Multimedia is the use of several different media to convey information (text, audio, graphics, animation, video, and interactivity). Multimedia also refers to computer media.
As the information is presented in various formats, multimedia enhances user experience and helps grasping information better and faster.
Presenting information in various formats is nothing new to human beings, but multimedia generally implies presenting information in various digital formats. Although it is also used in visual arts to describe works created using more than one medium.
Multimedia finds its application in various areas including, but not limited to, Education , Entertainment, Engineering, Medicine, Mathematical and Scientific Research.
In education, multimedia is used to produce Computer Based Training courses (popularly called CBTs), reference books like encyclopedias and alamanacs.
A CBT lets the user go through a series of presentation, text about a particular topic and associated illustrations in various information formats.
An electronic multimedia encyclopedia can present information in better ways than a traditional encyclopedia can. So the user has more fun and learns fast. For instance, an article on World War II can include hyperlinks of countries involved in the war. When a user clicks on a hyperlink, he/she is redirected to an detailed article about that country. In addition, it can include a video on Pacific Campaign. It can also present images which are maps pertinent to World War II.
Hyperlinks let a user access information in a non-linear fashion as opposed to print materials which are essentially linear (It is said that our brain thinks in a non-linear way). This, when added to multiple elements such as pictures, photos, audio and video can speed-up learning and improve user experience (It is also said that some people learn better by seeing than reading and some others by rather listening).
Multimedia is heavily used in entertainment industry, especially to develop special effects in movies and animiation for cartoon characters. Multimedia games, which are software programs available either as CD-ROMs or online are a popular pastime. Some video games also use multimedia features.
A multimedia application, in which an user actively participates, instead of just sitting as a passive recepient of information is called, Interactive Multimedia. An example is an interactive multimedia game.
For instance, a user can play a simulated multimedia soccer match without actually being in the ground. The simulation is just an illusion, but it makes the user think that he or she plays a real match. The environment is created by using many equipments of control like headset, goggles, joystick, sensors and by coordinating various multimedia components with a technique called virtual reality. They provide an environment which is experienced by users as similar to reality. This technique is used in some arcade games and also in flight simulators, to impart training to pilots, without having to go for a real flight.
In Engineering, especially in Mechanical and Automobile Engineering, multimedia is primarily used for designing a machinery or automobile. This lets an Engineer view a product from various perspectives, zoom critical parts and do other manipulations, before actually producing it. This is known as Computer Aided Design (CAD).
In Medicine, doctors can get trained by looking at a virtual surgery (without it actually being performed) or they can simulate how human body is affected by diseases spread by viruses and bacteria and then develop techniques to prevent the same.
In Mathematical and Scientific Research, multimedia is mainly used for modelling and simulation. For example, a scientist can look at a molecular model of a particular substance and manipulate it to arrive at a new substance.