Did you know that AR/VR, more commonly known as Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality, has become a household name over the past couple of years? We see this innovative technology integrated into many more aspects of our daily lives, from video games to phone apps. What changes in our society have driven this technology to break into the spotlight finally?
What is AR/VR?
Before we can discuss the significance of these technologies, we first need to identify what they are. AR, or Augmented Reality, involves the use of graphics or animations and overlaying or augmenting them onto the real world. Think Pokemon Go. The Pokemon creatures can be seen right on your kitchen table. You can try to “catch” them in your environment as part of the game.
On the other hand, VR, or Virtual Reality, involves completely replacing your surroundings with computer-generated ones. It often utilizes headsets that cover your eyes and ears to immerse the user in a new experience fully. VR has become a popular trend in video games over the last few years.
You may also hear the term MR, or Mixed Reality. This technology mainly involves mixing the physical world with a digital one. Mixed Reality is a middle ground between AR and VR. Many have trouble differentiating AR from MR, but MR is more interactive, whereas AR is simply an overlay onto our real world.
Why is AR/VR thriving?
Developers have been tinkering with the concepts of AR and VR for more than 30 years. So why are these technologies just now reaching popularity? We have to look at the conditions of our society and what users are searching for within our technologies.
One factor in today’s society that we often discuss is speed. We live in such a fast-paced world, and our technology has to be able to help us keep up. For instance, AR is becoming a popular tool for furniture purchases. In the past, you had to take the time to measure your space, head to the store to choose a new piece of furniture, and hope that it would look how you pictured it. But now, with the help of Augmented Reality, users can project an image of a piece of furniture into their homes to truly see it in the space. The convenience and speed of this technology is a huge reason for its boom.
While AR is great for the consumer who wants to select a new paint color for their living room or test out a new lipstick right from home, there are also plenty of truly life-altering uses. AR is finding a bigger space in the healthcare world. Technologies like AccuVein allows medical professionals to scan a patient’s vein network to find a vein for drawing blood more accurately. Medical students can even train in AR environments, allowing for more educational opportunities from almost anywhere. Our need for these advances has given AR the perfect place to thrive.
But what about VR? Of course, many people associate VR with fun. It’s largely been associated with video games, like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. These gaming headsets allow players to be wholly immersed in a new world and truly escape their surroundings. In our high-stress world, VR gaming is a great way to relax to the fullest. Movies have also implemented VR to produce high-quality effects that transport the audience.
However, VR is also being used for many other purposes that will continue to advance our society. Educational settings like classrooms, laboratories, and even museums can take advantage of VR technology to get students “closer” to the matters they’re studying. VR has an important place in therapy as well, from helping those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder undergo phobia treatments or assisting in occupational therapy sessions. We’ve seen VR in everything from medicine to fine art restoration to manufacturing, and as we continue to advance, we’ll likely see VR play an even bigger role.
What Lies Ahead?
Now that AR and VR are finally finding their place in the spotlight, what can we expect from them in the coming years? As more and more people discover the value in these technologies, development prices are likely to decrease, making room for more mainstream applications. We already have smartphones and tablets galore in our homes, so expectations are high that new AR and VR systems will work well with our existing technologies.
While the future of VR and AR is still relatively unknown, we can be sure it’s coming quickly. We’re likely to see more and more of this technology in our video games and our gaming apps, but as investors continue to see the need and desire for AR and VR, you can expect to see them integrated more into every aspect of our lives. No matter what, AR and VR are sure to help us expand with efficiency.