ThinkBalm defines the Immersive Internet (or immersive web) as a a version of the online world that incorporates advanced technologies to enhance user engagement and blur the line between the user’s physical reality and the digital environment.
It is a collection of emerging technologies combined with a social culture that has roots in gaming and virtual worlds, opening up new dimensions in collaboration, engagement, and context.
Immersive technologies integrate virtual content with the physical environment in a way that allows the user to engage naturally with the blended reality. The user accepts virtual elements into their environment as part of the whole, potentially becoming less conscious that those elements are not part of physical reality and becoming more immersed in the experience as a result.
Immersive technologies include
- virtual reality (VR), which replaces the user’s physical environment with digital content;
- augmented reality (AR), which overlays digital content over the user environment; and
- mixed reality (MR) which combines digital content with the physical environment in a way that enables interaction among and with both types of elements.
Think IMAX® movies, surround sound, and World of Warcraft® applied to the Web and business applications, and you’ve got the Immersive Internet. What we once called virtual worlds as a catch-all category now only describes one small piece of the picture.
Gaming is to be the first widely-used application of the immersive web, but as immersive technologies become more sophisticated, web-based VR, AR, MR and other immersive technologies are likely to become more common in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, retail, architecture, design, travel and real estate.
Immersive web-based shopping, for example, could allow you to
- try out different furniture in your home,
- try on clothes or apply cosmetics.
- An immersive real estate app could allow the user to walk through a home for sale.
Immersive telepresence could enable virtual collaboration. A video conference is a live, visual connection between two or more people residing in separate locations for the purpose of communication. At its simplest, video conferencing provides transmission of static images and text between two locations. At its most sophisticated, it provides transmission of full-motion video images and high-quality audio between multiple locations.
In architecture, immersive experiences include first-person view walk-throughs of 3D-rendered CAD (computer-aided design) building plans.
Other important elements are immersive learning environments and virtual event platforms.
What these all have in common is that they engage — even engross — the person who is using them.
Immersive technologies are increasingly emphasized in user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design.
While designers would classically use combinations of Red, Green, and Blue, VR introduces a fourth element, which is Depth. And that can drastically change what is possible in a design.
VR is the most matured right now, but it’s also early enough to where UX patterns are still very much being defined.
Immersive web is an incredible opportunity that brings us back to the early days of the web, where everything was kind of wild and still being figured out. With that in mind, anyone could experiment with VR because it is fully accessible; the only thing users would need is an internet connection and a device. And that device could be ridiculously simple, like a cheap Android phone or a laptop.