Let’s Explore a New Reality-The Future of VR & AR

Riya Mehta
Sep 16, 2019 · 10 min read

Throughout past centuries, we have continuously attempted to explore new ways of imitating life, through integrating artificial intelligence in different practices. While exploring these innovative sectors of technologies, the future of virtual and augmented reality proves to disrupt practices in the fields of medicine, education, and entertainment.

We are all familiar with the term ‘virtual’ or ‘augmented’ reality but don’t fully understand the implications for the future. When we think about a new reality constructed in the future VR & AR play a great role in stimulating these emulations, to create an experience similar to our reality at hand or one completely different than the world we see on a daily basis.

The future of these two computer-generated technologies are astounding, as we now go from interpreting a version of reality that really isn’t there, rather than perceiving our world through our limited senses.

Now before we jump into the specifics of both technologies, let’s understand them as separate applications as well.

Virtual Reality-A New World

Many of us assume that virtual reality has been a marketing buzzword to describe immersive experiences with video games or TV shows selectively, as they can make you adapt to a whole new world of a computer-generated reality.

You can often think of virtual reality as being a gateway to a whole new world, where you can respond to what you see and what you see can respond back to you. The computer-generated technology is harnessed to make this virtual reality look 100% believable to the human eye since VR changes to match how your senses are stimulated.

There are many different variations of virtual reality, each of them being equally explorable, believable and interactive.

Fully Immersive

Fully immersive VR experiences have specific criteria to make them revolutionary interface and a new computing platform.

  • A richly detailed world is needed that is powered by a computer model/stimulation
  • A powerful computer is also required that can detect quick movements in real-time and adjust the VR experience accordingly
  • Hardware such as a head-mounted display (HMD) with sensory gloves, screens, and stereo sound that can be linked to the computer which can fully immerse us into the VR world

Non-Immersive

  • For those who don’t wish to be fully immersed into the VR world, examples such as a realistic flight simulator on a PC and a joystick classify as non- immersive experiences that do not take you into an alternative reality.
  • Many computer archaeologists and those involved in industrial design use 3D models to their advantage, and can create reconstructions or models which can mimic different features with rich experience.

Web-based VR

  • During the early 1990s, virtual reality technologies were rising rapidly, until the fast-growing World Wide Web offered a new experience, an outlook into real reality.
  • This new web database gave users access to publish information and establish a new form of communication with people all across the world. With companies such as Facebook being on the edge of virtual reality, the future of VR is both collaborative and web-based.

It is true that computer stimulations or interactive games meet part of the definition of the term “virtual reality,” but there are so many more approaches to what this virtual world can be used for past the gaming realm disrupting fields such as medicine, education or industrial architecture.

Virtual Reality Equipment

While ordinary computers use equipment such as a keyboard, mouse or different input systems (speech recognition), VR uses sensors to adjust the experience based on the movement of your body.

Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs)

  • To achieve the fully immersive VR experience, a head-mounted display is needed to construct a 3D image of the virtual world as you are moving your head in real-time (head tracking).
  • The 2 screens seen on an HMD have built-in position sensors (accelerometers) to adjust the image accordingly based on the angle of your body and orientation. There are many companies such as Oculus, Google, Samsung and Microsoft providing more features to these headsets, to ensure immersive experiences and a detailed 3D world for users.
  • A system called 6DoF, implemented into the HMD locates your x, y and z axis, while measuring your head movements to adjust the VR experience.
  • Another feature of these VR headsets is eye tracking. An infrared sensor monitor is located inside the headset, which provides information about the movement of your eyes so the image can adjust accordingly. This system allows characters in the stimulation to react more closely based on where they are looking and provide realism to the detailed images.

Wands

  • Wands used in VR experiences, give the user opportunities to point, touch and interact with the virtual environment around them. To navigate the VR world, these wands have built-in accelerometers and are wireless.

Applications Of Virtual Reality

Education:

  • We all know that our world is based on the use of vocational skills on a daily basis, but how do we use VR to enable students to practice this type of content?
  • Well, one of the greatest benefits of VR being integrated into classroom-based learning, is how it allows for students to be trained from realistic scenarios, which VR can stimulate.
  • An experiment conducted by Google’s Daydream Labs revealed that students who received VR training learned in a more efficient way than those who used classroom/video-based tutorials.

Medicine/Surgery:

  • Virtual reality has allowed the medical field to open its doors to “telemedicine”, which describes the process of monitoring, examining or preforming surgery on patients remotely.
  • While it is evident that surgery requires much practice and proper technique, there were not that many efficient ways to gain experience doing so, until the rise of VR came into the picture. Methods of patient scans such as MRIs and CAT scans can only reveal so much about what the patient is experiencing.
  • VR technology allows for these images to be projected into a 3D model, so physicians are able to observe the detailed parts of the anatomy, therefore stimulating surgery even before stepping into an OR.
  • An example of this technology was presented to the world in 2009, called the “daVinci” surgical robot which has now been integrated into many hospital practices globally. Surgeons can use this system to perform complex operations with robotic based surgery.

Computer-Generated Architecture:

  • In the past, architectures had to settle for constructing models of buildings or designs out of resources they already had (real-world materials), but thanks to VR technology, they can now build computer-generated models that can be explored interactively.
  • The Oculus Rift hardware allows for eager students to construct different buildings and implement them into 3D models to bring their plans to life, even to explore them virtually.

Augmented Reality-Merging Digital Content With Our World

Along with virtual reality, augmented reality also proves to be providing usefulness to our daily lives, as this technology has the power to digitally transform the world around us and add elements from the virtual world, into the one we see every day.

AR is based on augmenting virtual information and merging aspects of the computer-generated world, into the existing environment of a user. Users immersive themselves into an AR experience, to achieve an improved reality where virtual objects and real-life elements can co-exist with each other.

Types Of AR

Projection-Based Augmented Reality:

  • Projection-based AR allows for users of this technology to project artificial light onto real-world objects and surfaces. Through this, humans can physically interact with the light through touch, since many AR apps are now accustomed to detecting user interaction by differentiating between an untouched projection and an altered one based on the user’s interaction with it.
  • This type of AR also enables the use of “laser-plasma technology” which can launch a 3D hologram for users to interact with into mid-air.

Superimposition Based Augmented Reality:

  • Nowadays, AR app companies enable superimposition based AR to construct new dimensions of an object which can replace the original object, by recognizing the object model.
  • It is heavily vital for AR apps to detect the original object’s dimensions and model, to strategically locate where augmented objects can belong in a room/space.

Marker Based AR:

  • Marker-based AR helps the device being used to detect through a live camera feed and whether the user is pointing the camera to a specific place for an animation to show up.
  • The device must recognize what location is being viewed from the camera, by placing an image/shape in the location that the user wishes to animate. The image will be processed and the picture can be animated immediately, tracking it to the same location as the original image
  • The picture recognized by the device is referred to as a marker and has many visual aspects to it.

Markerless Based AR:

  • Think about how AR can be used to place furniture inside your room, much like the virtual Ikea catalog which helps customers to decide combinations of furniture styles, objects, and locations. The user needs to find a location to place the object often referred to as “markerless AR”, where an “anchor” to the real world is not needed.
  • To increase realism when placing objects, you can use this application to automatically locate a 3D object onto a flat surface, rather than letting it float in mid-air.

What’s The Difference?

It is human nature to assume that these both types of reality as equally similar, and do provide comparable applications for users to enjoy, but it is important to know where they differ. While they hold the ability to allow users to co-exist with a virtual world, they differ based on the immersive experience offered and our sense of perception.

To summarize, the main uses of virtual reality is to completely transpose the user into a different world and focus our presence into a fully immersive computer-generated reality.

Augmented reality, however, applies virtual elements to the world already existing and augments our state of presence, digitally manipulating a given environment.

AR does provide more freedom to users without using a head-mounted display as virtual reality users do. Regardless of what separates these 2 groundbreaking technologies, the applications shown in both of these realities allows our world to be continually enhanced by these systems.

Companies Disrupting AR & VR

Let’s take a closer look at the companies making immense progress in the space of virtual and augmented reality.

Microsoft-HoloLens:

  • Microsoft constructed a new virtual reality headset with transparent AR lenses called HoloLens, which is comparable to a holographic computer. This hardware injects interactive holograms into our natural environments and surrounds us with a full array of apps in an interactive experience.
  • Exploring the field of mixed reality (MR), the HoloLens applies features from both AR and VR, to give users a fully immersive experience, and features a wide field of view (FOV), and a transparent surface for AR applications.

Samsung Gear VR:

  • Gear VR, released in March of 2017, is described as a VR headset constructed by Samsung in collaboration with Oculus VR and designed to use a Samsung device as a display piece. The latest version works with 9 different devices, and is quite mobile, requiring only a phone and a headset to work without any external sensors or equipment.
  • Oculus VR designed and built the app meant to turn a Samsung phone into a VR headset while providing a storefront for many virtual reality games. Samsung is now disrupting the AR space as they are building a new monitorless AR glasses, which replaces device screens by connecting to PCs and WiFi.

Oculus VR-Oculus Rift:

  • Oculus VR, a startup purchased by Facebook, is another company on the cutting edge of awesome VR applications and hardware, mainly developing goggles for immersive experiences. The Rift is able to fully enable stereoscopic 3D images by using eye screens located for each eye and lenses placed on top of the panels to structure these images according to the movement of your eyes.
  • A new headset is now coming to the VR market, Oculus Quest. This standalone VR headset will encompass the ideal VR elements along with positional tracking, virtual hand controllers and wireless design.

Google VR:

  • Google took it’s first step into the VR world, by developing Google Expeditions, an immersive app that allows users to actively explore new environments and Google Cardboard making its debut to provide an interactive experience to app users. The company is now disrupting the field of VR with new applications such as Tilt Brush and the Daydream headset.
  • Google is also stepping into the world of AR, with its spinoff Niantic. Niantic manages shared AR-based communication, security, mapping and functionality. The company is the world’s only ‘planet-scale’ augmented reality platform, catering to a global demographic.
  • In the summer of 2016, Niantic launched Pokemon Go, a game that quickly brought AR into the mainstream developed a reputation as the most popular AR game so far.

As you can see, there really is no limit to this emerging technology, as the future of AR and VR applications will disrupt the fields of medicine, education and even how we live our every day lives.

We must learn how to co exist with this technology, as it can provide answers to questions we’ve been asking for years, simply by transposing us to a different dimension or adding virtual elements to our already existing environment.

The opportunities in these fields are endless and we can now physically be in experiences rather than watching them from the sidelines.

If you enjoyed this article, you can connect with me on 🙂 or reach me at riyamehta9001@gmail.com

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Riya Mehta

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I am a 16 year old student who is passionate about biotechnology and international medicine. Currently an innovator at TKS & working with Sick Kids Hospital!

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