VR/AR has become a popular topic since the appearance of Oculus in 2012. However, research into the immersive technology known as VR goes back to the 1970s. Although VR and AR have had clearly distinguishable definitions in academics for decades, the public still treats them as the same thing. With this article, I try to differentiate and emphasize the merits of both immersive cyber technologies.
Virtual Reality (VR) – Replaces Sensory Inputs
Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive technology which replaces the real world with a digitally generated one and lets the user interact with the digital world as they would with the real one. VR replaces one or more sensory inputs.
The first impression most people have about VR is a 3D immersive visual information delivered by head mounted display device. However, it is not necessary for VR to be what something we see, it can be something we hear, or something we smell. For example, Ubisoft is developing a small VR device “Nosulus” for the new South Park game, which simulates smells related to the game experience
The key trait of VR is that it needs to totally change one aspect of our senses. In the current consumer market, VR tries to replace what we see so we feel disconnected from our real surroundings and feel like we’re inside the virtual world. Feeling real inside an illusion sounds contradictory, but this is what VR does. To achieve that, the VR system needs to respond to human feedback exactly like the real world does. To achieve this, high resolution, high frame rate parallel display is needed, since the real world is infinitely clear. Accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes, etc. are also needed so user can walk, turn, and jump in the simulated world. For VR application, scanning and understanding your actual surroundings is not necessary.
Essentially, replacing certain contents of our senses while tricking our brain to feel natural is the key to virtual reality.
Augmented Reality (AR) – Supplements Real Life
Augmented Reality (AR) is trying to supplement the real world by computer-generated sensory inputs, primarily sound or graphics. For some, you may think that this technology must be like the Holochess game in Star Wars.
However, even the sports score overlays for TV sports broadcasts can be considered AR:
The purpose of AR is to enhance reality with information presented naturally to the user. In terms of visual information, it generally needs to cover part of vision with computer generated images. Since it enhances the reality, AR needs to be aware of its target to enhance it, which means that understanding the environment is needed.
Similar to VR, multiple sensors (Accelerometers, GPS, etc.) are generally included in AR devices. However, their purpose is to help the computer better understand the real world so the target can be tracked when the user moves. Generally speaking, realistic display is not critical since the user is allowed to sense the difference between the real world and the overlaid information. In certain scenarios, such as the helmet of an airplane pilot, clearly distinguishing the information from the real world is necessary to help the pilot understand the situation.
AR games like Pokemon Go and Elfy Go display a singular rendered image though mobile phones. Displaying two different images for both of our eyes to simulate a parallax effect is not necessary in AR.
Compared with VR, AR has less requirements on visual presentation, but needs a stable and accurate understanding of the surrounding real world. This makes AR easier to access for consumers since no fancy head mounted display is necessary, but more challenging for researchers and developers. Computer vision and artificial intelligence are necessary for development and research, because computers need to understand the real world the same way we do.
By definition, VR replaces certain senses we have for the real world, while AR supplements the real world with extra information. VR focuses on altering our perceptions, while AR focuses on straightforward information sharing.
AR Shopping with Apollo Box
At Apollo Box, we use AR technology to deliver abundant virtual content for much better e-commerce experience. We introduce AR technology as a new innovation to mobile shopping with our Apollo Box App. The consumer can see the fantastic product placed virtually in their room in 3D before they buy it. We supplement information about each product in AR so it enhances the consumer’s’ knowledge and experience with the product before they click to pay button. We believe AR is a core technology for a new era of online shopping. It happens now at Apollo Box.
-Xing Zhang, Head of Research and Development
Give it a try here by navigating to “AR Teleport” under “Category” in the Apollo Box app.
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