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Human
beings always have been trying to create a visualization of what they see and
experience with their eyes and what their brain processes. This ties back till
to the Stone Age. Today, however, the population get more fascinated with
virtual settings, indistinguishable from reality, which we can augment at our
whim. In the pursuit of this ideal, researchers have developed several virtual
and augmented reality systems which is the first step into the new era of
visualization (Hupont, Gracia, Sanagustin,
& Gracia, 2015, p. 1).

 

Immersive
systems are technologies which allow the user to immerse in an interactive
world whether it is totally virtual (virtual environment) or mixed reality
(augmented reality) which is going to be explained in the following paragraphs.
The term immersion is a metaphorical term which is derived from the physical
experience of being submerged in water. Immersion involves a sensical deep dive
into a virtual environment as if it were real (Murray, 1998, p. 124). Immersion involves the
phenomenon of an entirely different which surrounds an individual. Witmer and Singer (1998) define immersion as “a
psychological state characterized by perceiving oneself to be enveloped by,
included in, and interacting with an environment that provides a continuous
stream of stimuli and experiences” (p. 227). So far, there are two
constructs in human-computer studies related to immersion which are called
presence and telepresence. Presence is characterized as the subjective feeling
of either existence within a given environment or being present (Heeter, 1992, p. 265;
Shim & Kim, 2003, pp. 375–376; Steuer, 1992, pp. 73–75). On the other side, telepresence
is defined as the experience of presence in an environment through means of a
communication medium (Dede, 1995, p. 48;
Steuer, 1992, pp. 75–76).

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However,
immersion can be experienced in many different ways depending on the context
and depending on that the different aspects of the experience become important.
In virtual reality systems, which can be for example a head mounted display or
CAVE-like systems, which is defined as a surround-screen projection-based
virtual reality, the user is completely surrounded by the virtual environment
in which he can make a full 360 turn. Besides realistic images and sounds some
VR systems manage to include synthetic tactile stimuli and smells to make the
experience even more real. Moreover, those VR systems are designed to be as
realistic and detailed as possible in how a person responds to the environment
with body movement, voice input, and object manipulation (Coomans & Timmermans,
1997, pp. 282–284). Csikszentmihalyi (1991) introduced the term ‘flow’ which
is defined as the state in which an individual is when he/she is intensely
absorbed in an activity. The scholar proposed the idea of ‘flow’ to describe a
positive experience in which individuals perceive a congruence of skills and
challenges. Individuals achieve this state when they are intensely involved in
an activity and are experiencing a high level of enjoyment and fulfilment.
Because of the fact that individuals enjoy this state they are willing to put
more effort to reach and sustain that sate with little concern for their
surroundings or what they will be achieving by it (pp. 43–50).

 

In
game-related context it is obvious that video games provide people with similar
experiences like flow in which individuals constantly engaging and enjoying
themselves at the same time. Due to the fact that flow is an optimal and thus a
hard achievable state, researchers often apply the term “immersion” instead of
using flow to describe the experiences of a video game play (Brown & Cairns, 2004,
p. 1297). Immersion is considered as a
suboptimal and non-extreme sate like flow. It rather implies a precondition of
flow. Generally, immersion is used to describe the degree of involvement,
whereas flow is used to describe an optimal state where individuals are completely
involved and absorbed by the activity (Cheng, She, & Annetta,
2015, pp. 234–235). In their research, Brown and Cairns (2004) conducted in-depth interviews
with experienced gamers to develop a clear definition for immersion. They
employed grounded theory to investigate game immersion and came up to the
result that immersion is compromised of three stages: engagement, engrossment,
and total immersion. Furthermore, they identified barriers for each stage. Some
of the barriers can only be removed by human activity, such as concentration
while others can only be removed by the game itself. Each level or stage are
only possible to achieve when the barriers to that level are removed. The first
stage of immersion is called engagement. This stage represents the first and
lowest level of immersion and it needs to occur before any other level. In
order to achieve the next stage of immersion the gamer have to invest a lot of
time, effort, and attention to lower the barriers to this stage. If the user
dislikes the style of a gameplay they probably will not even try to engage with
it which would mean that this game failed to capture the user and let him/her
immerse into the virtual world. If the user however likes the style of the
game, he/she will invest their time and effort into the game and focus their
attention on it. With increasing investment of time and effort the user
gradually becomes more focused and as a result the engagement with the game
increases. The second stage of immersion proposed by Brown and Cairns is
engrossment. In order to achieve this state, the user needs to become further
involved with the game than in stage engagement to become engrossed. The game
construction represents the barrier of this stage. An individual’s perceptions
of their physical surroundings and physical needs become lower and their
emotions are directly attached to the game. While experiencing engrossment, the
game gets most of the gamers attention which leads to less awareness of the
surroundings and also less self-awareness. When accomplishing engrossment
successfully, the users’ emotions are directly affected by the game and they
will feel emotionally drained when they stop playing. The third and final stage
is total immersion which equals presence, the sense of ‘being there’. In this
stage the gamer completely loses its self-awareness and totally dived into the
virtual world (Brown & Cairns, 2004,
pp. 1298–1299; Cheng et al., 2015, p. 235).

 

Referring
to the different ways to immerse into different realities, Milgram and Kishino
(1994) have proposed a taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays which has the
real world on the one extremum and the virtual environment on the other
extremum. Virtual reality was first reported in the 1960s as a simulation tool.
Since then, with the rapid change in technology there were different forms of
virtual reality introduced. The set of new forms rank from 2D monitor-based to
3D immersive and sophisticated set up (Milgram & Kishino,
1994, pp. 1325–1326; Nee & Ong, 2013, p. 15).

 

Virtual Reality receives an increasing
amount of attention from science as well as from business. At the beginning of
VR only the entertainment value of was accepted. Nowadays, people get convinced
of the potential of VR especially as a medium for easier communication between
humans and computers. The society is increasingly generating large amounts of
information. As a result, the question how to use this information efficiently
arises. VR is regarded as one of the most promising solution for this question
because of the capacity to communicate large amounts of data in an easily
understandable format. Virtual Reality is defined as “the use of a
computer-generated 3D environment – called a ‘virtual environment’ (VE) – that one
can navigate and possibly interact with, resulting in real-time simulation of
one or more of the user’s five senses” (Guttentag, 2010, p. 638). Navigate refers to the ability to move around and explore the VE.
With interact the ability to select and move objects within the VE is meant (Gutiérrez, Thalmann, &
Vexo, 2008, pp. 1–2; Vince, 2004, pp. 1–2). Virtual Reality environment is characterized as an environment in
which the user totally enters and interacts in a completely synthetic world. In
such a world some real-world environments may be visualized. In addition, it
also exceeds the boundaries of the real environment by overruling the existing
physical laws of the real world e.g. material properties, mechanics, and time.
Since the emergence of Augmented Reality – mixture of the real environment and
the virtual environment – the term “Mixed Reality” is no longer in common use.
Since its evolution, augmented reality is closely tied to virtual reality. It
is regarded as an extension, or variation, of virtual reality (Milgram & Kishino,
1994, p. 1326).

 

Both Gutiérrez et al. (2008, pp. 2–3) and Guttentag (2010, pp. 638–639) emphasize that interactivity is an essential component of VR. A VR
experience can be described by two factors. One is the capacity to provide
physical immersion and the other is the psychological presence. Within this,
immersion is related to the extent to which a user dives into a virtual world.
In a total immersive system, the user in totally embedded in an VE and has no
interaction the real world while in ‘semi-immersive’ or ‘nonimmersive system’
the user still has some contact with the real world. The level of immersion
enabled by VR can be related to the concept of presence. Gutiérrez et al. (2008) argue that presence is achieved when people act and behave in a VE
in a way they would do in a similar real-life situation (p. 3). In VR the feelings of presence are subjective by nature and can be
associated with a user’s psychology. Anyway, it is intensively influenced by a
VR system’s capacity to provide high quality data to the user’s senses. Since
the emergence of VR in the 1960s the capacity of such technology to provide
such high quality, sensory data improved significantly in an intense that
modern VR systems are already quite sophisticated (Nee & Ong, 2013,
p. 15).

 

Every VR system requires some hardware so
that the user’s actions can be interpreted so that the VE can respond to it
accordingly. The theoretical explanation of how VR works seems to be rather
simple. VR systems track the motion of hand-held objects or a user’s head or
limbs. Afterwards, the received data is used to adapt the user’s view,
navigation, interaction with objects in the virtual world. Although, the types
of input hardware increased a lot, it still can be as simple as a mouse,
joystick, or fixed, mechanical arm with a visual display at one end (Guttentag, 2010, p. 638). Nevertheless, even more sophisticated devices which include
interactive gloves, voice recognition software, and wands such as Nintendo’s
Wii, are already used. Beyond this, even the movement of a user’s body can be
tracked with the use of body suits which continuously collect data of the body
movements in order to adapt the avatar’s movements in the virtual world.
Technologies used for such interaction are optical sensors, ultrasonic sound,
infrared emitters, or electromagnetic fields (Burdea & Coiffet, 2003,
pp. 16–40).

 

Since VR technology continuously evolve, it
is predictable that such systems will improve their ability to stimulate each
of the five senses. Also, the way how the user interacts with its avatar in the
VE will be much more sophisticated as it is nowadays.

 

Augmented reality is very similar to
virtual reality. They have many characteristics in common. Both systems are
interactive, immersive, and include information sensitivity. While in virtual
reality users’ environment is totally embedded into a virtual world, the users’
environment in augmented reality is still within the real world but it contains
virtual objects superimposed like objects seem to coexist in the same place.
Augmented reality allows the user to interact with virtual objects in the real
environment by allowing digital content to be seamlessly overlaid and mixed
into our perceptions of the real world (Yuen et al., 2011,
pp. 121–123; Zhou, Duh, & Billinghurst, 2009, p. 193). AR basically transforms volumes of data and analytics into images
or animations. Today most AR applications are delivered through mobile devices,
but increasingly delivery will shift to hands-free wearables such as
head-mounted displays or smart glasses It is an emerging form of experience in
which the real environment is enhanced by computer-generated content which is
tied to specific locations and activities. AR applications provide a sort of
X-ray vision, revealing internal features that would be difficult to see
otherwise. Augmented reality content can be displayed in different ways. One of
the newest way are web applications which allow the user to scan quick response
(QR) codes with their device in order to display digital content such as 3D
animations, images, cards, figures, and avatars on the display. Usually when
the user moves or rotates the marker image, the digital content also moves or
rotates. Another possible way to display AR content is the usage of head
mounted display (HMD). HMD’s typically covers the eyes of a user while wearing
them which allows the user to see digital content on the HMD screen and their
real environment through the screen. AR is seen as the cutting edge of modern
society’s social-technology development (Yuen et al., 2011,
pp. 6–7).

 

According to Huotari and Hamari (2012) the term ‘gameification’ had its first appearance in a blog post by
Brett Terill in 2008. Following his definition, he described the term as the
process of taking game mechanics and applying them to other web properties to
increase engagement (p. 18). The terminology gamification has emerged as a new
IS trend and is defined as the “use of game design elements in non-game
contexts” (Deterding,
Sicart, Nacke, O’Hara, & Dixon, 2011, pp. 24–25). According to Hamari, Koivisto, and Sarsa (2014) gamification is defined as “a process of enhancing services with
affordances in order to invoke gameful experiences and further behavioural
outcomes” (p. 3026). Within this definition, some scholars underline the role of
gamification in invoking the same psychological experiences as games usually do
(Huotari & Hamari,
2012, p. 17). The
concept of gamification contains three main parts:

1.       the implemented motivational
affordances

2.       the resulting psychological outcomes

3.       the further behavioural outcomes.

 

The intention of business with gamification
in business-to-consumer context is to increase customer engagement. During the
last years businesses gained more interest in this topic with the intention to
introduce game mechanics on the job in order to increase the work engagement
and job performance of the employees. Nowadays the enterprise wide information
systems e.g. as ERP, CRM, or SCM are easily work as mediator to introduce game
techniques like scoreboards or fast feedback on top of the actual business
processes (Herzig,
Ameling, & Schill, 2012, pp. 219–221).

 

During
the last years many researchers, academic institutes, and universities have
started to explore the usability of augmented reality technology in order to
address some major difficulties in different business fields like
manufacturing. The idea e.g. in the manufacturing industry is to create an
effective simulation just before any operation is done. This would ensure that
this procedure eliminates many trials and re-works, it would save material,
energy, and labour. Virtual reality applications on the other hand have already
been well reported in many areas. It already finds use in many industries
including tourism, engineering, property, training,
recruiting, medicine, and prototyping. Virtual reality in the tourism industry
can be used in order to enhance the sale experience by enabling the customers a
virtual reality tours of the destinations, the hotel facilities, and the city
itself. In engineering the technology could help engineers and designers to
show off goods and services to potential clients. In the property sector estate
agents already use immersive systems to show people round properties which also
have a crucial and large impact on architecture. Soon it will become part of a
normal workflow in which the architecture and construction have the possibility
to turn design into virtual models. Many scholars share the opinion that
virtual and augmented reality will probably have the largest impact on human
resources processes like training and recruiting (Nee & Ong, 2013,
pp. 24–26).

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