The boundaries of the real world and technology have been blurring for quite some time. You certainly must have not only heard of, but also experienced augmented reality and virtual reality. However, the difference between the two can be a bit confusing.
Both augmented reality and virtual reality are technologies with the purpose of changing what we see and the experiences we have in real life, but each one does it in a different way, and it is about their particularities that we are going to talk!
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality adds digital elements, such as images, videos, 3D objects, to our real world. Unlike virtual reality, which we will talk about next, AR (augmented reality) does not create a universe from scratch, it only, as the name suggests, augments reality.
Through something as simple as a camera on your cell phone, you can visualize things that are not actually there, but you will still have what is really in front of you as a basis. It is a way to bring the physical and the digital environment together.
You know Pokémon Go? The game, which has become world famous, allows you to open your camera and catch a Pokémon as if it were right in front of you, embedded in your environment.
Filters from social networks like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, which everyone uses, are also augmented reality. As a matter of fact, Snapchat was the pioneer for this kind of tool!
But augmented reality is not only used for entertainment. There are several areas that can benefit from this technology, so brands are finding ways to apply it to add value to users and generate growth.
An interesting example is IKEA Place, an app that lets you choose a product from the store and visualize it in your home. A full-scale 3D model is placed virtually where you want it: just point the camera and position it as best suits you. It is definitely an innovative tool for decor.
In the same vein, L’Oréal has partnered with an application that enables users to try different types of makeup and beauty products from the brand. It works like a filter: it identifies your face and you can choose which shade of foundation suits you best, for example.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality or VR creates a completely immersive simulation. There is no aspect of the real world – the user is transported into an environment that exists only on the digital universe.
With special glasses that completely block the outside, such as the HTC Vive Cosmos, Oculus Quest, and PlayStation VR, you can interact with 3D objects as if you were part of that world. All your senses are stimulated to create the illusion that you are in another reality.
When we think of virtual reality, what first comes to mind is the gaming industry, but although this is the industry in which this technology is most commonly used, its application does not stop there. VR also impacts other businesses.
Employee training is a good example: VR can put you in a hypothetical situation and let you practice as if you were actually experiencing it. Not only in the corporate environment, but picture, in the healthcare area, a doctor practicing surgery, for example. Or professionals in the security field, being able to have combat and confrontational experiences that, in real life, would be dangerous.
In real estate, 3D models simulate buildings. If you buy a pre-construction house, wouldn’t it be nice to walk into it and visualize the whole project as if it were already finished?
In general, companies can use technology to let customers experience their products and services – something similar to what L’Oréal and IKEA did with augmented reality, but with a more immersive experience. Picture you buying a piece of sports equipment with the impression that you are wearing it on the field!
You can even go anywhere in the world. Having trouble picking which destination to go to on your next trip? If a travel agency provides simulations of different cities, it is easier to choose which one will be the best for you.
In education, virtual reality creates endless possibilities. We have already talked about how technology can positively influence educational methods and we also mentioned VR. The idea of bringing into the classroom or any study environment concepts that previously were only at an abstract level certainly helps to attract the student’s attention and facilitate learning.
Obviously, the entertainment industry benefits greatly from the immersive experiences created by VR. In games, as we’ve stated, movies, and any visual production, there’s the possibility for the user to choose their own point of view and interact with that universe.
What is mixed reality?
MR is the least known, and it is mistaken for augmented reality, but it goes further. In this reality, you still mix the physical space with the technological one, but the user can interact with the digital elements without the need of a cell phone screen, and these elements also interact with the environment. The impression that they are part of the real world is greater.
Microsoft HoloLens is an example of a mixed reality device: it works with 3D holograms, with gesture, voice, and gaze recognition via motion controllers.