There tends to be a situation in the digital industry which decrees that when two not-dissimilar objects become popular, or at least interesting, people must choose one or the other – especially if their applications seem to be quite similar. It’s predominantly been the domain of consumer electronics, such as PlayStation vs Xbox (vs Nintendo), or Blu-ray vs HD DVD. Sometimes there’s a clear winner, and at other times it’s just a case of personal preference.
Another battleground that has recently emerged in this context is the one between virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Both have been catapulted out of infancy largely due to the incredible abilities of base-level consumer technology, as well as the vast amount of money now made available to key players like Google, which can basically afford to try anything out once.
We’re extremely interested in the two of them, and it’s clear that both have their practical uses. However, we don’t see a reason why they should duke it out; if anything, they could be used in complementary fashions down the line. Let’s look at their key selling points, and how you may consider using them in the future.
Augmented reality: Enhancing and complementing the real world
AR has been a thing for a long while, but has been tied down to technology (traditionally Google Glass, which excited many for only a brief amount of time), yet our obsession with the option has been deeply rooted in the minds of sci-fi fans since the days of Robocop and Terminator, where heads-up displays (HUDs) became popularised. Naturally, HUDs have become a mainstaple of gaming ever since.
AR’s main strength, and absolute difference from VR, is that it must complement the real world. And there’s the problem: for it to be successful and widely used, it must work flawlessly with natural experiences, and offer help or entertainment within this context.
Sadly, the technology (or useful application) for AR hasn’t arrived, and likely won’t start building until later this year as Microsoft’s HoloLens technology gets bigger, and the first developer kits are shipped out. Only then might you see Minority Report-style experiences, and the effortless interactivity that comes with them.
Applications could be incredible – not least exploration and tourism, where museums, shops and cities themselves can become annotated at the touch of a button. Decorating your home could become a doddle, too, as IKEA’s proved with its initial steps in AR.
Virtual reality: Taking us away from the real world
VR has really shot into prominence with the development of Google Cardboard, which is as basic as it gets: so long as you have a smartphone, you can wrap it in a simply-shaped cardboard sleeve, put it to your eyes, and see a whole different world. You can look around and explore your surroundings with ease, at least after your eyes have gotten used to “looking through” the phone (in a similar way to the Nintendo 3DS’ strange system of three dimensions). However, up until now, this has been very limited in passive consumer applications.
Virtual reality is, 100%, for good content – both to lure people to go out of their way to use it, and to keep them involved when they get there, as it demands every single bit of your attention. Think about it: VR needs a user’s full focus on what they’re experiencing. You can’t have people wanting to look away, because they can’t.
Key players aren’t missing out on the possibilities that VR offers. Facebook and YouTube have their own dedicated players for these – YouTube’s offering is so simple, too – and it’s only a case of videographers catching up to demands of the consumer both in content and application.
Imagine what it could do: taking sport as a single example, you could strap a 360-degree camera onto the sidelines of a football pitch and have people paying to watch a match “in person”; alternatively, you could have several posted around a racetrack to switch between to watch an F1 race between angles.
Whichever of the two technologies you believe may be your forte, just remember: neither is better than the other, and both are likely as difficult to create – until the major players start to truly get on board, at least. Be creative and exciting, but most of all, entertain or help the people who you’re targeting!