Aaaad the geeks have done it again – instead of keeping things simple, they once again have come up with terminology to confuse the daylights out of ordinary people. This time it has to do with Virtual Reality. Or is it Augmented Reality and what the heck is Mixed Reality ? Are they same or are they all different ?
Let me start by saying that Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are indeed different. So in this case, the geeks can be let of the hook.
Before we get stuck in, Samsung has a product called the Gear VR which is selling the US at $99. Gear VR is powered by the Samsung Note 5 or the S6 Edge+ or the S6 or the S6 Edge or the S7. This unit has incredible and immersive VR experience which is an ideal way to experience this technology. I was given the Galaxy S7 and Gear VR by Verizon (unfortunately on a loan-basis) to try out this technology and here are my family’s first reaction to this new virtual world:
Now that you have seen its effects, lets break down the different “realities” and answer the question: What is the difference between AR, VR and MR ?
What is Virtual Reality ?
VR takes form as a headset which is powered by a computer or a mobile phone. When the headset is placed over your eyes and switched on, the screen fills your entire vision (including your peripheral vision) and seems like it is actually further away from your eyes which makes it crystal-clear (so NOT like sitting close to the TV set where everything is pixelated). The sensors built into the headset understand your physical point in space so as you turn your head, it sends that movement information to the device powering the VR headset which in turn translates those movements into actions.
The concept of VR is that all the signals being sent to your brain, convinces your mind that you are in that location or that situation – especially when you combine 3D surround sound and even a moving chair. Therefore, when you fire up the rollercoaster scene, and you are able to look around at the people next to you and then fly around the theme park, your body feels like its going through all the motions as if you are were actually on the rollercoaster ride – complete with motion sickness.
Your brain is immersed into that situation and adjust the point of view as you move your head, very much in the same way you do when you look around in the real world.
What is Augmented Reality ?
AR, follows a lot of the characteristics of VR in terms in terms of understanding your position in space, however instead of being immersed in a virtual world, with AR you see the real world in front of you complete with virtual objects on top of it. For example: if you are looking for furniture for your room you could use an AR app to see which item would look best in the room without having to buy it first.
Mobile phone apps have AR ability where you can point the camera at major landmarks, and the app will overlay information about that tourist attraction as you stare at it through the app.
So with AR, you are not transported to a different world, but are adding a layer of information on top of the real world. You are Augmenting the real world.
What is Mixed Reality ?
MR is a combination of VR and AR. With Mixed reality you are able to be in the real world and have virtual objects that you can manipulate. The objects retain their position in space so you can walk around them. For example: an designer could have a motorbike in front of him/her and by putting on the headset they are able to not only see the real motorbike but also tap into virtual tools to craft a new gas tank. They could then walk around the bike to see how it would look from all angles and make changes to it thereby speeding up the design/ prototyping phase considerably.
What are usages of VR, AR and MR?
Now that you see that difference between these realities, the usages become clearer and go way beyond gaming. For example: tourist could use AR apps to get information about the location they find themselves in, or translate the items on a menu in a foreign country, or they might point at a bus and see the route that it takes – all without having to ask the locals.
Workers who operate in dangerous situation could be trained using Mixed Reality on how to handle their tools or dangerous chemicals all from the safety of the training facility.
Kids could be wear VR headsets and be transported back in time to a virtual battlefield where they can walk around while the teacher explains the facts of the historical battle.
This kind of technology is new now, but it’s the future. One day, I will send a “I told you” message referring back to this post, only it wont be done using my computer, but probably a virtual keyboard that I can use while wearing my headset as I glance over Paris from the upper deck of the Eiffel Tower having just returned from a walk around Mars and a climb of Mount Everest.
Disclaimer: I was given the Gear VR and the Samsung S7 to test and review on a loan-basis and no compensation was made for this post. By the way check out my 10 things to do with your Samsung S7 video