Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.
The overlaid sensory information can be constructive (i.e. additive to the natural environment) or destructive (i.e. masking of the natural environment) and is seamlessly interwoven with the physical world such that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment.
In this way, augmented reality alters one’s ongoing perception of a real world environment, whereas virtual reality completely replaces the user’s real world environment with a simulated one.Augmented reality is related to two largely synonymous terms: mixed reality and computer-mediated reality.
The primary value of augmented reality is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world, and does so not as a simple display of data, but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment. The first functional AR systems that provided immersive mixed reality experiences for users were invented in the early 1990s, starting with the Virtual Fixtures system developed at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratory in 1992The first commercial augmented reality experiences were used largely in the entertainment and gaming businesses, but now other industries are also getting interested about AR’s possibilities for example in knowledge sharing, educating, managing the information flood and organizing distant meetings.
Augmented reality is also transforming the world of education, where content may be accessed by scanning or viewing an image with a mobile device. Another example is an AR helmet for construction workers which display information about the construction sites.
Augmented reality is used to enhance natural environments or situations and offer perceptually enriched experiences. With the help of advanced AR technologies (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Information about the environment and its objects is overlaid on the real world. This information can be virtualor real. seeing other real sensed or measured information such as electromagnetic radio waves overlaid in exact alignment with where they actually are in space.
Augmented reality also has a lot of potential in the gathering and sharing of tacit knowledge. Augmentation techniques are typically performed in real time and in semantic context with environmental elements. Immersive perceptual information is sometimes combined with supplemental information like scores over a live video feed of a sporting event. This combines the benefits of both augmented reality technology and heads up display technology (HUD)..
Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) is an interactive computer-generated experience taking place within a simulated environment, that incorporates mainly auditory and visual, but also other types of sensory feedback like haptic. This immersive environment can be similar to the real world or it can be fantastical, creating an experience that is not possible in ordinary physical reality. Augmented reality systems may also be considered a form of VR that layers virtual information over a live camera feed into a headset or through a smartphone or tablet device giving the user the ability to view three-dimensional images.
Current VR technology most commonly uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items. The effect is commonly created by VR headsets consisting of a head-mounted display with a small screen in front of the eyes, but can also be created through specially designed rooms with multiple large screens.
VR systems that include transmission of vibrations and other sensations to the user through a game controller or other devices are known as haptic systems. This tactile information is generally known as force feedback in medical, video gaming and military training applications.
The Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML), first introduced in 1994, was intended for the development of “virtual worlds” without dependency on headsets. The Web3D consortium was subsequently founded in 1997 for the development of industry standards for web-based 3D graphics.The consortium subsequently developed X3D from the VRML framework as an archival, open-source standard for web-based distribution of VR content.All modern VR displays are based on technology developed for smartphones including: gyroscopes and motion sensors for tracking head, hand, and body positions; small HD screens for stereoscopic displays; and small, lightweight and fast processors.
These components led to relative affordability for independent VR developers, and lead to the 2012 Oculus Rift kickstarter offering the first independently developed VR headset.Independent production of VR images and video has increased by the development of omnidirectional cameras, also known as 360-degree cameras or VR cameras, that have the ability to record in all directions, although at low-resolutions or in highly compressed formats for online streaming of 360 video.In contrast, photogrammetry is increasingly used to combine several high-resolution photographs for the creation of detailed 3D objects and environments in VR applications.
How do they work together?
It is not always virtual reality vs. augmented reality– they do not always operate independently of one another, and in fact are often blended together to generate an even more immersing experience. For example, haptic feedback-which is the vibration and sensation added to interaction with graphics-is considered an augmentation. However, it is commonly used within a virtual reality setting in order to make the experience more lifelike though touch.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are great examples of experiences and interactions fueled by the desire to become immersed in a simulated land for entertainment and play, or to add a new dimension of interaction between digital devices and the real world. Alone or blended together, they are undoubtedly opening up worlds-both real and virtual alike.