Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are immersive technologies. These technologies are going through an astounding pace of growth in their technological development and adoption, and accessibility across the global market. This rapid pace of change is enabling diverging paths of VR and AR.
Science-fiction technologies from decades earlier have come forward as a reality today. Today, these immersive technologies are already mainstream with their usability and popularity, racing past enthusiasts and industrialists and pacing towards the consumer market.
AR and VR are leading the next phase of immersive experience at the consumer level and in product innovation and development in industries. Numerous industries adopt these technologies while others are trying to adapt their current infrastructure with AR and VR alongside other digital technologies their core.
The intuitiveness of using AR, VR, and MR for product development, research, and development in a production environment are too good to ignore. These technologies redefine the immersive experience while enabling various kinds of opportunities and possibilities. Alongside these opportunities, businesses and industries can leverage the benefits of having a digital technology backbone to yield better opportunities on their economic front too.
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Alongside the evolution of AR and VR, the growth and development of Artificial Intelligence and technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Big Data are accelerating these emerging technologies even more. These (AI, ML, Big Data) technologies can make a system or a machine “intelligent” and have capabilities to make smart decisions and analyze vast amounts of data for deep learning. With this, AR and VR are becoming more smart, intuitive, and more user-friendly. Consequently, these immersive reality innovations are becoming mainstream technologies incorporating various kinds of devices, systems, and environments.
The global market for these technologies also reflects the rapid pace of growth and adoption. Various industries and consumer markets are rapidly moving to adopt and use AR, VR, and MR tech leading to an increase in their economic potential. Researchers expect that the global market for AR and VR technologies alongside other immersive reality technologies will cross over 30 Billion US Dollars in 2021. This figure also accounts for the dip in the market and industrial development due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In hindsight, the market will rise substantially after the effects of the pandemic subside.
While due to the pandemic, the global market was down. The demand for these technologies will also rise due to the exposure of online and remote technologies among general consumers during the lockdown period. Subsequently, researchers forecast that the global AR and VR market, alongside other immersive reality technologies like MR, will rise to reach 300 Billion US Dollars by 2024.
Although AR and VR will be many technologies in the future, alongside them, technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), display technologies, sensing technology, processing technology, communication and networking technology, battery technology, and storage technology are also evolving rapidly. Nevertheless, these technologies are very complimentary with each other.
For instance, better sensing technologies will bring better cameras and better sensors that will be more powerful and efficient. These robust sensors will also be able to collect better data with much more accuracy while also being power efficient. While evolving battery technology will handle power efficiently, better processing technologies will gather, study, and analyze data more effectively. This better processing power will also drive better displays. Subsequently, these technologies will drive AR and VR technologies faster since AR and VR depend upon these technologies greatly.
We can conclude that AR and VR will redefine the consumer market, industrial applications, and product development experience. However, AR and VR are different technologies, albeit they have similar foundations. Therefore, these technologies are divergent from each other in their functionality and workings and the consumer experience.
What are VR and AR?
AR and VR are both immersive technologies. Immersive technologies are the systems/devices that can provide some sort of immersive experience to the consumer. AR and VR deal with the experiences from both the real world and the virtual world. They enable augmentation, enhancement, and even interaction with the real-world elements alongside enabling a complete virtual experience that transcends the real world. Consequently, these technologies are collectively known as Extended Reality (XR) technologies due to their ability to extend and go beyond the reality of the real world or even the virtual one.
AR is an immersive reality technology that enables the enhancement of the real world with the help of digital elements, effectively augmenting the real world. This enhancement happens with the convergence of various digital elements like sound, visual graphics, overlays, and sensory feedback like haptics. These elements all work together in coherence to provide a sense of immersiveness and make the user feel like they are a part of this new “augmented reality.”
An AR system works by taking various virtual world elements and placing them in the real world. The AR systems deliver all these digital elements to blend in with the real world to enhance it effectively. Various AR glasses, smart camera apps, and different AR kits provide multiple AR experiences.
VR, on the other hand, provides an entirely virtual experience to the user. VR enables a 3D virtual world with its digital environment alongside various elements such as sounds, additional graphics, and sensory elements like haptics. VR effectively blends these elements together to immerse the user in this virtual world and make them feel like they are a part of that virtual reality.
VR systems are more common than AR devices due to the simplicity of VR, which only requires a high fidelity display with the capability to display crisp and color-accurate images. The VR system displays its various digital elements through this display and also enables interaction with this world. It is done through multiple remotes and sensor devices that observe the user and their movements and effectively bring upon the user’s actions in the virtual world that reacts to these movements and actions.
Various kinds of VR devices are available in the market today. VR headsets from different brands like Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Facebook’s Oculus VR, etc., provide VR content to consumers.
Diverging Paths Of VR and AR
AR and VR are fundamentally different in their approach towards the immersive experience they try to provide. VR provides an entirely virtual experience where the environments, scenes, objects, and other world elements the user is experiencing are entirely virtual. On the other hand, AR is an immersive technology that is based on the real world. Therefore, AR adds virtual elements to or even removes real objects with the help of overlays from the real world and blends them to provide the AR experience to the user.
Both AR and VR are complex systems to develop while holding a high quality. Nevertheless, AR systems can be more complicated than VR systems. It is also due to the different experiences VR and AR have to provide. Since VR is entirely virtual, a high-fidelity display would suffice to deliver the VR content. Still, AR systems also have to account for the real world with different sensors and camera systems. For instance, it will be easy to develop a VR system with a simple 3D model that spawns in the VR world, and the user can interact with it. But for the similar task of viewing a 3D model in an AR system, the developers will first account for the system that analyzes the real world and decides where to put the 3D model. This alone adds complexities like computer vision and imaging systems.
Although, AR systems have more restrictions on the AR world. It is because the AR world has to be based upon the real world and augment it. Contrary to this, the real world does not restrict or limit the VR system since it's completely virtual. However, AR has the advantage of having the real world as its base since it can augment it without starting to build the world in the first place, as you would have to do with virtual worlds.
The systems in use to deliver AR and VR systems will also be different. For example, VR setups require a head-mounted display with speakers and a remote controller if the user has to interact with the VR world. On the other hand, AR setups require a head-mounted transparent display capable of showing overlay contents without blocking the real world view with cameras, speakers, and other sensors to probe the real world and augment digital elements to them.Alongside this, the modern industry has also set diverging Paths Of VR and AR. For example, VR systems are very suitable for virtual training in various dangerous environments or any other kinds of backgrounds and scenarios. In contrast, AR systems are ideal for training in the real world with the augmentation of information while training through AR devices. Apart from this, VR is beneficial for simulation solutions like Robotic Simulation Services or Offline Robot Programming. At the same time, AR is helpful in these use cases to augment these solutions in the real world.