Inventions and technology have seen a steep curve in the past few years, especially in the last decade.
Gadgets and devices which were once only considered to be prototypes or ideas on drawing boards have now become a full-fledged reality. Right from laptops to smartphones and smartwatches, every device has a "smart" tag attached to it. Taking pictures, locating places, projecting ideas, sending information; all of this and more can now be done with a few clicks on a screen, and such is the beauty of how technology has majorly evolved.
Inventors and tech gurus are focused on one simple yet difficult goal - making life more comfortable and performing the same tasks better than the others, in a shorter period. Now, it's not just the "smart" angle that technology has been focusing on lately; there's also a lot of emphasis being put on how reality can be augmented, recreated and re-projected onto different mediums through technology. Yes, we're talking about Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
What are AR and VR? How does it work?
Augmented reality is the product of computer generated perceptual information, which is projected onto different mediums. It's perceptual because different sensory mediums augmented reality can be perceived through your senses - visual and auditory being the most common. However, even haptic and olfactory senses can be used to experience augmented reality, based entirely on the concept of the experience. AR is also synonymously known as computer-mediated reality or mixed reality.
For a layman, the basic concept is this: everything we experience in our environment in real life is a combination of all the different senses working together, to give us a whole, complete experience of every surrounding. What we see, feel, smell and hear is what we experience ultimately. Hence, AR incorporates all these perceptual elements to create an alternative reality, which mimics the actual once, to create an immersive and engaging experience.
So, how different is AR from Virtual Reality?
These two terms and concepts are often confused and mixed up, but the truth is that they're very much different from each other. Virtual Reality or VR uses specially designed devices, like a headset or viewing gear which works perfectly well when the user wants to experience VR. VR has a lot to do with creating a simulated reality, supported by perceptual and sensory stimulus as well. In recent times, VR using smartphones and VR headgear has been the most common form of experiencing it. However, there are also special rooms created, with optimized screens and environments, which can be paired with the VR headgear to create a wholesome VR experience.
Applications of AR:
Applications of VR:
- Regarding entertainment, AR has been used on some platforms like video games and also mobile games, but the usage has not been that extensive.
- Medically, AR has some critical application. Surgeons use AR technology to prep for surgeries, especially neurologically related ones, and reduce the risk of surgery as well. It is also used to explain complex medical conditions to patients better and give them a more visual and relatable explanation as well.
- In terms of military, HUD and HMD are the most commonly used. HUD (Heads-up Display) is typically used by pilots, where different directional and navigational information is displayed on a transparent glass screen. This prevents the need for the pilot to look down at his monitor, and always have his head up and his eyes pointed forward. HMD (Head-Mounted Display) is used by troops on the ground. It helps with relaying information like enemy location and strategic attack points, and it is also used to create simulated training sessions for soldiers.
- For general navigation, which can be accessed by anyone and everyone, AR has been very successfully applied. Enhanced navigation systems use AR, combined with GPS, to provide real-time directions and locations to people through GPS systems, smartphones and much more.
- AR can also be used for tourism and sightseeing, although this application is yet to become famous. For example, one could enter a museum and use AR gear to view more information about a painting or a relic. Similarly, one could learn more about a landscape or a historic building, which would be a great addition to a travel experience.
- In terms of training, for absolutely any industry, VR has a lot of utility. Whether it's in-store sales training, showing employees how to use machines in an industry set up, or even to help with military and police training, VR can make a real difference by prepping the trainees and giving them a better idea of what they're up against.
- The most widely used application of VR is gaming, and it has become a significant sport on its own. There is a slew of games designed solely to be VR compatible, using speak headgear and also arm and body gear, based on the parameters of the game. Even some mobile-based games have become VR compatible, making it more consumer friendly.
- Architects can see their blueprints come to life, and smoothen out the kinks and quirks, all with the use of VR. It helps with getting a more lifelike view of their constructions and also improves the feasibility of the design.
- For commercial and entertainment purposes, VR is definitely going to see a lot more applications in the near future.
The rapid and extensive growth of technologies like AR and VR is a testament to the fact that technology has, in fact, grown along with us in time. The growth of technology has been staggering to say the least and it will create opportunities for us to grow over the several years to come.
Can technology keep up with us? The answer is yes, it already has and will continue to do so in the future!