player to “fix” bugs in the game. A big issue with modding is authorship or who gets credit for the creation and rights of these mods (Sotamaa 249).

PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE: As a long time gamer and small time developer I can safely say that video games are unique in the fact that they focus almost entirely on working with the player to create an entertaining and unique story. They bring an experience to the table that almost no other form of media can provide. They are more interactive than movies, more engaging and story focused than the internet, and more developed than virtual and augmented reality. Few other mediums allow the player to choose where the stories go or how they want to interact with the world. Games have gotten so advanced in recent years that they are able to emulate entire, seemingly living, worlds for players to explore. – David Thrumston

Complexity

In 2011 Bethesda Game Studios released one of the most influential games in the last decade The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim (Skyrim for short). Skyrim featured one of the largest open worlds of the time that contained hundreds of non-player characters that all had schedules and routines that they went about each day. The player is almost immediately set loose to wander this world and interact with its residents, learning their stories and completing quests for them. “The success of the genre lies not only in quests, interesting characters, and endless opportunities for adventure, but also in simply allowing you to feel like you are in the world. Whether you wish to wander varied terrain, lounging in a tavern, hunt deer, sit by a waterfall, or pick flowers, you are provided compelling opportunities to do so.”(Dikkers 13) No other form of media would allow someone to do this short of playing classic roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons.

Interaction between players

In 2004 Blizzard entertainment released a game that allowed players to do something totally different: interact and play with thousands of other players at the same time. World of Warcraft is a Massive Multiplayer Online game (MMO) that’s key feature is the ability for thousands of players to exist in the same world space at once and play together. While World of Warcraft was not the first of its kind it set the standard for experiences where thousands of people could interact and shape a story together, something that would have been impossible only a few years before hand. Not only has this level of mass cooperation made Blizzard millions, having earned “over an estimated amount of $9.23 billion since its release in 2004” (Leack), but it has gone on to inspire books, a movie, and countless other forms of media to create stories about the game’s world and players. The video game industry has caught the attention of the world and everyone is watching to see what will happen next.

“Over the past decade, gaming has, for a variety of reasons, become a hotbed of experimentation. These experiments have resulted in a new practices and business models — some of them surprising and counter-intuitive — that provide valuable lessons for the rest of the media industry.” (Dixon) As Dixon says video games are revolutionizing interactive media in ways that few other media types are capable. Whether it’s through creating deep and living worlds for players to explore and then letting thousands explore them together, allowing users to create their own unique content through modding, or just being a fun and immersive source of entertainment, video games are quickly becoming the leading force in interactive media innovation.

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Introduction to Media Studies by Blair M. Taylor, David Thrumston, and Andrew Max Derby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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