When it comes to immersive experiences, there isn’t anything else that comes close to what the technology of virtual and augmented reality can offer.
For example, the gaming industry realised that it can do amazing things with using virtual reality (VR) technology, giving gamers an experience that one could never get on a screen.
Gamers can now feel like they’re “inside” the game itself. The game ‘Job Simulator’ is one of the more famous of VR games. You actually play the role of a chef or a mechanic and do ‘jobs’ in the VR world. (There’s actually a VR arcade in Brunei that opened in May at Hua Ho Manggis. You can visit their Instagram page @vr_arcade for more information).
VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR are revolutionising the way people play video games. VR hardware such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR are revolutionising the way people play video games and this attracts many gamers who crave for a higher level of immersion in gaming.The concept of VR is simple. It substitutes the real-world environment with a digital one. Users can then explore and interact with the virtual world and experience a conceptually different environment than the one they’re used to.
Want to be on the moon without having to get there physically? Or explore a medieval castle in a fantasy realm? Would you want to fly an X-Wing in a Star Wars space battle? You can certainly do all that simply by donning a pair of VR glasses in the comfort of your home.
The story with VR is that it was supposed to take off commercially back in the 90’s with several prototypes pitched at science fairs and TV documentaries. But it didn’t live up to the promise due to technical limitations at that time.
Today, VR is ripe for mainstream success as the technology has progressed from the dated ‘Lawnmower Man’ visuals and laughably bulky headsets.
The technology is more powerful and advanced than the prototypes in university research labs long ago. The graphics look more realistic, the 3D effect is far more effective and the headsets are sleeker and more comfortable to wear.
Since 2014, Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners have been able to strap their devices onto the proprietary Gear VR headset accessory. Huawei has 10 smartphones that are ready for VR applications which makes the technology more accessible to phone users. More recently, Google is hard at work in making its Daydream application more accessible to all Android phone users.
The applications for VR also extends beyond entertainment with real uses within industries like engineering, medical, education, military and aviation. In 2015, German airliner Lufthansa used VR to create a virtual experience for visitors at a travel trade show in Berlin. They upped their VR game by getting customers to use VR to bid for premium seat upgrades in a blind auction!
[related]In social media, Facebook launched Facebook Spaces in April, giving the company its very own VR platform that lets users interact with friends on the social network in a virtual world. The future of social media? Definitely.
Of course, VR isn’t the only technology that’s giving our sensory perceptions new dimensions. It has a close relative; Augmented Reality (AR).
AR, along with VR and Artificial Intelligence, could well be the next big thing after personal computers and smartphones.
Unlike VR, AR superimposes information on the real world, heightening our senses by giving us the ability to interact with things that are already around us.
The hit game Pokemon Go is an example of how AR works. You turn on the app and then suddenly find that the real world has a few additions; Pokemon which you need to catch and only exists within the AR app through your smartphone.
In social media, Snapchat or Instagram carry filters to make you look like a cartoon character or even a celebrity. However, this is only the beginning of what AR is capable of. Thanks to breakthrough advancements in recent years, AR applications now has span across a wide spectrum of industries including entertainment, business, education, construction, healthcare and design, just to name a few.
The most popular form of AR gear right now is wearable tech, particularly head-mounted displays which give the wearer a more immersive experience like VR headsets.
But unlike VR headsets, which blocks our world view and substitutes it with a digital environment, AR-enabled goggles combine the virtual and physical worlds. Think of the scenes in the Iron Man or Robocop movies where both characters are utterly dependent on information displayed by their futuristic AR helmets.
About five years ago, Google gave us a glimpse on the uses of AR with its product Google Glass Since then, other companies have made their own variations of AR tech.
One of the most notable AR headset is Microsoft’s HoloLens which is essentially a holographic computer built into a headset, giving the wearer the ability to interact with holograms projected in an environment through the display.
In the healthcare sector, surgeons used an AR application called Vipaar on Google Glass to assist them in surgical operations via augmented information projected on to the patient.
In the manufacturing industry, warehouse workers use SmartPick, an AR application to help them locate and sort packages. The applications for AR are also used in museums to enhance the visitor’s learning experience. The British Museum, for example, has AR installed in its galleries for visitors to interact with or see display artefacts come to life using their tablets. Meanwhile, British retailer Argos followed suit by using augmented tech to get people to shop directly from their catalogue through a supplementary smartphone app.
Japanese game maker Nintendo have been experimenting with augmented reality games on their Wii U console and 3DS handheld system, while Microsoft have been teasing gamers how its HoloLens can be used to play Minecraft in an augmented environment.
In Brunei, a gaming startup called Itsybytes have been working on AR game prototypes and we’ve even partnered with them to feature AR in our October-December 2016 magazine issue.
AR may still be in early days but technology is ripe for innovation with a lot of research being carried out to bring the tech into unexplored territories. As AR slowly become integrated in our daily lives, the future that Iron Man or Robocop live it may not be as far off as we think!
You can find out more information on VR by searching:
- Facebook Spaces
- Huawei Virtual Reality
- Google Daydream
- Lufthansa Visual Journey