AR will beat VR in the long run, but what if…

Some days ago I was reading this Road To VR post in which Vive China president wrote some lessons he took from Ready Player One upcoming movie. I found the article pretty boring, but it made me think and I want to report you my shower thoughts.

Ready player one movie header image (Image by Entertainment Weekly, from Road To VR)

We all know that the present and the far future will be augmented: Apple will soon release ARKit and lots of people will start using high-quality Augmented Reality directly from their smartphone. Virtual Reality is already here, but it will still need at least one year (or two) to become mainstream: at that point, everyone will start having a virtual reality headset with which playing or visiting far away friends thanks to social VR experiences.

But in the long term, we’ll all use glass-based augmented reality. AR is the next big platform, the one that will substitute smartphones. We’ll all wear an AR glass every day and it will augment our reality, offering contextual informations and advices, making us play everywhere, letting us live in a world where the virtual and the real are perfectly blended. Of course this will need at least 5 years to happen, but we all know that is going to happen. At that time, VR will be a more niche product, since would be used especially for escaping experiences, like virtual travels and games, while AR will be used in all the other parts of the day. All the experts of the XR field are sure about this: AR in the long run will win. And I agree with them.

One of the many predictions about AR and VR… notice how AR cake is bigger (Image by Digi-Capital)

But what if…

what if we’ll start living in a simulation like in Ready Player One?

There’s all this excitement on VR communities about a future where we could live in a completely immersive virtual reality: an emulated reality that involves all our bodies and all our 5 senses. Something like this will surely need to directly communicate with our brain using some bi-directional BCI (Brain Computer Interface) and this is far from easy. We’ll need decades to arrive to the brain plug of the Matrix.

The worst part is that I’ll have to cut my hair to have that thing installed (Image from The Matrix)

But if we’ll get there… what will be the use of AR? I mean, if we will be able to create a completely credible reality and shape it as we wish, it is obvious that we will start living inside it really a lot, since in this virtual world everything becomes possible, since there are no physical rules the world has to obey and everything becomes customizable, everyone can shape the reality it is best comfortable for him/her. A completely virtual world is compelling because it can free us from limitations of the real world. You can travel virtual miles in seconds, you can do meetings with whatever people you want, you can remove gravity, you can fly, maybe you can also rollback an error you’ve made. It’s a fascinating possibility.

And in this completely virtual scenario, there’s no need for AR anymore. Everything is virtual, there’s no need to augment anything. You can have virtual hints in front of your eyes that give you advices, like a HUD in a 3D game, but this would just be an augmentation of a virtual reality (AVR?).

This would also solve all the problems of AR, that are the ability to create virtual elements that seem completely fused with the real world: being already in a virtual world, adding virtual elements with it is simply trivial. It would be also possible to change the reality in front of our eyes as we wish. The AVR hud could also give us better advices on the virtual world, given the fact that most of the virtual world situation is known.

So, if truly immersive VR will ever happen and we’ll all live more in the virtual world than in the real one, there will be no need to augment our real world, since it would have no interest for us. This would be the final revenge of VR over AR.

Immersive VR can be cool… but also not (Image from movie Total Recall, by Den of Geek)

There’s a theory about aliens (the Fermi’s paradox) telling that we haven’t meet any alien being just becuase they’re so evoluted that now they all live in a virtual reality and so they have no more interest in traveling in the real one. Don’t know if it is true, but it’s surely interesting.

So, the order into which we can have dominating XR technologies may be:

  • Phone-based AR (ARKit)
  • Virtual reality glasses
  • Augmented reality glasses
  • Completely simulated reality (full-immersive VR)

Of course these are just speculations about the future, who knows if this will ever happen. But I wanted you to dream a bit with me.

And if you liked this dream, please like this article and follow me on my AR/VR blog The Ghost Howls!