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Anitha Rajagopalan
Anitha Rajagopalan 4 August 2016

Augmented And Virtual Reality

Today Augmented/Virtual reality has taken the app world by storm. If we look around we will find numerous VR apps, which appear really cool. It did help in getting attention but the real “value” element appeared to be missing. There is only so much that coolness will get you.

The concept of Virtual Reality (VR) came into being in late 1970s at the Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT). It has come a long way since its original crude form where it was little more than the infantile virtual simulation of Aspen, Colorado. Today it is far more immersive and has its own coding language too, which is called VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling language), however, it is still a computer-generated simulation of a real life situation or environment.

Scientists and engineers the world over were thinking how to make it more interactive and they did it by adding computer created enhancements that can be layered on top of an existing reality and have the ability to interact with it. Augmented Reality (AR) was born by mid 1990s.

With the proliferation of highly powerful smartphones and the launch of wearable headsets, the possibility of business exploitation for Augmented reality and Virtual Reality has become stronger. According to Tim Merel, founder and CEO of Eye touch Reality and Digi-Capital, the investments in AR/VR technologies has already crossed US $ 1.1 million in 2016. The revenue from AR VR technology is forecasted to reach US $ 120 billion, annually, by 2020. Read More

Today Augmented/Virtual reality has taken the app world by storm. If we look around we will find numerous VR apps, which appear really cool. It did help in getting attention but the real “value” element appeared to be missing. There is only so much that coolness will get you.

The search for value in Augmented reality has led to a series of innovations across industries. Let us look at a couple of them. Starting from the most obvious to the little less obvious. Gaming was the most obvious choice for testing AR. If we consider the statistics for “Pokémon Go“ the AR video game launched by Nintendo in early July 2016, it has 20 million active daily users; at least 10 million daily downloads and have already generated US$ 14 million in revenue. An average Pokémon user is spending some 43 minutes every day on the game Read More (all statistics as of July 26, 2016, the figures are only bound to creep northwards). It has already generated more than 3 times of the amount spent in its development.

In retail, especially in online retail, it was impossible to try and then order. AR is solving this problem for the buyer by changing imagination into reality. The customer can now try and experience how the product will feel in their own environment. This is sure to give a boost to online commerce. AR is allowing the visualization of products in real time in the real world. An example is the TryLive, a potentially game changing AR application aimed at online clothing and accessory retail. It can be used with any device having a camera. Its eyewear application allows the users to try eyeglass frames directly from their iPhones or computers. They can immediately share the pictures with their friends for feedback too.

In Sports, AR has been helping viewers understand and focus on the game better. NBA rolled out AR assistance along with Virtual 3. It ensures that certain things like the 3-point arc is highlighted during the transmission of a basketball game. They have also included dynamic replays where 360-degree videos are being used to create replays of important plays like slam-dunk.

In Architecture, AR is already helping architects in visualizing their projects by converting their 2D drawings into 3D structures providing a real life view of the property even before it is constructed. In Emergency situations, like track and rescue, AR is already being used in a big way as it provides the aerial camera operators with the actual names and geographic awareness of the remote landscape where such operations are needed.

In Medicine, AR is being used to combine one source of information like an image with another source like a video to look inside the patients and to locate ‘difficult to find’ areas. A device named vein viewer has been in use since 2005 to locate veins in patients.

All the major technology companies will be rolling out their own AR/VR products in the immediate future. Facebook has Oculus Rift, HTC has Vive, Microsoft is planning to release its HoloLens development kit to developers, and PlayStation VR is going to be launched by the end of 2016. It is rumored that even Apple is exploring VR technology.

There is a substantial debate still, about the suitability of AR vs VR, especially in the entertainment, gaming and user experience industry. The future vision for AR and VR is still not really clear. Sometimes they appear to complement the other while they are contradictory at certain other times. Magic Leap‘s (probably the best known company in AR) CEO, Rony Abovitz is critical of VR and states that VR inputs to the brain are incorrect and might lead to neurological defects. Read More

VR big shots don’t take this allegation seriously. Palmer Lukey (founder of Oculus, bought by Facebook for US$ 2 billion) considers it to be one of the technologies that will be most important in the history of mankind Read More , a sentiment echoed by Zuckerberg himself.

There is a third school which thinks that VR fortunes are very closely tied to wearable’s like 3D headsets but the face is the worst place for wearable technology.

Whatever the arguments may be, both these technologies are here now, and they have all the potential to alter the field of consumer experience forever. How adoption pans out is for the future to tell but one thing is for sure. It will depend a lot on the delivery channels (headsets, TV’s and other display’s) and also on the development of social trends, personal experiences against shared social ones. The success of these technologies will also depend on how tightly integrated they become with our lives – a la Facebook.

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