Virtual Reality — Virtual or Real, Can you tell the difference? Part 2

For this blog post, I would like to explore the differences between the different types of VR and the various applications used by these concepts.

There are 3 core concepts of VR –

- Virtual Reality (VR)

- Augmented Reality (AR)

- Mixed Reality (MR)

All three of them involve watching or looking at something that is not real or physical

Virtual Reality immerses your senses in an environment which in only present in the digital world. There is nothing physically to look at, but the content is created in such a way that it appeals to our sight and hearing and thus creates a virtual feeling of the person actually being in that exact location. It is quite a complex process to create such virtual environments and was generally very prohibitive cost wise.

Virtual reality has been used for a very long time in the aviation industry in the form of Flight Simulators. As per Wikipedia, a flight simulator is a device that artificially creates aircraft flight, the environment in which it flies for pilot training and the design of aircrafts themselves. As the cost of purchasing an aircraft is too high, having a flight simulator is the most practical method of training pilots. A variety of environments can be created including rain, extreme turbulence etc. in order to see how the pilot reacts to these conditions.

This is used not just by commercial airliners, but is also widely used by the military. Soldiers can learn how to fly in a virtual battle, handle emergency situations etc. Another use of virtual reality is in the entertainment industry spread across fantasy, sport, historical and science fiction. Some the most common examples are Second Life, World of Warcraft, The Sims etc. More information regarding this can be found here.

Augmented Reality is an environment where digital imagery and sounds are added to the real world. A computerized setting modifies our perception between reality and the real (physical) world. You may be able to see/hear things in the real environment which are generated digitally.

Again augmented reality has also been around us and is not something completely brand new. The holographic images of dead musicians like Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur were displayed to the fans a couple of years ago.

Augmented reality uses a range of sensors including cameras, computer displays or smartphone screens to create an illusion of a digital object being presented in the real world. It uses multiple sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes to ensure that the digital image is being presented in the right form and is aligned with the real world. Current products such as Google Glass or other heads on displays have a system called “prism projector” which basically acts as a bridge between the eye and the real world. The user is led to believe that the images projected by these devices actually exist and this creates a very immersive experience.

Augmented reality is mainly used in the gaming and education industry at the moment. Students could benefit from a live 3D model of either an engine or a heart and this type of experience will allow them to see not just the intricacies of these objects, but also give them practical exposure in their field without needing to look at a real engine or a real heart. Uses can be seen in the medical field as well, Veinviewer provides a real time image of infrared veins of a patient, so that the treating doctor can view the veins directly rather than trying to work it out over a patients skin.

Mixed Reality — It could be argued that Mixed reality is a type of Augmented reality, however it is much greater. Mixed reality is supposed to take the augmented information displayed and add it to the real world. In this article, the author indicates that although they knew that the environments that they were participating in were fake, their experience was really genuine. The focus point is on the experience itself rather than the technology that is being used. An overlay of digital content is placed on top of the real world. The key characteristic is that the digital content and the real world content can react to each other in real time. Microsoft has developed Hololens and is expecting it to become quite big and popular.

An article on CNBC states Mixed reality developments will be primarily be led by consumer centric applications such as games, however there is potential for this to be utilized in an enterprise environment as well.