By now, you would have either experienced Pokemon Go or collided with someone or the other walking around trying to find a pokemon on the streets. Everyone has described this as the first mainstream implementation of Augmented Reality, and frankly speaking it took me a long time to understand exactly what that meant. As with most mysteries – a quick search on google provided the following insight;
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Wikipedia)
If you share my limited degree of technology awareness, this definition would provide nothing but more confusion. However, experience assisted in crossing this knowledge barrier when my colleague provided a simple demonstration. Opening an app on his phone and scanning a piece of paper through the camera, the video of a dancing child popped up on the screen. Wherever he moved the camera and any angle, the girl stayed where she was as if she was standing there in reality. I started to realise that this technology is a lot more prevalent that I had originally thought.
Spurred on my newfound understanding, I revisited my trusted knowledge aide – Google – to discover the secrets of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. (Wikipedia)
Given the larger context – this now made a lot more sense and Virtual Reality blew my mind, even more so that AR in fact. Once again, to fully experience the technology, I had put on the headset and watched a clip of sharks swimming around me as if I were underwater. This extraordinary experience was particularly significant as I suffer from Claustrophobia and never expected to experience an underwater dive like this. The first few moments were quite intimidating, but as I gathered my senses and got my breathing in control, I was left in awe. The other clip I would recommend was a recreation of Cirque du Soleil, an immersive experience in a live circus. That one, I enjoyed much more, because I felt as if I was standing among the performers and artists. It was even more real, given that the experience revolves around the user sitting on a chair, and not floating underwater
Both technologies have potential in the business world, for example, AR have been explored in the fashion world and furniture companies. AR can help people to see how a product would look for instance in their living room simply by using an app through their phone. And VR is being used in a variety of businesses as well, for instance Arctic Cat uses it to show their customers the new snow mobile model.
In my opinion, the biggest difference is that VR is a controlled environment, such as console gaming and experiencing things with your own eyes, whereas AR can be social and you can move around or even taking a walk with it.
I slowly started to see how the technologies also extend beyond the business world, and into real life. As I look back on my traveling experiences back in Southeast Asia, most of the traveling involved taking a bus from town to town. One particular ride stood out in my memory, a particularly nervy bus ride from Luang Prabang to Louang Namtha in Laos. The bumpy roads of Laos take some getting used to and I felt most lucky that I don’t get car/bus nausea, being exposed to sailing from a young age. But the size of the bus and narrow roads across the hills and mountains made the ride challenging to sit properly and it went on and on for hours. I held on to the seat as my entire body tightened with every turn and bump. At one point we came to a stop, and I could barely see anything because it was night time and darkness surrounded the bus. I got up from my seat and came to the front and found out there was a tank truck that had fallen sideways on the side of the road. And at the same time there were other cars and buses tried to pass the traffic from the other side towards us. What made this whole situation difficult was the location; on the tight turn of a mountain.
When problems like these happen often in the roads of Southeast Asia, AR and VR could do a great deal of help to improve them. Have the exact measurements and calculating the size of the roads and buses, they can help to prevent accidents. Drivers could practice the turns and smoother rides. Infrastructure could be improved by testing new roads using the technology.
While this is just an idea of mine, I have observed in my travels that advanced technology has yet to become a mainstream in some areas, including in rural areas. But this is just an example for what kind of problems could be solved by AR and VR. Such an advanced technology should be used to make the world a better place, more than just entertainment. Blunt as that sounds, there’s little to argue against the fact that the world could certainly be made a better place, sometimes!