Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are without any doubt the key technologies of this century. Both have the potential to change the way we interact with the digital world.
Or is there even going to be a difference between the real world and the digital world in the future?
What is Augmented Reality?
In most cases, Augmented Reality or AR is using the camera of a mobile device and is enhancing reality by adding contextual information to the surroundings. In contrast to VR, AR is not blocking the physical world and allows the user to interact with the real world and the experience. AR brings the digital world into the real world.
The most mainstream examples that use AR are probably Snapchat and Pokemon Go. However, anywhere where you think additional information about your surroundings could be useful, this is a potential use case for AR. This can geolocation based information while driving or exploring a new city, providing three-dimensional assembly instructions for your new kitchen or visualising products in front of you before ordering them online.
The beauty of AR is that everybody is already caring around an AR capable device in their pocket: a smart phone. Everything that’s needed is a camera, a display and a powerful enough CPU.
There is also a number of AR glasses available. Most known are Microsoft’s Hololens and Magic Leap. However, due to their premium prices, those are currently mostly targeted at industrial and commercial users. Nevertheless, affordable AR consumer glasses are certainly on their way and are going to become mainstream in the next years.
As much as Pokemon Go helped making AR mainstream, Apple’s ARkit elevated the standard for AR software. As AR enabled hardware is already owned by everyone, from here on AR is basically a software innovation.
AR in Business
The storytelling abilities of AR make it interesting for a variety of business cases. Augmented Reality can improve the theine shopping experience, by giving the customer the opportunity to try out products at home or explain complex products in an easy manner. It can increase the duration time potential customers spend in an online shop by providing them with entertaining content. Another widely overlooked field is the usage of AR for manuals and assembly instructions.
What is Virtual Reality?
In contrast to AR, Virtual Reality is a complete immersion experience that transports users to a completely artificial three-dimensional world. This approach can be used in modern computer games, digital tourism and education.
The idea to immerse the user into virtual worlds is not new. Computer games have been trying to do this since their invention. But only recently, Oculus Rift managed to open the door to the mainstream market and the deeper immersion of digital worlds.
While the content is already there, VR headsets still have to evolve. We need higher resolutions, lower latency and bigger viewing angles. From this point of view, VR purely requires hardware innovation.
What are Mixed Reality and Extended Reality?
While reading about AR and VR you might have also come across Mixed Reality (MR) and Extended Reality (XR). MR and XR are not technologies but rather abstract concepts that combine AR and VR. Most sources explain that Mixed Reality is somewhere in between AR and VR, while XR is all of them together.