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Is there a future of Augmented and Virtual Reality?

There has been great hype about both augmented and virtual reality in the past few years. Pokémon was the first to give a taste of AR/VR and made us crave for more. Though customers are eagerly waiting, the technology is not ready as yet. There seems to be a distance between the developers and the investors.

The industry is growing at a slower pace than expected, and it is leading us to the point of asking whether there is a future of augmented reality and virtual reality at all. Let’s find out.

The future of augmented reality

Augmented reality

VR and AR’s future seems to look brighter now, as the industry has made some headway into the technology. New companies have come up with exciting new products which appeal to the users. The Israeli startup LVL 3 Dizengoff, a VR/AR company, situated in Tel Aviv is winning over many users with their sensory offerings.

The advanced tech has led many to play video games with AR as well as VR, as LVL has captured the experience of flying seamlessly through space or for fighting off Zombies. The future of virtual reality is looking up, if we can go by the developments made by LVL.

What is the difference between VR and AR?

Virtual Reality

VR requires closed headsets which places users in the virtual world where they can simply watch the content, just like being in a movie. Users can move around in real or virtual world, interact with characters and environment in the unreal or virtual world.

AR or augmented reality uses headsets through which the real world is visible, and the headset overlays different digital objects onto it, such as dragons, or flowers or even sales data. It could be anything which can merge with the real environment or stand out in it. 

What to look for in AR/VR the near future?

Augmented reality

The market as well as AR/VR products have developed at a slower pace which has put investors on the back foot. That is the reason why the startups have started to make alterations to their designs which can last for a longer duration, requiring less investment. Big companies are wary about investing a lot so the less investment-more results model is suiting both developers and investors.

Latest developments in AR/VR support tech

Virtual Reality

Qualcomm has come up with its XR2 which is the latest AR/VR chip that can power the next gen of AR as well as VR devices, which have 5G support, more cameras and highest resolution. The company is working with the first company which made waves with VR, i.e. Pokémon Go Creator Niantic to create a solution utilizing both of the companies’ know-how.

The future of virtual realityis looking good as companies have now seen where their strengths lie and selling their products to competitors which can develop them better. For example, Facebook sold the Oculus Medium VR program for developing VR to Adobe. And Oculus Quest has gained support for hand tracking, which seems like a small achievement but is actually quite important as it would make VR capabilities smoother than now.

Meanwhile, MagicLeap, which has got a huge funding, is focusing on business customers more. The company made waves with its 2 billion dollar investment which is being hyped as groundbreaking in the AR sector.

The idea of AR/VR was exciting and developers, masses and investors expected too much too soon. But the way ahead was full of some roadblocks which have taken time to overcome. Once the blocks are removed, there will be steady development in AR as well as VR tech that will lead to the manufacturing of products that would change the way we see reality!

Problems in VR/AR development

Augmented reality

One of the major problems in the virtual and augmented reality segment is that many of the key factors required such as screen resolution, battery life, user comfort is not up to the mark yet. The technology has to advance quite a bit for it to be released mainstream.

The VR predictions which were made earlier have not lived up to the hype. It is difficult to please consumers which have high expectations, mainly due to the hype, which has put developers in a difficult position. This has led to another trend, that of making products which can enhance productivity and save money for businesses. A targeted product is easier to develop rather than anything which has to be released blindly to the masses, not knowing whether it would take off or not.

Another major drawback is that even though there may be some quite good AR/VR devices, there is no content for them. Only when there is content can the devices work. It is somewhat of a vicious cycle- low sales of the devices does not inspire creators to create content, and less content is not leading up to innovative hardware being made in greater quantities.

The headsets available currently are clunky, sweaty and heavy, besides delivering fuzzy images from time to time. In the case of augmented reality, the virtual objects do not behave as they ought to, but the glitches are fun to spot too, such as a chair floating and so on. The technology is not advanced now, so users are often left feeling dizzy while moving about in the virtual world. The controllers have too many buttons and using them intuitively is tough which causes the actions to go wrong.

Going beyond ‘fun’

Virtual-reality

Right now, VR is mostly about fun, as you can get access to VR machines (if you don’t have a VR headset), at gaming arcades. It is exciting to be transported into a world which is completely different from your reality. All you have to do is slip on a headset and you can be chasing monsters, or be chased by them, taking a virtual tour of the universe as you go on missions like the Star Trek et al.

As human brains have third of the neurons dedicated to vision, we are visual creatures, which is why VR has such a profound effect on us, especially with additional effects such as soft breeze and familiar smells. This is why though it is taking time, people are still waiting for VR and AR to become a part of their lives.

One of the VR predictionsis that in about three years, there would be approx 30 million virtual reality devices (for mobile, console, standalone and PC based). As for AR capable devices such as smart glasses and smartphones, the number would be 2.5 billion, up from the 900 million now.

Revenues from app stores, ecommerce and ads will probably be driving AR, and gaming and entertainment are revenue generators for VR.

To sustain VR/AR, the technology has to transition to useful from being just another source of fun. For example, startups like Spatial are aspiring to create devices which can create virtual business collaborations across different platforms and gadgets. Their tech allows people who have Microsoft HoloLens, XR2 prototypes, Oculus Quest and AR capable smartphones to interact via their avatars in one virtual environment, with the help of virtual whiteboards and so on. Companies such as Purina are using this technology to help remote teams connect.

Another of the VR predictionsis for it to be used in ecommerce retail as a tool for online shoppers to try on their clothes in virtual changing rooms. This would result in better fitted clothes for the customer, and less hassle in returning clothes. AI shop assistants would cater to their tastes. All this however, is expected to be effective only by 2050.

Key players in AR/VR

1. Apple

Apple

Apple’s ARKit developer tool has allowed it to make quite a few AR apps for the iPhone. The apps have wowed users with the ability to add virtual items to the real view that they can view through the screen of the smartphone. For example, Ikea’s Place is an AR app using which users can place the virtual furniture in the space and find out how it would look in that space. Plus Apple’s AR Glasses also seem to be on the horizon. 

2. Facebook

Oculus Go

Mark Zuckerberg famously claimed that he wanted one billion users to try out VR, but it is still a long way off. Facebook bought Oculus which has developed the Oculus Go, Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S for VR gaming.  

3. Microsoft

Microsoft Hololens 2

Image Source : img-prod-cms-rt-microsoft-com.akamaized.net

The HoloLens from Microsoft is a mixed-reality headset, which has Wi-Fi and aimed at uses mainly for business. Volvo, ThyssenKrupp and Lift company are among some of the early users of HoloLens. Microsoft is expected to launch the Hololens 2 for 3,500 dollars. 

4. Google

Google Glass is one of the AR headsets

Image Source : dynaimage.cdn.cnn.com

Google’s Google Glass is one of the AR headsets that has met with more success in the business segment rather than the consumer segment. The Glass Enterprise Edition has been used by GE, Sutter Health and DHL to increase productivity in their staff.

Working in the Android platform, Google has ARCore for the Pixel phones, as well as smartphones from Huawei, Samsung and other smartphone companies. Recently, Google added an AR function called Live View to the Google Maps which allows users to see directions and arrows overlaid on the view of streets on Google Maps.

One of the future AR trends is thus working with cameras.

VR’s future uses would be to use it in overcome phobias and fears in the medical or health segment, and in uses such as virtual changing rooms. The future AR trends predict that AR would overlay digital features on real world, making the internet come alive in the real world.

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