The definition of “Virtual Reality”, naturally, comes from the definitions of both “virtual” and “reality”. “Virtual” meaning near and “reality” is what we experience as humans. So, “Virtual Reality” essentially means “near-reality”, this could mean anything but in this case, refers to a specific type of reality emulation. In technical terms, Virtual reality is fairly straightforward, the term is used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person.
However, the world as we know it is distinguished through our senses and perception systems. Humans have many more senses than just the obvious sense organs, such as a sense of balance, these other sensory inputs ensure that we have a rich flow of information from our environments to our brains. Therefore, through VR you would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Hence why we would refer to this environment as virtual reality.
Augmented Reality is exactly what it sounds like, enhanced digital components and it is one of the biggest technology trends right now, and it’s only getting bigger as smartphones and other similar devices become accessible around the globe. AR allows us to see our environment right in front of us, but with a digital overlaid on it. For example, a T-Rex could be seen walking through your local park, or a Whale could swim through the streets of your neighborhood. Famously, AR gained a lot of attention in 2016 when the game Pokemon Go mader it possible to interact with Pokemon superimposed on the world via a smartphone screen. Not only is Augmented Reality used for helping people track down pocket monsters, in fact, in 2020, nearly every industry has found ways to apply AR to improve processes and outcomes.
Until recently, Augmented Reality experiences required a specific software application or Mobile App downloaded to the users phone just to view. WebAR is web based augmented reality, a digital technology that allows you to easily share AR experiences right over the internet, with no app required. There’s always been a bit of a hiccup with application AR: Users first need to download an app in order to enjoy the experience. With WebAR, that is no longer the case; augmented reality features can now live directly in your web browser. All you need to do is send your users to a specific URL and they are instantly interfacing with your latest digital experience. Brands can bring a product label to life and add a fully interactive product demo right on the back of their business cards.
Although AR and VR are extremely similar, there are some major differences, think scuba diving vs going to an aquarium. With Virtual Reality, you can swim with sharks, and with Augmented Reality you can watch a shark pop out of your business card. AR is not fully immersive, unlike VR which requires people to use a special headset and takes them to a completely digital world, AR can be used on smartphones or tablets and just adds digital elements to the world you are already in. So, AR allows people to continue interacting with the real world around them whereas VR is able to transpose the user. In other words, bring us somewhere else.
VR in training:
VR is used in many different branches of service. People can use Virtual Reality in the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard, VR proves an effective method of training. VR can transport a trainee into a number of different situations, places and environments for a range of training purposes. The military uses VR for flight simulations, battlefield simulations, medic training, vehicle simulation and virtual boot camp, among other things.
VR in sport:
Virtual reality can also be used in sport. It can be used by coaches and players to train more efficiently across a range of sports, as they are able to watch and experience certain situations repeatedly and can improve each time. Essentially, it’s used as a training aid to help measure athletic performance and analyse technique.
VR in mental health:
Virtual reality technology is often used in therapies such as CBT or fear inoculation therapy, as it can provide a safe environment for patients to come into contact with things they fear, whilst remaining in a controlled and safe environment.
VR in medical training:
As VR is extremely interactive, therefore medical and dental students have begun using it to practise surgeries and procedures, allowing them to make mistakes and learn how to overcome difficulties consequence free.
AR in medical training:
AR tech holds the potential to boost the depth and effectiveness of medical training in many areas. Students studying medical based studies can be given the opportunity to learn anatomy utilizing an AR headset which will allow them to delve into the human body in an interactive 3D format.
AR in retail:
Shoppers are using their smartphones more than ever to compare prices or look up additional information on products they’re browsing. World famous motorcycle brand Harley Davidson is one great instance of a brand making the most of this trend, by developing an AR app that shoppers can use in-store. Users can view a motorcycle they might be interested in buying in the showroom, and customize it using the app to see which colors and features they might like.
AR in the tourism industry:
AR has presented us with a huge opportunity, especially for travel brands and agents to give potential tourists an even more immersive experience before they travel. Imagine being able to take a virtual “Walkabout” in Australia before on AR glasses before booking a ticket to Sydney, or a leisurely stroll around Paris to see what museums or cafes you might like to visit. AR promises to make selling trips, travel, and vacations a whole lot easier in the future.
Mobile VR means a headset that doesn’t require any other hardware – so there’s no wires tethering it to a PC or console, giving it all the freedom of smartphone VR. But unlike smartphone VR which requires both a headset and a phone, there’s no need for a phone here either – you just need to buy the headset.Smartphone virtual reality headsets include a number of high profile brands in the VR space, such as the Samsung Gear, Google Daydream, and the Pansonite HMDs. The devices are by and large compatible with most Android smartphones and iPhones, as long as they fit inside the VR headset.
Desktop virtual reality uses a computer monitor for virtual reality applications. Virtual Reality is the technology that provides almost real and/or believable experiences in a synthetic or virtual way. Desktop VR uses a computer monitor as a display to provide a graphical interface for users. Virtual Desktop is a clever app that lets you use your wireless VR headset to see what’s on your PC and even use the Quest 2 as a monitor. It also allows you to play PC VR games on your Quest. That’s something you can already do with Oculus Link, but that requires a cable, where Virtual Desktop can be used wirelessly.
There are a few available headsets for VR at the moment, we have seen a big change in how they are marketed online and in store. The Oculus Rift, Valve and HTC’s Vive, and Sony PlayStation VR are the three high-end headsets, which all run off external computers or game consoles. This means that they can offer sophisticated features like motion tracking, high-resolution screens, and the best graphics possible.
There are 3 primary categories of virtual reality simulations used; non-immersive, semi-immersive, and fully-immersive simulations.
- Non-immersive virtual reality allows users to interact with the environment through a mouse or joystick. It provides users with a computer-generated environment without the feeling of being immersed in the virtual world. The main feature of a non-immersive VR system is that the user can keep control over physical surroundings, as well as being aware of what’s going on around them: sounds, visuals, and haptics.
- Semi- immersive VR experiences provide users with a partially virtual environment. It still allows users to have the perception of being in a different reality when they focus on the digital image, but allows users to remain connected to their physical surroundings.
- Immersive virtual reality (immersive VR) is the presentation of an artificial environment that replaces users’ real-world surroundings convincingly enough that they are able to suspend disbelief and fully engage with the created environment.
Today’s virtual reality technologies build upon ideas that date back to the 1800s, almost to the very beginning of practical photography. In 1838, the first stereoscope was invented, using twin mirrors to project a single image. That eventually developed into the View-Master, patented in 1939 and still produced today.
VR is created through software designed by graphic designers, who design, make and create the environment they want to transport you to.
Many headsets require a recommended hardware configuration for VR gaming. Often, you have to work with a cable to use a VR headset with the computer. You also need a gaming PC with at least one NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 video card or a similar one. The PC must have at least 8GB RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, and enough USB ports to support the headset. As for the actual gear, you will need a device equipped with a gyroscope for 360-degree interaction, and a VR headset to transform your phone’s display. Check out a mobile headset at any campus library.
With the right software a laptop could run VR substantially, providing it was up to date and using the recommended downloads. A VR enabled laptop is fast enough to support virtual reality goggles and applications. Oculus, HTC, and SteamVR have released their minimum recommended requirements for a quality VR experience and how to check if your laptop is VR ready:
- GPU: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater.
- CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater.
- RAM: 8GB+
- Video Output Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output.
- USB Ports 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port.
- OS Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer.
However, you could alternatively use a standalone VR headset without a PC or smartphone. Put the wireless glasses on your head and start VR gaming. This makes standalone VR headsets, such as the Oculus Quest, very suitable for traveling.
Computer vision understands what is in the world around the user from the content of the camera feed. This allows it to show digital content relevant to what the user is looking at. This digital content is then displayed in a realistic way, so that it looks part of the real world – this is called rendering. Before breaking this down into more detail, let’s use a concrete example to make this clearer. Consider playing an augmented reality board game using a real cereal box as the physical support like in the figure below. First, computer vision processes the raw image from the camera, and recognizes the cereal box. This triggers the game. The rendering module augments the original frame with the AR game making sure it precisely overlaps with the cereal box. For this it uses the 3D position and orientation of the box determined by computer vision. Since augmented reality is live, all the above has to happen every time a new frame comes from the camera. Most modern phones work at 30 frames per second, which gives us only 30 milliseconds to do all this.
Augmented reality on a smartphone is as simple as looking through your phone’s camera to see parts of the digital world blended with the real one. The most common type of smartphone AR would be added filters (Snapchat being the most popular) however AR technology can do more than just add fun filters or virtual content to our physical world. AR enables our devices to perceive the world like we do: visually, immersively, and in three dimensions. The camera doesn’t just augment our reality; it understands reality, relaying relevant information back to us in the context of the world around us.
3 different types of AR explained: marker-based, markerless & location. Augmented Reality brings digital information and virtual objects into the physical space. With AR, the digital world comes to life inside the view captured by your tablet or phone camera.
- Marker based AR requires a trigger photo that a person can scan using their mobile device through an AR app. The device will trigger the additional content (video, animation or 3D) prepared in advance to appear on top of the market.
- Markerless AR refers to a software application that does not require any prior knowledge of a user’s environment to overlay virtual 3D content into a scene and hold it to a fixed point in space. For example, an AR application that could place virtual furniture inside your own living room. For this application, the user decides where to place the object.
- Location based AR ties augmented reality content to a specific location. For example, being on an unknown street and being able to look through your phone’s camera seeing a virtual road sign displaying the street name.
Augmented Reality apps are software applications which merge the digital visual content into the users real world environment. AR software has many various uses, such as training, work and consumer applications in various industries including public safety, healthcare, tourism, and marketing. One of the first commercial applications of AR tech was the yellow “first down” line that began appearing in televised football games in 1998. AR gaming software is one of the most common types of AR applications, in particular since the popularity of the Pokemon GO game for smartphones.
AR smart glasses are wearable computer-capable glasses that add extra information, mostly 3D images and information such as animations and videos, to the user’s real world scenes by overlaying the computer-generated or digital information on the user’s real world.
AR smart glasses can provide surgeons with vital patient health information in the form of three-dimensional objects while enabling the medical specialists to use their both hands without the need for searching necessary data during the intervention. Smart glasses aim to provide life monitoring services, as well as creating a platform for taking more authentic photos and video clips. They can also be equipped with augmented reality technology, intended to assist you with your everyday home and business life.
The way virtual reality is able to mimic realistic experiences is what makes it so popular. Virtual reality is able to deliver artificial stand-ins for real-life stimuli that are often produced by someone affected by their natural environment. However, Virtual Reality cannot completely substitute for real life, not because the idea is flawed or because the ambitions of VR will never get off the ground, but because VR does not, yet, appeal to all of the senses. Despite being extremely visual and with the right speakers or headphones, can have brilliant sound quality, it still does not yet apply to smell, taste or feel. Whilst still holding two controllers to pick up and interact with objects, the person cannot be fully submerged into a virtual reality. On the contrary, VR will become one of the most powerful shifts in computing we have ever seen. Much Like the smartphone, VR will be able to create new experiences that are otherwise impossible without it. For example, with the current level of immersion in VR it is already changing the lives of many people who are unable to experience things like travelling, skiing, and more.
Mixed Reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking the links between human, computer, and environment interaction. These different realities define the polar ends of a spectrum known as the virtuality continuum. We refer to the array of realities as the Mixed Reality spectrum. On the left-hand side, we have the physical reality that we as humans exist in. On the right-hand side, we have the corresponding digital reality.
Teachers often use augmented reality to deliver information and content through apps. As well as this, students can also put together their own projects using apps that can then be shared with the class. Whereas students used to put together PowerPoint presentations, they can now use augmented reality to bring presentations to life. Teachers should be aware that the application of augmented reality has, so far, leaned toward subjects such as science, humanities, and the arts. These topics are where augmented reality lends itself most easily toward interactive experiences because . On the other hand, the least integrated topics were in areas of health, welfare, agriculture, and teaching training. This divide suggested that augmented reality might not be ideal for teachers of all subjects. However, it can provide an important, hands-on experience that helps to increase the level of engagement students feel with their materials.
The average cost of a 3D AR content can vary from £500 to £2000, and it can take on average from 3 days up to 2 months to create. Different objects require a different amount of work depending on the level of details that are included in the design. AR applications on smartphones range from free to £5 on average.
One of the major drawbacks of AR based applications is there can be instances where such applications have recorded low performance, and therefore reducing the overall appeal of the package. As well as this, The applications or devices associated with AR technology suffers from lack of privacy thus putting user data at risk. A user’s privacy can be threatened because AR technologies can “see” what the user sees. Thus, AR can collect a lot of information about who the user is and what he/she is doing. Similar, and even more intensely, than social networks do. A user’s privacy could be threatened if, for instance, hackers gain access to a device.
AR has three main characteristics, it combines real and virtual, is interactive in real time, and is registered in 3D.
Virtual reality is no longer a niche. VR applications are evolving fast, and they are penetrating many industry sectors. This is particularly true for video games. Especially as standalone headsets will allow consumers to simply put the headset on and use without any sort of installation or other complication. There are no wires, and all you need is the device that is associated with the headset (i.e. mobile phone). Products like the Oculus Go will allow users to download games, apps, and other experiences right from their phone and sync them to the headset itself. There is no need to connect it to a VR-ready computer.
AR is becoming increasingly popular and not only for entertainment purposes, but especially in business marketing and advertising. One way augmented reality is used in business is through 3D modeling. It has become a popular and interesting way for designers to use AR during the design process of developing models, such as cars or homes.
It can also be very beneficial for training. Companies can use AR to give employees a hands-on training experience without the risk of costly real-world mistakes. As well as this, for retail businesses, AR offers a way for customers to try products before they buy. For example, Sephora has an app that lets customers see how their makeup products will look, and Wayfair uses AR to show customers how furniture will look in their home.
Mixed reality works by taking a real-world camera and a virtual, “in-game” camera, and completely synchronizing them in terms of position, rotation, field of view, etc. Then, using whatever data you have on both worlds, you combine the two so that the real and virtual worlds appear as one. To put it simply, Mixed reality is like AR on steroids in that it projects 3D digital content that is spatially aware and responsive. With mixed reality, virtual objects become part of the real world. A ball can bounce off of tables, walls or disappear under a couch. It is also possible for users to interact with this content and manipulate it. Mixed reality can be achieved in two ways: by adding virtual/digital content to the real world or, by adding elements of the real world into the virtual/digital one.
The short answer is that VR is worth it. Demand is strong and only getting stronger, with 90% of Oculus Quest users being new to VR. The crucial factor for people was the price, as back in 2016 it was not the cheapest hobby to have. But since then the prices have dropped and become more affordable to get all of the applications included.
During these times, where we have all experienced a global pandemic and been made to do almost everything remotely, there has been an especially high demand for remote gaming and experiences. And with the technology and the development of games/ experiences increasing quickly, it is not only a fun idea for entertainment, but crucial to us to still have the ability to do the norm via VR experiences.
There are a number of different types of headsets that you can purchase online or in store, which range from best prices and best quality dependent on what you wish to use them for.
Google Cardboard: The cheapest VR headset available starting at £3.99, however it has extremely limited uses. Because it is only accessible to smartphones, it has very limited uses and relies on the user to provide their own speakers or headphones to enable audio. However, the Google cardboard is super cheap and does the job entailed, by just simply downloading any app with a VR experience or watching some VR adapted videos on youtube you can begin your VR adventure, by simply popping your smartphone into the device. And because of its small size it is easy to compact and travel with.
HTC Vive Cosmos: This is one of the more expensive headsets on the market at the moment, ranging from £699 each. One of the bonuses of the HTC Vive Cosmos is that it does not need any additional sensors, as well as this it’s notion controls have been highly recommended and stated as some of the sharpest and most realistic visuals. One of the only issues is that it still requires a full-size DisplayPort 1.2 port as well as still having a long and clunky cable connected. People may be less inclined to purchase this because it is extremely similar to the HTC Vive pro which is much less expensive at £399.
Oculus Quest 2: This headset has the best of both worlds as it is affordable and has some of the highest rated reviews, not only does it not require any cables but it also has optional PC tethering with an accessory cable. Ithas great reviews suggesting that the visuals are shar and the displays are extremely detailed. The headset itself is fairly affordable at £300. The only reported issue was the limited battery life, some people suggested that it was not as long as some of the other headsets on the market. However, with only one downside it is no doubt that this is one of the most popular and successful headsets.
Despite being similar in the way these two softwares work, they are hard to compare as to which is better.
Augmented reality might be more suited to design if you need a reference in real-world space. The headsets that are used are usually transparent or have translucent screens that allow the user to still see the real world whilst seeing the digital elements you are working with. So for things such as medical training, where internal organs can be modeled on a real life person without surgery, then AR is the better and more useful software. Ar is also much better than VR because it is great for repair and maintenance, the user can be shown digital instructions on how to manipulate real world objects.
However, if you want to create something larger than the physical space you have available, or something with no grounding in reality whatsoever, then VR is a much better medium. VR allows you to create almost anything and everything that you can think of, when you wear the headset you are entirely enveloped in the virtual world. Everywhere you look, there’s more virtual reality. Not so with augmented reality.
Because both of the softwares overlap into each other it is hard to determine which is better, therefore neither one is better. Augmented reality is more of a tool for design, training, logistics, and tourism. Virtual reality is better suited to entertainment, with a broader and deeper selection of games and movies. Within their own fields, they are easier to compare.