What Is AR?
AR or augmented reality is a way to overlay artificial images in the real world. Phone games have been doing it for years, to a certain degree. However, with the rise in the popularity of VR, AR is right on its tail.
In VR, users are closed off from the outside world, making use of a wholly different “reality”. Unlike VR, AR uses the world around you to serve as a base for the images on the screen. This could be enhanced with the use of specific items that allow the device to map the surrounding area. One of my personal favorite uses of this technology in handheld form was the Nintendo 3DS. When players got a 3DS, it came with a pack of cards for use with pre-installed software to play minigames. Using the 3D cameras on the device, and looking through the screen, players would see images come out of the cards. This would range from characters to a dragon-blasting minigame.
While Nintendo seems to have dropped this technology for the moment, it seems other companies are picking up the slack. This year at CES 2023 several companies were dipping their toes into the AR market. One of the more notable offerings is the Lumus Z–Lens, which, while it isn’t an AR device itself, offers a new, more minimalistic screen projecting technology for AR developers to integrate into their glasses. They are claiming to be brighter, thinner projectors, which would make the artificial images more luminous, and the eyewear lighter.
Also on display at CES was the RayNeo X2 from TCL. Although this isn’t TCL’s first AR device, it is the first one they’ve made that doesn’t require a cable to link to an external device for its images. The RayNeo X2 will offer navigation, translation, and music playback initially, but TCL has stated that it will allow for “next-level content” moving forward.
Augmented reality is just taking its first steps on the broader market, though, I’d put money on AR as the future of not just assistant technology, but entertainment as well.
Virtual Reality: Perfect Escape
Virtual reality seems to be the largest stepping stone for the future of entertainment technology. Bringing worlds to life and giving users a chance to step foot in places only dreamt of before, VR can be a magnificent escape from the world we live in.
While VR has been in development for quite some time, it has only just hit the market in a meaningful way in the last few years. Beginning with basic activities at first, it’s now become a tool for entertainment and education. VR is now being used for a wide variety of things. From observing medical procedures for med-school students to exploring different parts of the world from your living room. More and more immersive games are pushing the limits of what can be done in VR, BoneLab VR is a perfect example of that.
VR has been a welcome escape, especially in the last couple of years and the technology is in near-constant development. Better lenses, screens, processors, and frames are leading to a more streamlined design, better graphics, and lighter headsets. As a fan of VR, I can say that after a few hours of Netflix VR, I would appreciate a lighter headset.
Why Should You Care?
While some of the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality may seem negligible, the uses can be vastly different. Development of either technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down. That being the case, what can or should we expect moving forward?
In the next few years, we should be seeing various options from many manufacturers at all sorts of price ranges. Options are always nice, and this means that they will be competing with each other, which will increase innovations and upgrades.
Although virtual reality has its own benefits, augmented reality will be easier to integrate into a far wider range of uses in the world. One of the more intriguing uses I’ve seen thrown around is the potential for navigation. Imagine not having to look away from the road to see the next step in your direction. Instead, they would be projected onto the road in front of you, so only you can see. Or video chat anytime anywhere you have an internet connection. Get tutorials on DIY projects overlaid with what you see.
Virtual reality is moving in an entirely new direction. One of the more impressive projects is from the small island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific. Rising sea levels from climate change have forced the island to consider its future. As of this article, about 40% of the nation’s capital is underwater at high tide, with estimates saying that the entire island will be underwater by the end of the century. Instead of laying back and accepting their fate, they are embracing future technology and recreating the island entirely in the Metaverse. They have begun mapping and recreating Tuvalu virtually. They’ll also be preserving their history and culture so generations to come can experience it for themselves. With this being the first virtual nation, it could lead to anthropologists recreating lost civilizations in the Metaverse.
Augmented or virtual, these realities are a marvel of modern technology and the possibilities of their use are endless.