Technology is progressing at such a rapid pace that sometimes it feels hard to keep up with. Most people have heard of VR. But have you heard of AR? And if you have, do you understand the difference?
VR stands for virtual reality, and AR stands for augmented reality. They sound pretty similar, and as technology is developing, they share some elements that blend into each other. But actually, AR and VR are two totally different concepts, each with their own distinguishing features.
What is Virtual Reality?
One definition of the word virtual is ‘near’ and reality is defined as ‘the state of things as they actually exist’, so we could say that VR can be defined as ‘near reality’. Through using VR, we have the opportunity to explore and interact with real-world environments in a virtual way. A host of technologies are used to produce VR, including 360 photography and 360 videography.
Virtual reality can transform a traditional video. It can allow 360 movement, offer info points on screen to touch, provide menu buttons, navigation tools, voice-overs and presenters.
To experience VR in full, to be fully immersed, users are often required to wear VR headsets. VR headsets completely take over your vision in order to give you the impression that you are somewhere else, whether that’s chasing monsters in space or enjoying an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
In recent years tech providers have also been exploring how else to take interactive and immersive experiences to the next level. How to make an experience more in tune with human sensors to enhance the sense of realism, something more real than what’s experienced through a headset. Think sensory gloves or an omni-directional treadmill…
Ultimately, the best VR experiences will make you feel as if you are truly present within them and that’s exactly what many tech and software developers are looking to create.
What is Augmented Reality?
If we think of VR as replacing your real-world experience, augmented reality adds another dimension all together. AR technology is designed for free movement, whilst projecting images over what you look at. The computer generated option is most widely available on smartphones where the software is used to recognise your surroundings and provide additional information. It can place ‘sofas’ in your living room, allow you to ‘try’ sunglasses before buying or add external objects to any given video or image for example. It can also display hologram presenters (such as Sir David Attenborough in his latest AR app) floating in the centre of your room.
Take Smart-glasses for example. In appearance they look relatively normal, no one would know the difference until their on. As a user only you would see a layered version of reality through the lens. Whilst looking at the path ahead you would also see data on that day’s weather, notifications from your phone and perhaps see augmented objects added to your view.
The possibilities for AR seem endless, especially once AR headsets are established.
Developments to note
Recently Microsoft have been showing off their vision for future meetings. Ths development is named ‘Mesh’ and it’s a cloud based service, which would enable developers to build applications where people can share holograms, speak with one another, doodle and meet as avatars. The idea is that people would be able to participate via Microsoft’s Hololens augmented reality headset, but that you could also participate using other devices, such as PC’s, phones or VR headsets.
Once you put on the Hololens headset and open the app, you can design an avatar to represent yourself and join a meeting with other people whose avatars appear like holograms in your physical environment. The headsets capture movement information from the wearer’s body and it’s possible to speak with everyone, as it would be on a video call.
With new developments happening in both AR & VR there are exciting times ahead.
Is one better than the other? VR or AR?
Whilst at this point AR and VR have some similarities, they are two completely different concepts. They both have different uses.
VR takes you through a real-world experience and allows users to connect with brands and locations from the comfort of their own home or office. Ideal for virtual training, virtual recruitment, virtual sales tools or venues with limited accessibility. It allows organisations to approach wider audiences and grow their customer base with just a single resource. A resource that is perfect for international university students for example, who may not have the means to travel to the UK to walk around campus in-person but can now fully immerse themselves whilst sitting at home on the other side of the world.
AR on the other hand adds external images and context to what you’re seeing. Often found within video games, or online shopping. But it won’t be long before AR creeps into the virtual-business space further. For example being able to create your own avatar within an event space that’s all accessed online and never actually in person. The animated version of a live event is revolutionising the event sector as we type.
So really it depends what you’re looking for. Are you a business owner, charity manager or education provider? Looking to raise brand awareness, expand reach and increase engagement? We’d recommend utilising VR to its full capacity. If you’re an event provider who already has VR and is looking for something different or you just want the gaming experience, AR is for you.
At Circus we are award-winning creators of virtual experiences. We thoroughly believe in the power behind virtual options, both for businesses and home lives. If you’d like to find out more about our work, see here or contact us at [email protected]