Augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) started gaining popularity in recent years, even though these technologies have been around for more than 30 years. Back then they were mostly used in the military aviation for flight simulations and head-mounted pilot displays, and much later in entertainment and gaming.
There are two main reasons why augmented and virtual reality didn’t found their way into the commercial world earlier: extremely high development costs and complexity of AR/VR devices. Of course, there are other challenges that the new technology meets every day. Augmented and virtual reality may offer different experiences, but they are currently delivered in very similar ways.
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Important Facts about Augmented & Virtual Realities
We see how things impossible yesterday are suddenly within our reach thanks to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). What we want to know is how does it work and why it is so popular?
Augmented reality amplifies experience, making it more meaningful through the ability to interact with computer-generated enhancements layered over reality. Simply put, computer generated graphics are used to augment the real environment.
The first head-mounted display system was created in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland, an American computer Scientist at Harvard University. He was the first one who described the future technology and built a prototype. Modern devices are mostly based on his model.
It took long before users got access to AR techs, but NASA has been using it since 1999. What is more, you might already have experienced the AR without knowing it, since some TV-shows started using it before augmented reality became mainstream. The best known example of AR now is the Pokemon Go App. But games aside, many companies use augmented reality to do amazing things with motion activated commands and holograms. Every year the industry leaders develop more and more AR-based apps for digital marketing.
In virtual reality, technology builds a virtual world that user can interact with. VR is usually made possible by wearing a VR helmet or special goggles. With VR the user is no longer in the common world or environment, he is entirely transported elsewhere.
The term “virtual reality” was conceived by Jaron Lanier in 1987, during an intense period of research dedicated to this technology. However, the consumers didn’t get interested in it until the 2010s. First users of VR were military and scientists, just the same as it was with AR. Virtual reality can be used to simulate a number of experiences and enhance them. Now, this technology is known to be used for entertainment, and many people think this is the only thing it could do. However, some of the best and most interesting virtual reality experiences out today have nothing to do with gaming. There are virtual reality travel experiences and virtual reality documentaries, just as an example.
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality
Augmented and virtual realities both leverage very similar types of technology and they both exist to serve the customer with an enhanced experience. Both typically use head tracking to follow the user’s movements. However, AR generally requires less processing power than VR as it doesn’t need to render a completely new environment. Additionally, both augmented and virtual realities have great potential in changing the landscape of many practical fields like medicine by making things like remote surgeries a real possibility. These technologies have already been used to treat and heal different conditions.
Although the technologies are similar, they are not the same. There are several main differences between AR and VR.
|Augmented Reality||Virtual Reality|
|Enhances reality by overlaying it with digital information, so the user is still in contact with the real environment during the AR experience. The user can interact with the “augmented” objects while being in contact with the real world.||Creates a completely computer-generated world, so the user loses contact with the real environment.|
|Wide variety of devices: AR headsets, laptops, tablets, smartphones; the user stays in contact with the real world.||Headsets that immerse the user’s vision and hearing into the virtual world.|
|Creates a new interactive layer over the real world; can be used for any practical purpose.||Can be used for theoretical lessons or studies, provides the opportunity to “visit” different places, become a part of the completely new world, etc.|
The market has a place for both AR and VR. However, experts claim that AR will gain commercial success more easily since its close connection to the real world helps people with many existing tasks. At the same time, there is no need to keep a strict line between the two technologies, since they don’t always operate independently of each other. Just the opposite, they are often fused together to generate an even more immersive experience.
Augmented & Virtual Realities: Business Implementation
Augmented & Virtual Reality are among the hottest technological trends worldwide. Many industry leaders have already applied VR and AR opportunities to improve their customer service, engage clients in the product development process or to create a completely new way of collaboration.
Typically, when people hear about VR or AR, they think about gaming and other entertainment. Sure, on the one hand, both virtual and augmented reality within this industry sound very promising. Just think of a new gaming experience for those who like to spend their time conquering new lands, shooting enemies, or exploring different fantasy locations. On the other hand, it signifies a higher level of industry development. Some new applications help users immerse into a VR documentary.
One of the most reliable ways to use these technologies is to improve and personalize the education process. Some applications allow conducting chemical experiments, others – become a part of historical events. Interactive education also helps to train different skills, learn new information and provide a person with many valuable experiences.
Travel companies are using virtual reality to allow customers to see places and decide for themselves if they wish to visit them in real life. Some hotels started to provide potential clients with 360-degree videos of rooms and of the whole hotel so they can get a feeling of the comfort and service they would be getting. After watching the video, the customer can easily decide whether he wants to book the hotel or not.
Virtual reality is particularly useful in health care. It allows medical students to practice dangerous procedures and gain experience without actually operating on a human. It can also help surgeons determine the best point of entry for surgeries. It helps doctors with diagnosis, treatment and therapy, and it can become a visual tool for explaining to patients what is happening to them and how it can be fixed.
Shopping while sitting at home becomes more interesting with VR and AR technologies. You can search and try the product you’d like to buy just by using an application and a special device. Some clothes shops provide the opportunity to try on a dress or a suit without actually wearing it. It’s not the smart-mirror, it is a new app with the store’s full product range.
Big retail agencies allow customers to visit an apartment or a house through a 360-degree guide. The client will see all the necessary things in a place without actually getting there. Another good opportunity for agencies are applications that give the opportunity to pick the furniture for a new flat. Instead of describing new chairs or sofa, they just show it in an AR application.
Until today, augmented reality has found more success in the consumer space compared to virtual reality. There have been several applications with AR, and hardware devices such as the Google Glass, that make AR more popular and usable. When it comes to VR, the technology is just stepping up to the plate. It’s still far away from being this great thing for social encounters in a virtual world, however, the potential of the VR grows as technology develops.