Decoding augmented and virtual reality technology basic definitions

It is crucial to understand the similarities and differences of augmented and virtual reality.

Augmented and virtual reality seem to be otherworldly words for the uninitiated. Most of us have seen AR VR in action in films like Iron man or matrix. Infact, to me these movies are perfect example of AR and VR respectively. When you see Tony stark in Iron Man being able to see a lot of information in front of his eyes on his helmet screen, that is augmented reality. When Neo goes inside the matrix and interacts in that matrix is an example of virtual reality. Another perfect example is Ready Player One. Interestingly, this movie is set in Year 2045, is it just an entertainment film or a glimpse of the future/prophecy of sorts?

The world is fast moving towards & upwards in research and development of AR VR applications, hardwares and content creation. I am sure the above movie examples would have helped you to visualise what we are dealing with here. Even though that future is tad bit far away, the course of the world has been steered in that direction with the ongoing pandemic. It is important for us to understand what these technologies mean. Below I try to explain the words that form the definitions of AR and VR –

Augmented Reality

Your actual reality is your surroundings. When something gets added to that reality to make it better than before, we say it has been augmented. Now, this something added or augmented could be a text, image or video which you can experience with the help of AR (augmented reality) devices like AR glasses, AR lens, head mounted displays or even smart phones. The device you use will depend on your application. For example, the famous game Pokemon Go used a smart phone. If you talk about military applications, you could maybe see information augmented on the windscreen of a chopper!

Virtual Reality

Virtual means something that is separate from your actual reality, it is not real. Anything that is virtual is created using softwares. When you experience virtual reality, you have no view of your ‘actual real’ surroundings. Virtual reality games are becoming common with gamers, they like the immersive experience the technology has to offer.

Immersive Experience

What matters most in AR and VR is the experience for the user. Augmented and virtual reality are said to be immersive technologies. Immersive in literal sense means something that is captivating or mesmerising. AR and VR of course fits the bill on that definition. The users of Augmented and virtual reality immerse themselves in three dimensional altered reality for an engaging experience. For example, learning becomes so much enjoyable and engaging when students see a 3D model of solar system in front of their eyes with the help of AR. Not just that the learning is fun, understanding and retention of concepts also become better.

Captive Experience

Captive is another word used to define the augmented and virtual reality. These technologies have the capability of attracting and holding the interest of the user. They are relatively new and urge users to explore and engage with their altered reality.

Interactive Experience

Be it augmented realty or virtual reality, they allow users to interact with their surroundings. In continuation to the solar system example, instead of transfer of knowledge to be one way communication from teacher to student, students can themselves explore the solar system at their own pace while interacting with that model.

Individual and Collaborative

In the initial days, AR and VR were mostly meant for individual experiences. Which meant that the person wearing the headgear or lens or looking through a certain screen could experience the output, but now with further R&D in the field, collaborative experiences are being explored. Where multiple people can interact with each other in virtual reality as well. Collaborative experience does not negate the individual experience, both have their own uses and applications.

Hope with these definitions you are clear on what these technologies mean and the direction our world is headed into!

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