Do you remember how Pokémon GO became a craze in 2016? Everyone was busy finding new Pokémon characters and checkpoints. Such was the hype that it sometimes created chaos at public places around the world and even got banned in cities. The game was unique in the sense that it used the phone’s location and camera so that one could catch a Pokémon in a real-time scenario. It made one’s avatar move in the phone’s screen and it required one to go places and find new characters.
It was the first major Augmented Reality (AR) mobile game. The history of AR traces back to 1968, where Ivan Sutherland created the first AR headset at Harvard. However, the first AR application was introduced in 2008.
Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, goes back even further to 1838 when Sir Charles Wheatstone described the concept of stereopsis. Stereopsis is the term associated with the perception of depth and 3-dimensional structure obtained based on the visual information received from the eyes transmitted to the brain.
In 1956, the first VR machine (Sensorama) was created by Morton Heilig. It was a combination of various technologies like 3D screen, audio, and sensory stimulators. Since then, VR is being widely used in video games, virtual amusement rides, google maps, among others.
So, what’s the science behind AR and VR, and what’s the difference between the two?
AR can be defined as a system where virtual objects are added into the real-world dimension in real-time. A simplistic example of it would be various camera filters being used by social media platforms where a virtual character is either introduced in the real landscape or the facial filters that give different look by reading the facial geometry.
AR uses a geospatial datum (starting point for the virtual object to be placed), a surface to project the virtual object, and processing power to smoothly run the graphics, images, objects, etc. AR system also requires a camera to track the movement, based on which the virtual object also seamlessly moves along.
Currently, three technologies are powering the usage of AR technology:
SLAM localises the sensors (gyroscope, accelerometer, etc.) and renders virtual objects/images over the real-world spaces.
Camera sensors mark the object and then overlay the virtual image and object on top of it. The virtual image used is in 3-D to give an in-depth experience to the user.
AR, in this technology, relies on GPS, gyroscope, and others to present augmented reality visualizations. This technique is mainly used in mapping directions.
VR, on the other hand, is an immersive and interactive technology that presents a virtually created 3-D environment in front of the user that involves sensory experience as well.
VR works with the help of input and output devices. Input devices, like mouse, keyboard, joysticks, etc. help the user interact in the virtual simulated environment. It also involves tracking devices that capture the body movement and reflects the same movement in the virtual world.
Output devices help users experience the sense of vision, touch, smell, or any sensory experience. Most famous in the output categories are VR headgears, haptic devices that stimulate the sense of touch, VR glasses, etc.
While video games are the most popular genre where these two technologies have been widely used, their usage in the field of surgery, manufacturing, aerospace, military training, remote project execution, e-commerce, education, and many other areas have started gaining traction.
According to a report, the global AR & VR market size is expected to witness a CAGR of 35% (USD 125.19 billion) during 2020-2024. Although at a nascent stage, the technologies have started gaining ground in India too.
In a post-COVID era, it is the usage of technology that has seen a meteoric rise. The role of AR/VR in it will be crucial. Its critical for industries to leverage the emerging technologies to navigate the new normal.