THING 20 – AUGMENTED REALITY / VIRTUAL REALITY
What is VR?
Virtual Reality (vr for short) is any technology allowing you to experience an entirely simulated (virtual) world. At the moment, this is done with small screens and lenses mounted in a headset and some very fast sensors for detecting head movement. By showing each eye a slightly different image, we give the illusion of a 3D environment. With high-speed sensors we are able to realistically display a moving scene consistent with the users’ movements. The headsets are normally hooked up to powerful computers capable of quickly (less than 2 milliseconds) rendering detailed images for each eye.
At the moment, two VR headsets dominate the market: the vive, produced by Valve Corporation, and the Oculus, by the Facebook Corporation. Immersive, interactive, 3D experiences are still being developed for every field of interest be it design, education or gaming.
What is AR?
Augmented reality, (AR for short) is technology where users see the real world, (for example through high-tech-glasses or on a phone screen) and 3D digital/virtual elements are incorporated into what you see. The term AR has been used to describe any technology that takes real images and inserts digital elements. Famously, the phone app that would render Pokémon on any smart phone’s camera view. The most well known, commercially available, dedicated AR product at the moment is the Microsoft HoloLens. The HoloLens is a “head-mounted-display” using projectors, mirrors, and glass to display (for the users eyes only) realistic objects and displays in the users real environment. Most experts agree that AR will require technologies that are still under development in order to become wide-spread.
Several companies have re-branded AR as “Mixed Reality”.
What’s on the horizon?
Much of the technology required to do impressive VR is proving useful and necessary for the development of useful AR technology. Current avenues of research for VR headsets include eye tracking, better optics, anti-nausea features, and integration of more biosensors, all with the goal of improving immersion.