Advancements in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

It’s really fascinating that a walk in a serene landscape can be recreated in a 3D environment and that it is possible to tread through it as a true surround environment, without leaving your living room.

Augmented reality (AR) a renaissance of digital technology:

We’re indeed living through exciting times in the fast changing world of augmented reality and virtual reality. Matt Turbow, the CEO of Hidden Creative, calls augmented reality (AR) a renaissance of digital technology, which is capable of removing barriers that are not correlated with our mind. Modern minds, as renaissance platforms, are not tied down – their mantra of ‘on the go’ requires them to access knowledge anywhere, anytime. And the solution is an omnipresent computerised system. Or, more aptly, AR.

‘Father’ to AR, virtual reality (VR) is all about the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with. In short, both systems reach the same goal: AR being integrated with reality, hence augmenting the way we see our everyday life and bringing us more information from our surrounding. And VR being removed from reality, in a virtual fabrication with little to no sensory input from our natural environment. Aptly put VR is ‘out of touch with reality’.

VR and AR : Innate ability to solve problems

Both VR and AR open the door to a world of engaging possibilities, with their innate ability to solve problems, dramatically simplify processes, and engage people – all of the characteristics of a sustaining technology. They fulfill a host of practical applications in education, healthcare, engineering, sports, construction, and countless other fields. It has already ceased to be science fiction and is entirely feasible if you have the appropriate devices.

The year 2016 was no doubt full of news from the AR world. All big-name hardwares like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR hit the market, bringing with them a flood of content and clever implementations that had early adopters evangelizing about this exciting new technology. On the side, the worldwide hit Pokémon Go brought AR into the mainstream, setting App Store records in the process.

The resounding success of AR was announced in morning prints; for example, “Pokémon Go Brings Augmented Reality to a Mass Audience” read the New York Times, while the USA Today was busy sharing ‘5 things we learned from Pokémon Go’. Other publications bragged about how the game is helping people manage depression, improving life for autistic children, helping police catch vandals, etc. But not all ended well, as Pokémon Go was blamed at the grassroots level for hideous crimes. Fortune Magazine reported: ‘Wildly Popular Pokémon Go Leads to Robberies, Injuries, and a Body’. iDownload went in-depth with ‘The runaway success of Pokémon GO highlights safety issues of augmented-reality gaming’. Gizmodo announced that ‘Armed Robbers Use Pokémon Go to Find 9 Victims’, while Vox worried that the game was not safe for people of color.

Although the world plunged itself into the dark tentacle of the security threats faced at the behest of AR growth, intellectuals are still deliberating if it’s right to infringe on privacy on the pretext of advancement. With the ever-increasing cyber-crimes, the law enforcement courthouses have urged their armed forces to adopt AR in crime fighting. With AR-enabled drones and wearable technology-enhanced uniform aids, armed personnel can patrol and strengthen a country’s borders better. AR flight simulation modules help train air strike pilots for extreme war conditions, hence reducing the human fatality caused in the process.

As few lead ahead in AR, eRetail giants adopted the more ‘flat’ vision of the two-computer system — VR. The likes of Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon were seen with VR-enhanced store launches to enchant their consumers into buying. Beyond e-commerce, VR is also seeing steady adoption across a host of product categories – from architecture to furniture malls and auto dealers’ garage. Ikea embraced VR by allowing shoppers to design their dream kitchen and kitting it with marketing promotion for repeated consumer visits and purchase.

And that’s just scratching the surface. The application of AR and VR technologies in both B2C and B2B are abundant.

Some recent examples are:

• Cadillac, a renowned auto player, bet on virtual dealerships and planned to set up showrooms in select stores where buyers can get a car serviced or learn about products via virtual reality headsets without getting behind the wheel.
• Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies company with worldwide interests, rigged a school bus with ‘Group VR’ to take kids on a tour of Mars.
• McDonald’s, the food chain giant, figured out how to turn Happy Meal boxes into VR headsets.
• Sephora, a French chain of cosmetics stores, unveiled an AR app that uses a tablet or smartphone webcam to capture a shopper’s face in real time, and then ‘apply’ any of the more than 3,000 lipstick shades.
• Auto giant Tesla started hiring experts in AR.
• United Airlines used VR to show off its swanky new business class.
• Hospitality player Virgin Holidays offered a ‘try before you buy’ vacation experience that allows potential customers to virtually walk around their intended vacation destination.

Problem of Big Data

With advancement in both VR and AR, the question soon arises which of the two will nurture the seeds of tomorrow. On the brim of technology convergence, intellects were faced with the problem of Big Data. Huge chunk of information was received as the breath life of digital ecosystem, but what to do with the information remained a question until AR came into the picture. Capitalizing on this SWOT opportunity, Microsoft was seen heavily investing in its HoloLens project. Even tech players like Apple and Cupertino flocked to AR as a bee does to honey. CEO of Apple Inc. Tim Cook said, ‘Virtual reality sort of encloses and immerses the person into an experience that can be really cool, but probably has a lower commercial interest over time. Fewer people will be interested in that’.

With both technologies weaving the perfect mystery of Robert Frost’s candid words in ‘Road Less Travelled’, it’s really hard to pick a winner. Honestly put, the masses will get to decide if they want to ‘live in the enhanced reality’ with AR or ‘escape into the neverlands’ with VR. Or even better, will the next gen decide upon a symbiotic future with both AR and VR coexisting for a more rounded human growth and development wherein AR could contribute to helping laypeople with improved decision-making capabilities, investing in knowledge, and more. On the other hand, VR could turn into an entertainment activity, to stimulate creativity, like in the field of gaming or experiential storytelling. In that case, well, the answer to “Which tech is the future?” would be both.