There is a lot of conversation these days between virtual reality and augmented reality. Everywhere you go, people are discussing the latest information about virtual reality. You hear all kinds of stories about virtual reality, such as with virtual reality you will be able to take a vacation. You will eventually be able to hear and see everything a climber can see from the top of Mount Everest, for example. However, is all of that information about virtual reality true? What is virtual reality, and how is it different from augmented reality? Keep reading for an opportunity to blow your mind, and for the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality.
Virtual Reality is Not a New Concept
The first time you may have seen anything like virtual reality was from the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Total Recall.” In the movie, a man from a future time in the United States wants to take a virtual trip to Mars. He gets a shot, and is lowered into a contraption that is supposed to take his mind to Mars in a virtual reality experience. However, the people at the virtual reality business find out when Arnold goes ballistic that his brain had been wiped clean by an evil dictator, and that he had already been to Mars before. While this 1980s version of virtual reality has a less than stellar outcome for the “vacation,” virtual reality of the 21st century is very different. It also does not involve becoming a double agent.
What is Virtual Reality?
Put simply, the technology used in virtual reality has the ability to put you in another world with graphics and either visors or goggles. When you put a virtual reality headset on, you are shutting out the current world, and immersing yourself in another one. You can indeed go hiking to the top of a mountain. Because your senses tune into the images and sounds in front of you, you feel immersed in this new world. Some people report being able to feel the actual sensation of climbing the mountain itself, for example.
Virtual reality is a product of images and sounds generated by a computer and through 360-degree camera technology. Computer generated imagery and a blend of modern photography are responsible for the creation of virtual reality scenes. While most people think CGI started with Star Wars, and its true Lucas was the first real pioneer, CGI began to be used in short segments in film in the 1960s. However, CGI has continued to evolve past mere computer graphics into the virtual reality setting, where entire worlds can be made up through computer-generated imagery.
These days, virtual reality is the ability to move around and experience entire worlds with the help of a headset and hand controllers. Virtual reality gives you the ability to control your entire world with movement.
What Do You Need to Experience Virtual Reality?
In order to experience virtual reality, you need a VR headset. Most of these headsets are used with a computer, such as the Oculus Rift or a gaming console, such as the PlayStation VR. There are also standalone headsets, such as Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear with a controller. The standalone headsets work when you insert your smartphone into them. You can watch many videos in VR on YouTube as well on your standalone headset.
Applications for Virtual Reality
Scientists and engineers see many uses for VR in the future. For example, police, fire, and military units could use VR headsets for training purposes. Virtual reality would be especially helpful if they are going to encounter new terrain or new scenarios. VR would allow military and first responders to receive training without fear of injury. In addition, business meetings and trips could go virtual. People could still meet, but in the virtual world, which would be a great money saver. VR also allows scientists and engineers to use information overlays and virtual reality to create mock-ups in real time. It could also be used by medicine to see inside the human body to determine not only what is wrong with you, but also the best course of treatment for you.
What Is Augmented Reality?
While virtual reality operates on the premise of total immersion, augmented reality takes parts of our current realities and adds something to it. It enhances or augments our experiences, usually using clear visors or glasses. Rather than being immersed in a completely different world, with augmented reality you are instead moved into your current reality kicked up a notch.
This may sound a little confusing. However, picture yourself swimming in the ocean and you are able to see the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Thousands of colorful fish swim all around you. You are able to swim next to sharks without being afraid. Now picture visiting a huge tank of fish, such as in an aquarium. You would still be able to see the fish and the sharks, but you would not be swimming with them. That is because virtual reality does not take you out of your world, it merely adds to it.
Many companies are looking into adding AR technology onto existing platforms. For example, Apple is looking into using AR glasses, which would allow the user to experience their current view, but would link into their phones. These new glasses could be used as an extension of the phone screen and could provide the wearer information about what they were seeing.
Uses for AR
Like virtual reality, augmented reality also has its uses in the world. Augmented reality could be used for surgical training, for example, allowing medical personnel to remain in the world, while receiving all sorts of information about the patient through glasses. AR may also be useful for businesses who are trying prototypes for new designs and new ideas. AR would allow those businesses to manipulate and change aspects of the model design while continuing to receive information about the design itself.
In the future, it appears both augmented and virtual reality will find a place in our homes. Some of the uses for augmented reality in the home will be the interaction between computers and your living room. You could surround yourself with applications and interact with your computer on a much larger scale. While this has great implications from the standpoint of advertisers, it will also mean that you may be able to create and interact with your technology. Which may mean that in the future, you would be able to work on multiple projects without ever leaving your house?
Virtual reality and augmented reality promise to become even more real as well. Product demonstrations can be done for businesses without the salesperson leaving the office. While Pokémon Go became an overnight sensation, it is clear that even more games will feature augmented reality and virtual reality in the future as well.
Designers are quickly working to incorporate other aspects of virtual and augmented reality into our experiences, such as smells and touch. Engineers are using VR and AR to design new models that may make our future commutes (if they even exist) much easier. It appears there will be no limit to what the combination of virtual reality and augmented reality will be able to do.
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