As our computing platforms make amazing gains in capacity and convenience, the way we experience visual data has made similar improvements. What once was a 50-pound CRT monitor now fits in your pocket. Many believe the smartphone will be replaced by Augmented Reality glasses within 10 years, which explains Facebook’s 2014 acquisition of Oculus, makers of the Oculus Rift, for $2 billion.
Technically, a smartphone is an Augmented Reality platform—after all, it has a camera, a GPS, and object recognition capabilities—but the results display themselves on a handheld device instead of through immersive, holographic goggles. In this way, society is already acclimated to receiving instant information, often based on geolocation or QR codes.
But are people ready to wear Virtual Reality goggles in their daily lives? And what is the path from virtual games to commercial implementation of Augmented and Mixed Reality?
What is the Definition of Augmented Reality? Virtual Reality?
Here’s our working definition: Virtual Reality delivers an immersive experience of a new environment that has no relationship to your location. Augmented Reality allows you to see the real world in an enhanced way with information superimposed on top of it. It is also known as mediated reality. But let’s explore this idea further.
What is Virtual Reality?
VR is what you imagined as a child would happen if you stuck your head inside a television set. It is an immersive, synthetic environment experienced through VR goggles like Oculus Rift. You cannot manipulate actual reality using VR any more than you can drive your car up the street by playing Grand Theft Auto on a Virtual Reality headset. You can, however, meditate on a virtual beach while sitting on your actual couch.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is different from Virtual Reality, because you are not completely immersed in a synthetic environment. Wearing see-through AR goggles like the Epson Moverio or Google Glass, you still experience your immediate environment but you will also see superimposed data that relates to the images that you see. It’s what might have happened if Pop Up Videos and Wikipedia combined and took control of the world. Much Augmented Reality technology (like the Meta Glasses) are designed to be responsive to instinctive hand gestures, so you can “push” a button or make a swiping motion to move information in real-time. Yes, AR-like capabilities are displayed in the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, although future-tech interface designer John Underkoffler would like to see new vocabulary to describe Augmented Reality, since he feels this comparison is overused.
What is Mixed Reality?
Mixed Reality—also known as hybrid reality— would allow you to manipulate a virtual object by using a physical object. In theory, you could scan a physical object using a 3D scanner, see it on the display of your goggles, manipulate a holographic version of the object with your hands, and then reprint it anew using your 3D printer. This is much more like the work of famed industrialist Tony Stark’s work in the first Iron Man movie. (Yes, we know he’s a fictional character – but the tech was very cool.)
When Will You Encounter the Next Advance in Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality?
Depending on your job, you might already have a pair of Augmented Reality goggles. DHL in the Netherlands, for example, just finished a successful pilot program using Augmented Reality in its warehouse.
As an enterprise solution, Augmented Reality could be used to help train surgeons and reduce the number of medical errors each year. Or it could be used to transmit a hologram of a violinist onto your pint of ice cream. While the first scenarios for consumer and corporate use are still in the hands of developers and experts, we expect the majority of the eventual AR opportunities will be conceived once consumer and business users get to play with the tech.
And if you are a die-hard gamer looking for the next generation in VR experience, the Oculus Rift is scheduled to ship in 1Q 2016.
We’ll discuss more about Usability in Augmented Reality along with insights from Luca Bertuccelli, United Technologies Research Center AR Usability Expert, in a blog post titled: Augmented Reality Project Planning – The Six Questions to Answer
Sikorsky Innovations is looking for Augmented Reality Solutions.
As part of the 6th Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, the company has made a statement on the types of techniques it is looking for on the path to mission critical Augmented Reality. Specifically, the challenge calls for: “Real-time augmented reality for collaborative applications and complex manufacturing processes”
Click here to learn more about the competition and how you might compete for $25,000 in non-dilutive award money