Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

March 23rd, 2016 @

When it comes to pushing the boundaries in gaming, Nintendo has a proud history. Its 3DS console was the first consumer device to offer 3D visuals without the need for glasses, and it also provided a true augmented reality experience. This isn’t the first time Nintendo has brought emerging technology to a mass audience; it was also responsible for the world’s first consumer virtual reality device.

The Virtual Boy was a take on the classic Game Boy brand – an ungainly red box with a clumsy mess of wires. This mid-90s device had plenty in common with Microsoft’s attempt at a pre-iPad tablet. The Virtual Boy lacked a colour screen, which was arguably the most important element of creating an immersive experience. It was a commercial flop, shelved just one year after its release, but twenty years later, it’s time for VR to take centre stage yet again.

Where Are We Now?

Oculus VR has picked up the baton for virtual reality gaming, overseen by its new owner, Facebook. It has developed the Oculus Rift, a headset device with a 1080p colour screen. It uses IR sensors to map the user’s physical environment, using room-scale to blend the virtual world with reality. This means that headsets can be used while standing, and walking around.

HTC, Sony and Samsung are rarely slow to react. Their own devices, the Vive, Playstation VR and the Gear VR respectively, all have their own app marketplaces. Critically, they also need external hardware that multiplies the cost of ownership several times over.

Of course, there’s always Google Cardboard for those who don’t want to invest quite so much.

What About AR?

Virtual reality is finally gaining traction after many years – but where does that leave augmented reality?

Arguably, augmented reality has earned a useful purpose as a utility, particularly on mobile devices. From virtual dressing rooms to virtual furniture shopping, augmented reality works best when there are problems to solve.

Perhaps this is why Nintendo’s 3DS experiment also failed to catch on with consumers. Additionally, it required the use of clumsy character cards, which were almost always lost or damaged. The real benefit of augmented reality will be in seamless, fully integrated experiences, such as the technology promised by Google’s Magic Leap project. Microsoft has jumped straight to AR with its HoloLens headset, its most impressive product in years.

VR vs AR: Winners and Losers

The first company to market breakthrough technology can expect something of a rough ride, and pioneers like Nintendo are certainly no exception. But both virtual and augmented reality are finally hitting their stride, in very different markets.

While virtual reality is facing a second coming in the high-end gaming market, augmented reality is becoming a useful utility. This is likely to be the case until we see Holodecks hit the mainstream, leading to a fully immersive, mixed reality experience.

Even the pioneers say that this kind of sci-fi technology is still far away. But as they improve the way they’re delivering this experiences, both virtual and augmented reality will find their own niche.


Category : Blog

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