Is AR outpacing VR and becoming the dominant immersive technology?
Initially more popular for application in gaming and entertainment, AR has started to find use in other areas like advertising, retail and training. As AR continues to grow rapidly, it could soon become bigger than VR. The reason for this is that unlike VR, which requires expensive equipment, AR can be deployed on smartphones or tablets, which makes it more accessible and far cheaper. Also, AR is more realistic. While VR puts the user into a completely different, immersive environment, AR uses our existing environment and enriches it with virtual objects.
Many brands have taken notice of this technology, and are implementing AR to improve their bottom line. For instance, in 2017, IKEA released the IKEA Place AR app. The app is based on the ‘try before you buy’ concept. Using the app, customers can see how IKEA furniture would look in their homes before making a purchase. All they need to do is scan the space with a smartphone camera and choose the item they want to view. IKEA Place features more than 3,000 items in its catalogue, ranging from chairs to desks and numerous other furniture pieces necessary for any home. The innovation provides 98% accuracy, and it’s so precise that users can even see the texture of the fabric.
The tech company Blippar created the AR City app to help users navigate around cities. Conventional navigation apps rely on 2D maps. However, Blippar uses 3D maps and AR to outline where the user should go. This is much more engaging than using a standard GPS. Simply enter your destination into the app, and it will showcase a walking route in AR for you to follow. The app also features the locations of restaurants, shops, and hotels. What Blippar wanted to do is transform the way people experience new cities by combining the physical and digital. So far, cities such as San Francisco and London have been mapped in AR City, but the plan is to help users navigate around 300 cities worldwide. Recently, Blippar also developed a solution for indoor environments. Its Visual Positioning System also uses computer vision to help customers and tenants better navigate around larger spaces such as stadiums, shopping malls, and airports.
California Institute of Technology created a system for the Microsoft HoloLens called Cognitive Augmented Reality Assistant to help blind people navigate around different spaces. A typical AR app creates a 3D mesh of the existing space and overlays it with virtual information. CARA adds auditory information to physical spaces by giving each object a voice. For instance, when users wearing a HoloLens headset enter a new building, each object inside the space will say its name. So, for instance, if they move their head toward a lamp, it will identify itself as a lamp. Moreover, CARA will tell the user when to turn right and left or climb stairs. Besides serving as a navigation tool, HoloLens technology has found use in military applications. The US Army hired Microsoft to manufacture 100,000 HoloLens headsets for military training and combat missions. The Israeli military has also been using this tech as part of its training for quite some time now.
AR and VR are exciting technologies, and they’ve been gaining attention across a wide range of industries. Although there’s been a lot of hype and excitement around VR, the future might rely more on AR. Its low cost and easy access have spiked the interest of many companies that are eager to implement this technology. Compared to VR and mixed reality, AR has witnessed remarkable growth, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s here to stay.