How Can The Church Use Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality?

Look around you. Technology is everywhere. From ovens with WiFi, to home security controlled from you cell phone, and even cars that park themselves. It’s seems like everyday some new incredible technological advancement is on the market to make our lives interesting or easier. There are certain technologies that used to be only seen in movies, but are quickly on the rise. How will the Church utilize virtual reality and augmented to help advance the Kingdom?

 

Let’s begin by establishing a groundwork of each technology in order to ensure we are on the same page.

 

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer technology that uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment.[1]

 

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, haptics or GPS data.[2] This AR can be viewed through a cell phone, tablet, or similar device.

For another explanation on the differences between AR and VR check out this article.

 

Both of these technologies are earning an incredible amount of attention, not only from the scientific community, but every other facet of society as well. And they’re not just available to the social elite either. They are rapidly becoming “financially available” to the masses.

The latest iPhone X boasts its own virgin attempt at incorporating augmented reality technology into the hands of countless cell phone owners. The reviews and previews of the technology look very promising. This is just a glimpse at what lies ahead.

So what does all of this technological advancement mean for Christ followers, the Gospel, and the advancement of the Kingdom?

 

Here are just a few ways I think the Body of Christ can benefit from, and utilize these amazing (and quickly advancing) technologies.

  1. Interactive study Bibles (AR)
  2. Immersive Bible experiences (VR)
  3. Interactive Holy Land tours (AR)

 

Interactive Study Bibles (AR)

What if study Bibles were no longer just black and red ink on paper, but actually came alive through the power of augmented reality? I mean, everyone already has their smart phone with them 24/7 anyway. Why not put their power to greater use?

As you read through the Bible you could bring your phone over preprogrammed verses that bring up images, videos, informational tabs, and/or geographical maps through the power of Augmented Reality.

Bible reading today consists of the words on the page and maybe reading some commentary by a pastor, speaker, or theologian. What if we could make every day Bible reading and Bible study interactive and come alive?

 

Immersive Bible Experiences (VR)

Virtual Reality uses the power of external devices to create simulated and artificial environments, but what if we just recreated the surroundings that Jesus would have seen when He walked the streets of Jerusalem, Gethsemane, or Bethany?

Imagine standing in the crowd and actually watching the woman caught in adultery being thrown at Jesus’s feet. Imagine if you could watch the Lord stoop down to write in the dirt. Another Virtual Reality possibility could entail being in the boat as the wind and waves toss it back and forth. You are able to watch Peter step out on the waves, or better yet you could be in Peter’s shoes and step out of the boat onto the waves.

How much richer would your faith be not only seeing scripture this way, but encountering it in a 3D experiential fashion?

You could even take a Virtual tour of Biblical Jerusalem, by recreating historical sites, narratives, and encounters through the power of Virtual Reality.

 

Interactive Holy Land Tours (AR)

Imagine taking a trip to Jerusalem and walking down the streets, seeing the sights, and taking pictures. You open the camera on your phone and snap a picture. Not only does it take the picture of the historic site for you, but through the power of Augmented Reality it brings up historical pictures, an immersive video, or even plays an augmented video scene of Jesus and the disciples in that area.

From what I hear, just walking around Jerusalem can be a Spiritual encounter, but the use of Augmented Reality could exponentially heighten that experience.

 

I think the Church has a very bright future and the possibility to impact the world in an entirely new way.

This means we need men and women to begin getting trained in writing Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), and Augmented Reality programming. The Church was never called to be counter cultural, we are called to influence and impact the culture we live in with the reality of The Kingdom.

With these emerging technologies we have the opportunity to use them for incredible purposes.

Technology can be an idol or an icon. An idol puts the focus on itself, and off of God. An icon points to something beyond itself, to something greater…God. (Thanks to my lead mentor Len Sweet for pointing out this distinction.) Let’s allow Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality be icons that help Christ followers have a deeper faith; and allows those who have never heard about Christ, to encounter Him in a powerful and sensory-submersive experience.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

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