Impact of AR on Cognitive Performance
Augmented Reality (AR) refers to the display of virtual elements alongside those in the real world. Augmented immersive environments offer challenges and opportunities in designing for enhanced cognitive performance (e.g. learning, memory, attention, etc.). The focus of this paper is to provide ITEC delegates a meta-analysis of current research findings that illuminate the uses, benefits, and limitations of AR technology for training and learning. For example, a review of recent AR research suggests the real/virtual juxtaposition of information can be used when visualization would otherwise be difficult, such as the inclusion of 3D components alongside 2D media. This combination of digital and physical elements creates immersion that facilitates critical thinking, problem solving, and communication. Research further indicates that the introduction of AR can improve understanding and memory of material as well as raise the level of engagement during presentation of information.
Another potential benefit of AR is the reduction in cognitive load, or the mental effort involved in task performance. Cognitive load may be divided into three types: intrinsic (related to the inherent level of difficulty in task performance), germane (the construction of schemas that facilitate task performance), and extraneous or incidental (effort required based on the method of presentation or instruction). While intrinsic cognitive load is beyond the manipulation of an instructor, and germane cognitive load is desirable as it relates to identification of problem-solving strategies, extraneous cognitive load can and should be minimized in order to reserve cognitive resources to process the intrinsic and germane aspects of a task. Extraneous cognitive load is thought to be reduced with proper AR implementation.
While many researchers report the benefits of AR, there are nevertheless important limitations that should be considered. For instance, the majority of AR research in a learning context neglects professional learners seeking to develop expertise. In addition, AR implementation may not reduce cognitive load as a matter of course; it has been suggested that cognitive load may increase in an AR environment due to an increase in the amount of material or complexity of information presented.
This paper will explore findings and gaps in current understanding of implementation methods and contexts for AR. Research from neuroscience, data science, communication, media studies, and cognitive science will provide the scientific foundation for this paper. Key take-aways for carefully blending both real and virtual spaces to achieve total immersion will be discussed. A solution space leveraging cognitive science, information design, augmented reality, and transmedia learning will highlight key challenges facing designers of contemporary military training and learning technology. Challenges discussed in the paper include but are not limited to interleaving information, technology, and media into the human storytelling process, and supporting cognitive performance in a digital twin age that is memorable, robust, and extendable.