Simulating Reality: The birth of AR and VR

Our world is moving at a lightning fast pace when it comes to Technology. For example, let us look at communication devices. We have seen the birth of Telephones, it’s death and their evolution into Mobile phones which later evolved into smart phones (at present). All this in just two decades. But what comes after this? The answer is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.

In layman terms, or how you would explain these two terms AR and VR to a five year old, Virtual Reality aims at creating an artificial world which immerses the user in its life like details. It’s lesser known relative, AR(Augmented Reality), as the name suggests augments the reality. It does not replace existing world, but just improves it which takes the way we see or obtain information in a completely different way.

Virtual reality startled the gaming industry with the first wearable gear , The Occulus Rift. Although by this time, Google had tried to experiment with The Google Cardboard and Samsung came up with its own VR headsets but Occulus Rift stood out. And rightly so was acquired by Facebook, seeing the potential it had. All you have to do is put the headset on and let the technology do its magic. It enables 3D immersive experiences including being at the center of your favorite games such as Arizona Sunshine, Rick and Morty( yes you read that right), you can be Morty  and go on all kinds of adventures with Rick, explore hundreds of weirdly fascinating parallel universe. You can put on a horror game and get a first hand expiernce of how it feels like to be fighting with zombies or finding your way out through a an old,dismantled museum. Not only that you can socialize with friends in a virtual world of your own, and watch Netflix in a whole new way.  The Netflix app on Gear VR offers a living room experience, so it feels like you’re on your couch watching TV shows and movies.

Augmented Reality on the other hand started out with Google Glass. You can check out the video here to see how it works. Augmented Reality is now fully functional because built-in APIs (Application Program Interfaces) in smartphones which allows an application or browser to query detailed information about one’s location and where the device is pointing, and to utilize the camera to enhance the real-time view.

A combination of technologies, enable mobile AR including camera, GPS, magnetometer — to understand the direction (N, S, E, W) the user is looking, and accelerometer — to understand the direction (up, down) the user is looking.

There are some other upcoming players in the market too such as:

Optinvent: Prototype of a brand new product concept called the ORA-C, a wearable AR safety cap with computer, display, camera and sensors for professional applications.

Advir: The only technology powering programmatic brand placements in VR and AR – its technology can be easily integrated with any VR content developer to index their available inventory – the ‘surfaces’ in the environment available to receive ads.

Kopin: Demonstrating the Scott Sight firefighter’s helmet by Scott Safety: a revolutionary system that provides firefighters with hands-free access to thermal imaging data via a near-eye augmented display unit affixed on the inside of their safety mask.

DoubleMe: A chance to experience a world of blurring transformative technology boundaries & mixed up realities.

MyndPlay: Fronted by former Apprentice candidate, Tre Azam, MyndPlay is behind the revolutionary VR-ready MyndBand EEG Brainwave headset and the MyndPlayer interactive mind controlled video platform which allows users to control, influence and interact with videogames, apps and movies using their mind and emotions.

The possibilities are endless, from pointing a mobile phone towards a building, museum,bus stand and seeing a directory of the companies — and its employees — that are in the building or to have an insight about the artifacts displayed in the musem or getting a list of all the buses departing and arriving along with their ETA, to pointing a mobile phone towards a player in a baseball game to learn the name of the player and see his statistics.

Verizon’s top AR mobile applications inventory includes Layar, Star Walk 2, Wikitude, AR Invaders, and Anatomy 4D. Most recently Verizon is looking to make and patent an augmented reality app for mobile that will enable “in-stadium NFL fans to identify their on-field players and receive detailed statistics about them. Using a blend of AR and LTE broadcast (eMBMS) technology, the app will recognize players via sensors embedded within their helmets. Sensors will be attached with a player in a football match, augmented reality will overlay content, for example, position, speed, and the like, of the player”.

In the coming future for all we know, we might not even need a bulky  7 inch smart phone, instead we might just go out wearing  AR glasses which enable us to view holographic information like text messages,emails which can be placed anywhere in your field of view and adjust the display size at the touch of  our fingers, or join holographic conference calls with friends. The possibilities are endless and this is just the start. But we all have to bear in mind the ethical nightmare that comes along with this kind of magnificent technology.

Such gadgets will bring many challenges such as personal privacy and public life because it doesn’t stop with cameras you can’t see, all of which will be hitting court rooms, policy discussions, and dinner table conversations regarding what’s appropriate to use in public, safe to use while driving, and mentally healthy to engage in day to day life.  To sum it up, Neil Trevett got it right,

The social engineering aspects of augmented reality are just as important as the computer engineering aspects.”

–Neil Trevett, VP of mobile marketing, Nvidia

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