Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): The Future Is Here, Apparently
Once upon a time, in the magical world of technology, a prophecy was made. A prophecy that foretold of wondrous gadgets that would revolutionize the way we interact with the world, create new realms of immersive experiences, and be the herald of a new age of computing. And thus it was written, on the ancient scrolls of Wired and TechCrunch, that Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) were to be our salvation.
Or at least that's what the hype suggests. AR and VR have certainly captured the imagination of tech enthusiasts and investors alike, promising to radically transform everything from gaming and entertainment to healthcare and education. But just like other prophesied silver bullets before them (ahem, 3D TV), perhaps we should take a moment to temper our expectations.
First, let's define our terms. AR refers to the overlaying of digital content onto the physical world, typically through the use of a device such as a smartphone or a specialized pair of glasses. Think Google Glass (which totally won us over, right?), or Snapchat filters turning you into a cute puppy. VR, on the other hand, plunges users into a fully artificial environment through the use of a headset that blocks out the real world. Examples here include the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Seems futuristic and cool, doesn't it? Well, these technologies do have their merits, but they also come with their fair share of problems.
One "minor" issue is motion sickness. It turns out that when your eyes tell your brain that you're moving, but your body doesn't agree, some people tend to get nauseous. Apparently, our pesky biology didn't get the memo about this brave new virtual world.
Then there's price. Sure, who wouldn't want a VR headset in their living room? But when many of these devices cost hundreds of dollars, on top of requiring an expensive computer to run them, it's no wonder that most people haven't jumped on the bandwagon. And while smartphone-based AR experiences are more affordable, they're often limited in scope and quality. But hey, at least you can catch virtual Pokémon in the park.
But let's not forget that these technologies can be a bit… antisocial. As tempting as it is to strap on a headset and shut out the world, it does create a barrier between you and the people around you. Just imagine the family bonding opportunities as everyone gathers around the TV, only to stick their heads inside individual VR helmets.
There's also the ever-present privacy concerns that come with AR. As we've seen, a world where everyone wears Google Glass-like devices could be one where your every move is recorded and analyzed by who knows who. But don't worry, I'm sure that's just the plot of a dystopian sci-fi novel and not something we should genuinely concern ourselves with.
Despite these challenges, believers in the miracle of AR and VR will tell you that these technologies simply need time to mature. They point to tantalizing examples like remote medical training, virtual tourism, or architectural visualization as proofs of concept. And who knows? Maybe they're right.
But for now, let's just enjoy the simple pleasures that AR and VR have brought us: like watching people flail around in their living rooms while attempting to navigate virtual worlds or chuckling at their friends wearing silly AR glasses. After all, isn't laughter the best medicine?
Grok.foo is a collection of articles on a variety of technology and programming articles assembled by James Padolsey. Enjoy! And please share! And if you feel like you can donate here so I can create more free content for you.