Sometime back in the late 1980s, the term virtual reality was thrown around as the next big thing. Almost 30 years later, it seems that it is still trying to live up to the hype. While virtual reality and augmented reality have started to make their mark in consumer and commercial markets, they still have a long way to go before they make the mark on the world that many people dreamed of all those years ago.
What is AR and VR?
AR and VR are similar technologies in that they affect people’s perceptions of reality, but they also have some important differences.
AR (Augmented Reality)
AR (Augmented Reality) is a technology by which 3D graphics are placed overtop of images in the real world. It is a blending of the virtual world and the real world. Pokémon Go is a recent example of how this technology works.
VR (Virtual Reality)
VR (Virtual Reality) is a more immersive experience, one in which a user is placed in a 360° virtual world. In terms of technology, VR requires a virtual world that can trick the brain into thinking it is real. Experts in the field call this presence. A virtual world that does not have presence, not only does not look good but can also cause dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and headaches. There are many technical specifications that a system needs to have in order to have presence: a wide field of view, high resolution, global display, tracking, optics, and many others. In many ways, VR is a much more complicated system than AR.
Also available in the consumer market
Many companies have tried over the years to bring these technologies to consumers, but only recently has there been success with smartphones. Oculus created a VR headset which allows phones like Samsung Gear VR and gaming systems like HTC Vive to operate in a VR world. These systems are more restrictive in nature as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive need a connection to a powerful PC. Smartphone-based devices like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR make it a bit difficult to move around.
AR had a quick moment in the market with Google Glass but really made its mark with Pokémon Go. AR is a much more mobile system. In fact, it requires users to interact with the real world in some way. The Microsoft HoloLens and the DAQRI Smart Helmet are really only useful when used in multiple locations in the real world. Even though Google Glass was not very successful, companies are still trying to make wearable AR technology a success, in the form of glasses and headphones.
Applications of AR and VR
By some estimates, AR/VR will be a $150 billion market by 2020, with VR only accounting for $30 billion of the total. Currently, there is still a pretty long way to go before those numbers become reality.
As research from TechProResearch shows, most organizations are aware of AR and VR, but the majority of them do not use either type of technology.
For companies not already using AR or VR, many are more likely to incorporate AR than VR in the coming years.
Applicable in many industries
When many people think of AR and VR they think of gaming and entertainment, but both technologies are everywhere around us, in more industries than we probably realize.
- Education - Many companies have helped introduce AR and VR to classrooms. Google created Expeditions, a VR platform used with Google Cardboard to allow children to explore different places around the world and in space. In medical schools, VR is used to create virtual dissection and explore the human body.
- Finance - The finance industry has not incorporated most AR/VR technologies into its current system, but many are hopeful that they can help people visualize trading and wealth data in a 3D virtual environment. There is also the possibility of creating virtual banks and using AR to help customers find ATMs.
- Healthcare - Healthcare is one the main industries that has adapted AR and VR to fit its needs with the most success. A VR called Snow World has helped burn victims relax while getting treatments. Clinicians use it during exposure therapy to help people overcome certain fears. Some people with phantom limb pain use VR to help the complete tasks with the phantom limb. Doctors are also using VR to examine a patient before a surgery to think of the best possible solution. AR is used to project images of surgery to help other surgeons and projects images on internal systems onto a person’s skin.
- Aviation - Trainers use VR in flight simulations to help pilots know how to react in various situations. NASA also used VR to help astronauts train for life in space.
- Journalism - Immersive journalism is creating new ways of relating the news to readers. Instead of just reading an article and looking at some photographs, people are now about to view 360° videos related to new stories.
- Travel - Some travel and hotel companies are creating VR experiences that let visitors or potential visitors experience a place in VR before they even get there. In terms of AR, there are apps that allow travelers to hold a phone up to a piece of writing and translate it.
- Real estate - VR has the potential to help the real estate market by allowing potential buyers to explore a property in VR.
- Skilled trades - In these professions, VR has been helpful in training employees on how to master their trades better. AR is a great tool for helping repair equipment through visual guides or seeing through pipes or other objects to assess for problems.
- Automotive - VR can help car designers explore a virtual prototype before they spend resources to create a physical one.
- Retail - AR and VR can be helpful in convincing consumers to buy products. The technologies can help them see what it would be like to wear certain clothes or makeup. It can also help home improvement stores let customers experience their design ideas in VR.
The Future of AR/VR
In the future, there will be large investments in both VR and AR. But most experts agree that AR is the technology that will make the great impact. In the fields mentioned above, there is still a lot untapped potential in terms of the use of these technologies. Just in the skilled trades market alone, potential AR could reach a market value somewhere between $800 million and $2 billion by 2020.
Many researchers feel that, in the future, AR and VR will begin to blend more often. VR headsets will allow images of the real world to pass through for a variety of reasons. VR will also probably lose the connect it requires to a PC and become completely mobile. AR, on the other hand, will become more immersive has wearable technology gets more advanced and smaller.
A constant connection between a real and virtual world
While in the 1980s the future looked to be a virtual one, nowadays the future is more of an augmented one. There is still a long way to go, but it looks like one day it may be possible to live in a state of constant connection between the real world and a technologically created world.