Augmented and virtual reality: an IT leader's introduction
"'Virtual reality will grow, just as the telegraph grew to the telephone – as the radio to the TV – it will be everywhere.'
While the above quote may sound like it was pulled from a recent analyst report on the emergence of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), it's from the 1992 film The Lawnmower Man, a reminder of the last flurry of interest and activity in the VR space that fizzled out nearly as quickly as it captured public attention. Recently, interest has been rekindled in AR and VR, and you could be forgiven for feeling that we've all seen these prognostications before and can safely ignore this technology once again.
What are augmented and virtual reality?
Like most emerging technologies, there is some confusion and overlap to the terms augmented reality and virtual reality. At a basic level, AR entails the presentation of digital information as an overlay on your visual reality. Consider a car that projects maps and directions onto the windshield, augmenting your view of the road with information about traffic and the next turn. A more sophisticated AR could also display objects with which you can manipulate and interact. For example, a consumer might use AR glasses to display a new couch in his living room and then use his hand to move the virtual couch around the room, change its colour or swipe between different styles of furniture.
VR suggests a more immersive experience, where one or more of your senses are provided with a computer-generated or cinematic reality. A great and low-cost VR experience that uses your existing smartphone can be had with Mattel's new VR View-Master. Load the app, place your phone in the plastic View-Master and you can be transported to space, Roman ruins or an African savannah, with graphics that far exceed what we experienced in the 1990s, all for around 30 dollars. The View-Master can also be used like a Google Cardboard device, so it's compatible with most Cardboard apps you might find in the Google Play store or the App Store.”
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