Mixed reality, Virtual and Augmented Reality, it’s getting hard to tell what it all means.
It’s not easy to make sense of the new technologies – they are growing in scope and ever evolving. So, let’s stick with two that should help frame the others; augmented reality and virtual reality.
Is there a difference between Virtual and Augmented Reality?
What Is Augmented Reality?
Take a look at the word “augmented.” The word means to add something. Therefore, augmented reality means when something is added to your reality, and that something is images created by a computer. In simpler terms, this is a technology that blends the real world with the virtual world but by only introducing some elements of the virtual world into the real world of the user. What’s important to know here is that it’s not always images that are augmented but sounds and touch feedback can also be augmented.
The augmented reality effect can be achieved in many different ways. Here is a brief introduction of the different types of augmented reality.
· Superimposed Augmented Reality
In this type of effect, the real objects a user is looking at are augmented, i.e., replaced completely or partially. This technology allows the user to focus on a particular object and then converts that object with an augmented view. For example, an application might allow the user to see an island table in the middle of their kitchen when it is not there. The technology, in this particular case, will use the kitchen’s floor, cabinets, and counter as the objects and introduce a virtual object within them.
· Projected Augmented Reality
As the name tells, in this type of augmented reality the projection of a virtual image is introduced into the real world. It is then possible for humans to interact with that image. A great example of this type of technology is the virtual keyboards that can be used with tablets—an image of a keyboard forms on the table that can be used as a keyboard by users.
· Marker Based Augmented Reality
This technology makes use of sensors and a marker to get the desired results. The sensor, in this case, can be a camera whereas the marker can be something as simple as a QR code. For example, a QR code sticker can be put on the hood of a car which will allow you to see a virtual hood on the car when you see it through the camera.
· Markerless Augmented Reality
This type of augmented reality technology uses GPS or other technologies to find the location of the user. This type of technology is more advanced than marker-based augmented reality, and you could say that superimposition based augmented reality is a more refined form of markerless augmented reality.
What Is Virtual Reality?
Now that you have seen augmented reality, it should be easier for you to understand virtual reality. To explain in easy terms, in virtual reality you as a user are taken into the virtual world. Contrast it with augmented reality where the virtual objects make their way into your world. Once you are in the virtual world, you can move in this world, interact with those objects and to some extent end up believing that this is your real world. You can segment virtual reality into many types based on DOF (degrees of freedom). To explain DOF in easy terms, this is a measure of how freely you can interact with the virtual world you are in and move around in it.
At the moment, you can find two different types of virtual reality technologies in the world based on their DOF measure: 3 DOF and 6 DOF technologies. The true essence of virtual reality lies in a 6 DOF system—it’s immersive and so virtual that it’s real. There are two types of 3 DOF virtual reality systems, i.e., rotational and translational, and 6 DOF system combines the power of both.
· System Based on Rotational Movements
This particular system relies on rotational movements that comprise of roll, yaw, and pitch. Head-mounted devices are most commonly used for getting this type of movement. After wearing these headsets, you can turn your head around, move it up and down to tilt and rotate your virtual world. Samsung Gear is a great example of this technology. Moving forward or backward will not have any effect in the virtual world.
· System Based on Translational Movements
This is a more advanced form of virtual reality where technological gadgets like Oculus Rift are put to use. There are cameras mounted on the walls and sensors in the surroundings that detect the movement and location of the person. With such a setup a person moves backward, forward, upward, downward, right and left to move in the same direction in the virtual world.
The best example of a complete 6 DOF system today is HTC Vive that allows you to move your head and your body in any direction and registers all those movements in the virtual world.
Future or virtual and augmented reality is still as unpredictable today (for us) as it was for people long passed. In fact, it has become even more unpredictable today because no one knows to what extent these technologies can take humans. Combine Virtual and Augmented Reality with ever-improving artificial intelligence, and you might just get a glimpse of what the future holds.