Illustrating virtual reality and augmented reality. A man plays a game using a vr headset and controllers. A woman uses her phone to see details of a person.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality 2019

How do we differentiate virtual reality and augmented reality? Close your eyes for a few moments and imagine yourself someplace else. Where did your imagination take you? An open field? A futuristic world? The setting of your favorite TV series or computer game? That was virtual reality; fully immersive transportation to another space.

Now that you’re back to the real world, open your hand and imagine that there is something in it. What did you see in your hand? A globe? A ball? A fireball? A fat stack of cash? Adding objects and information to what you can see in the real world; that’s augmented reality.

You’ve just imagined virtual reality and augmented reality. Experiences like these are simulated and shared using a variety of virtual reality and augmented reality devices. These devices primarily target our visual and auditory senses, but some are beginning to address touch and smell.

Beat Saber and Tilt Brush on the Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR are some of the better known VR apps, while Snapchat/Facebook filters and Pokemon GO are popular examples of augmented reality in use today.

The Value of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the words “virtual reality” or “augmented reality?” If you haven’t been exposed to the technology or haven’t done much research in this area, you might be picturing some awesome video games, The Matrix, or Tony Stark in every Marvel film ever made.

For most, it’s the HoloLens and Magic Leap. While games and films, such as the anime Sword Art Online and Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, portray possible applications of virtual reality and augmented reality, these technologies have so much more to offer IN REAL LIFE.

Let’s take a look at some of today’s practical applications of virtual reality and augmented reality.

Home Design and Shopping with Augmented Reality: IKEA Place

If you’ve ever done furniture shopping (at the physical store or online), there are some factors that help you decide whether a certain piece is right for your home:

  • Does it compliment the room?
  • Can it fit properly in the room or space?
  • What color is best?

Typically, you would use your imagination to answer these questions by projecting the table or sofa into your living room using your awesome mental powers.

And once you brought it home and put it in its rightful place, it was as if you had just placed the final piece of a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle.   

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same furniture selecting intuition and prowess as you. Some folks’ room design and planning skills leave much to be desired.

Disrupting the Status Quo

Picture this: someone recently bought a dining room table, and after skillfully and painstakingly navigating their home, the table’s modern design and color clashed violently with the flowery embroidery of the dining room chairs.

These options will be considered:

  • Return the offending piece to claim the store credit
  • Buy the “recommended” chairs to complete the set
  • Leave it as a constant reminder of one’s failure as an amateur home interior designer and decorator
  • Cover it with an old table cloth in an attempt to mitigate the losses
  • Or never to purchase furniture on my own again.

That was when IKEA Place was discovered. It’s a mobile app that lets you see exactly what a piece of furniture would look like in your home. Simply select the furniture you’d like to try out, then place it anywhere in your house.

This solution now allows you to shop for furniture from the comfort of your own home. This is all thanks to augmented reality.

Engagement and Immersion with Virtual Reality

Another example is the wonderfully simplistic Google Cardboard viewer. It’s basically a cardboard box with some cutouts, a pair of rudimentary lenses, and a partition to hold your phone in front of your face. Very exciting!

Unfortunately, its functionality seemed to be as rudimentary as its design. Some experienced virtual roller coaster and virtual horror settings on Youtube. Reviews are stating that, overall, the experience was underwhelming and concluded that virtual reality still has further to go.

Then there’s this VIVE VR system. The $500 headset (with handheld controllers) attached to a $2,500 computer was a far cry from the $10 headset.

Expectation vs Reality

Now, let’s talk about The Lab, a VR app. With a virtual robot dog, and a bow and arrow to defend a castle from invaders, and explored a wide variety of virtual environments. You would look forward to those days when you and your virtual pet go on dangerous, action-packed adventures! While not perfect, there is an acquired potential to its core.

There’s also another app that is on another level—Beat Saber. Its concept is simple: Use your sabers to slash music-driven beats as they fly toward you, while deftly dodging obstacles. Slicing cubes to a lively beat sounded cool but not exactly revolutionary. The app was satisfying to hit the right notes, and almost equally frustrating to miss them. It was like playing the orchestra conductor, drummer, and dodgeball all at the same time. The carefully timed hand-eye coordination coupled with the physical exertion required to slice and dodge, felt like a great cardio workout.

The game is fun, but what’s exciting is the fact that experiences like these currently exist and are getting better and more affordable.    

Other uses of virtual reality include education, surgical training, and even checking if their potential (another word) hotel room is as spacious as it appears in the ad photos.

Woman wears a virtual reality headset in her living room. She holds a sword in one hand, and a virtual fireball in the other.

Looking Forward with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

The concepts behind virtual reality and augmented reality have been around for decades, but the technology to support them just wasn’t there. Even today most people don’t have three grand lying around that they can throw at a VR system. But as technology rapidly improves and the price of computing power continues to decrease exponentially, it’s only a matter of time before virtual reality and augmented reality become commonplace in our everyday lives.

The smartphone in your pocket is more powerful than most of the supercomputers that were around 30 years ago; it’s also quite a bit cheaper. Virtual reality and augmented reality are definitely headed in that direction too. These technologies are poised to change the way we interact, imagine, view, and engage with the world around us.

Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are investing billions of dollars into these technologies. There are countless use cases for virtual reality and augmented reality, and we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of possibilities. What an exciting time to be alive!

If are you interested to know more about virtual reality and augmented reality or want to create experiences, feel free to contact us here. We have the talent and the tools to help you turn your cutting-edge, innovative ideas into reality.  

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