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Augmented reality (AR) technology allows computer-generated data or imagery to overlay or superimposes physical objects in real time. It equips users with the information needed to perform tasks in the real world. AR works in conjunction with displays, sensors, and installed electronic components. An example of this technology is smart glasses, such as the R-7 created by the Osterhout Design Group that has some functions among them the ability of surgeons to examine “X-ray” images from many angles, viewing patient’s bones and many other organs in great detail. 

Virtual reality (VR) on the other hand, provides users access to a fully immersive virtual world where they interact with objects similar to those in the real world. VR technology works on components such as sensors,  hand movements and gesture recognition, and embedded electronic components. Examples of a VR products on the market today allow users to turn a simple smartphone into a VR hardware.

Rising growth in these two areas is proportionally tied to two major factors: consumer interest and adoption of technology. Many giant corporations have not wasted time recognizing AR and VR technology’s potential. Microsoft Corporation, Samsung Electronics, and Oculus VR are some companies developing head-mounted displays (HMDs) currently. In addition, giant media companies such as NBC Universal and 20th  Century Fox are both experimenting with new formats of media, ultimately producing VR titles.

Future Applications & Uses

A broad range of industries will soon be influenced by advancements in technology, leading to the potential use of AR and VR. Such industries include entertainment and consumer goods, defense and aerospace, commercial, health and medical.

Consumer Goods & Entertainment

Need for augmented and virtual reality is endless in this branch. Not only just in video games, which is usually the first thing that comes to mind when picturing VR, but also in sectors such as sports, and entertainment applications. Imagine the potential for VR to enable users to follow the baseball at a game, get the front row experience to a concert, perhaps a trip to the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas, all from the comfort of your home. The uses for these technologies will definitely open up new ways to make a purchase and experience entertainment.

Aerospace & Defense

AR and VR also play a crucial role in the defense sector. AR displays can provide combat pilots with crucial parameters such as speed, altitude, direction and orientation and with soldiers detailed checkpoints, enemy positions, x-ray of a building before engaging with markers as well, and even weapon information. Similarly, VR can be used for training and combat scenarios that enable trainees to react to real-life situations.

Commercial

The commercial sector can be broken down into tourism, e-learning, and e-commerce and digital marketing. VR can create virtual environments that demonstrate the products for promotion and/or branding, basically immersing consumers into the products themselves, could be a car, boat, a sofa, bed e.t.c. In addition, AR can sell products in a whole new way, such as helping women see how certain clothes will look on their body without having to try it on.

Medicine and Healthcare

Perhaps the most important are the potential use of AR and VR in the medicine and healthcare. Important and practical applications involve helping doctors conduct surgeries effectively, and teaching complex subjects like Neurology and Genetics to medical students and interns. VR is used in the treatment of pain and therapy for depression, and phobia. With progress, all healthcare applications will incorporate AR and VR.

Challenges Facing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

As with most breakthrough technologies, AR and VR still have hurdles to overcome. Many consumers still don’t understand AR and by default view it as an end to personal privacy. The applications themselves are designed for single-purpose use, they cannot be used for multiple purposes, this fact potentially limits users. VR has not completely gone wireless, requiring cables and accessories, making their use not as desirable as mobile phones when they were created.

Another shortcoming is potential health risks and side effects. VR has been known to have a display-related issues that cause effects such as nausea, irritation, and other problems. Similarly, potential AR health risks or medically associated problems caused by the Google glass device are still unknown.

Eventually, these industries will bend to the will of advanced technology and AR and VR will become common.

Aleksander Bordvik
(@ABordvik)