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PANAMA CITY — Imagine reading a book where characters leap off the page, or walking down a street where the stores offer you a holographic greeter.

That is the world of augmented reality (AR), said Gulf Coast State College (GCSC) Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Dean Steve Dunnivant.

“AR brings fantasy to life. It merges the real world in front of you with a ‘layer’ of information and virtual intelligence,” Dunnivant said. The college explored AR when planning the ATC, Dunnivant said, with three students having worked on a hologram that is now displayed in the ATC lobby. With AR combining the skills of design and 3D technology, GCSC’s design programs recently were expanded by Professor Antonio Adessi in developing a certificate in rapid prototyping and fabrication. Assistant Professor of Digital Media Erica Goines, meanwhile, expanded the college’s digital media program and its 3D software offerings.

A study from August 2013 by the AR and interactive print company Layar said mobile AR apps at that time generated nearly $300 million in revenue and was projected to grow to $5.2 billion by 2017, according to digital market research specialists Juniper Research. And AR is just one part of an increasingly digital world.

‘Game changer’ Virtual reality (VR), similar to augmented reality but distinctly different, places users in a completely simulated world. In Orlando, the company Serious Simulations is using VR and AR in training for military and emergency personnel and others who work in high-danger jobs. The infantry training project Serious Simulations offers allows a full range of physical motion, where trainees suit up just like they would for combat, said CEO and co-founder Christopher Chambers. The simulation takes the same technology used in a video game but with a different aim, Chambers said.

“We’re not trying to entertain people,” Chambers said. “We’re trying to train them.”

Trainees bring their real-life equipment to the virtual session, which adds to the immersive experience, Chambers said. The simulation can be so real users lose the sense they’re training, he said. This, in turn, induces high stress levels, but Chambers said that’s a positive. “That stress is very, very important ... because it focuses an individual’s attention and they attain a higher training outcome,” Chambers said. The company is just over a year old, though Chambers said he has been involved in simulation and training technology for many years. Chambers was an Army officer and become involved in “America’s Army,” a computer game the New York Times said “was produced by the military and aimed at winning the hearts and minds of tech-minded teenagers.”

“[VR] has become the big game changer in training because it allows so much flexibility,” Chambers said. “It is the wave of the future.”

What’s trending The virtual tour company RTV Inc., located in northern Michigan, is taking note of the rise of new technology and planning to adapt. By this year, RTV, which works with real estate agents and business owners, wants to use 3D technology that can enable a panoramic view of property during a virtual tour.

“You can’t stay in the same place. ... Part of our success is looking at what’s trending and taking advantage of that technology,” RTV digital imaging specialist and social media coordinator Jay Stringham said.

RTV has been around since 1999 and is a hosting platform for virtual tours. RTV sells virtual tour and home staging software on its website, along with professional photography services. The virtual tours, said RTV Vice President and founder Jason LaVanture, can involve still images, voiceovers and virtual clips that take a person to another place without leaving their seat. Virtual tours are limited only by the imagination of their creator, LaVanture said, with some being intense and detailed.

LaVanture said when the company began, a lot of real estate agents were still mailing out VHS tapes of their property. LaVanture and others at RTV wanted to bridge the gap they saw in real estate productions.

The end goal for RTV is to get customers to want to visit a place and schedule a home showing with a realtor based on a virtual tour, LaVanture said. Customers always should demand a virtual tour, he said.

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