SovTech’s Mandela Day initiative this year was visiting St Angasars school in Muldersdrift and showing matric learners the power and possibilities of a smartphone. Some of these learners had never had the opportunity to use a smartphone. We introduced the pupils to Pokémon Go in an attempt to educate the pupils about augmented reality. As well as discovery’s virtual reality app. The experience was very rewarding as we witnessed the joy these pupils experienced as they caught Pokémon, as well as experienced what it would be like to go on a roller-coaster or swim under water with sharks with Discovery’s virtual reality app.
Virtual reality and augmented reality have a big factor in common, they both possess the ability to alter our perception of the world. Where they differ is the perception of our presence. Virtual reality is able to transpose the user, in other words bring them to someplace else.
Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them think they are experiencing the simulated reality first-hand, this is done by stimulating their vision and hearing. Virtual reality is achieved by wearing a headset like Facebook’s Oculus equipped with technology and is used in two ways.
- To create and enhance an imaginary reality for gaming, entertainment and play. This refers to video, computer games, or 3D movies and head mounted display.
- To enhance training for real life environments by creating a simulation of reality where people can practice beforehand, such as flight simulators for pilots.
Virtual reality is made possible through a type of coding language called Virtual Reality modelling language which can be used to create a series of images and specify what types of interactions are possible for them.
Virtual Reality is for Content
VR is the only medium that guarantees the user’s complete focus on the content. Virtual Reality requires one’s full attention. There is no looking away, no checking email or text messages and no updating social-media statuses. Thus, VR’s biggest strength can also be viewed as its biggest weakness, the immersive nature of virtual reality hinders users from interacting with their surroundings. Virtual reality is a powerful way of experiencing content, however, it is not practical for the real world.
An example of this is the Discovery VR app, whereby, participants can experience an artificial computer generated simulation. For instance, experiencing a roller coaster, walking on a tight rope or being under water with sharks.
Augmented Reality is for the Real World
Augmented reality however, takes our current reality and adds something to it, it does not move us elsewhere, it simply enhances our current presence.
Augmented reality refers to a technology that layers computer generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world in a way that they enhance each other but can also be told apart easily.
The latest craze hitting mobile devices, Pokémon Go. The game combines elements of augmented reality with location based services. After creating and designing an avatar, players view a main map that overlays real-world geographic details such as streets with in-game items and destinations, called PokéStops and Pokémon gyms. As the player moves in reality, the avatar moves on the AR map. Pokemon Go is just the tip of where augmented reality is heading.
Comparing the two
Virtual reality vs. Augmented reality are inverse reflections of one another with what each technology seeks to accomplish and deliver to the user. Virtual reality offers a digital recreation of a real life setting as opposed to augmented reality that delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world. AR and VR both tamper with our reality, but while AR enhances it, VR diverts us from it.
Both AR and VR aim to serve the user with an enhanced or enriched experience. They use some of the same technologies to achieve this.
Both are becoming increasingly popular for the purpose of entertainment. In the past, both have been used merely as a figment of science fiction imagination. Now, new artificial worlds come to life under the users control and deeper layers of interaction with the real world are achieved. Leading tech moguls have caught onto this trend and are investing and developing new adaptions, improvements and releasing more products and apps that support these technologies.
Science and medicine
Virtual and augmented realities have great potential in changing the landscape of the medical field by making things such as remote surgeries a real possibility. These technologies have already been useful in treating PTSD.
Augmented reality enhances experiences by adding virtual components such as digital images, graphics or sensations as a new layer on interaction with the real world. In contrast to this, virtual reality, creates its own reality that is completely computer generated and driven.
Virtual reality is delivered to the user through a head-mounted or hand held controller. This equipment allows the user to be connected to the virtual reality, in addition it allows them to control and navigate their actions in an environment that simulates the real world.
In contrast to this, augmented reality is increasingly being used in mobile devices, laptops, smart phones and tablets to change how the real world and digital images, graphics intersect and interact.
With virtual reality, you can swim with sharks as opposed to augmented reality where you can watch a shark pop out of your business card.
While VR is more immersive, AR provides more freedom for the user, and more possibilities for marketers because it does not need to be a head-mounted display.
Collaboration between the two
It is not always augmented reality vs. virtual reality, they sometimes work in collaboration with each other. They are often blended together to create a more immersing experience. An example of a collaboration between the two realities is haptic feedback, this is the vibration sensation added to interaction with graphics. It is considered an augmentation. However, it is commonly used within a virtual reality setting in order to make the experience more lifelike through touch.
The future of AR and VR
Recent investing patterns at Apple have revealed how interested Tim Cook is in virtual and augmented reality. “We are high on AR for the long run, we think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity,” Cook said on last month’s earnings call. Apple will be able to leverage the iphone to innovate these technologies as there is no high powered platform that does so yet. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, a big Apple rival in developing these new technologies suggested that wearables and smartphones will play a huge role in developing these technologies.
Microsoft has more than 524 employees working on augmented reality. Google has a team of 340 employees tackling augmented reality, intel has 233 employees working on augmented reality and Apple has 218 employees working on augmented reality.
Apple has been expanding its reaserch and development spending faster than revenue in recent quarters as the company is likely investing in self-driving cars (project Titan) and virtual and mixed reality. Google is projected to spend $14 billion and Facebook will spend more than $5 billion on research and development in the same period.