Yair Ariel • April-4-2016
For the last several years, the terms augmented reality and virtual reality have been getting news, but there has been confusion about whether they are the same. Some people use the terms as if they were synonyms. But are they the same? And if they aren’t the same, how are they different?
Augmented reality and virtual reality are closely related, but there are differences. Virtual reality attempts to convince users that they have entered an entirely different reality. Currently, we able to do this via sight and sound through special headsets that display stereoscopic images. Each image is registered by the eye differently and gives the illusion of depth. As the user moves their head or eyes around, sensors pick up the movement and the images change accordingly.
These headsets have just hit the mainstream market this year by three different companies. Also, a number of companies are already engaged in using VR in the development of software products that shapes the experiences that their customers have. Companies such as Lucasfilm, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Ferrari, Volvo, and even Bloomberg are just some of those involved in the development of VR.
VR has been a bit of a pipe dream for years, but we finally have the technology to make it work well. Right now, the focus for VR is on gaming and on providing VR experiences such as roller coasters or exploring haunted mansions. These types of applications work best in a fully-immersive environment.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, places an overlay over our normal perception of reality to show virtual objects. In short, augmented reality users are mostly still engaged in the world around them, other things are simply added to the picture. There are several different ways to do this. One way is to use glasses that project images onto our eyes. One item, Google Glass, tried this but proved to be unpopular due to its weight and camera. There are other AR devices which are currently in development.
Some types of AR do not require the use of lenses at all. Some use tablets or smartphones that detect the presence of certain objects to allow interaction with AR objects on the screen. Others, like BEAM, use cameras and projected images to read where users are in space and change the program accordingly. The most common use for these types of AR is gaming.
AR Could Change the Face of Many Industries
The interest in augmented reality and virtual reality has been increasing steadily over the last several years. It’s estimated that by the year 2020, augmented reality and virtual reality investment is projected to reach some $150 billion. An estimated $120 billion of that amount will be in augmented reality, with the remaining $30 billion being in the area of virtual reality. The lion’s share will go to the development of hardware and applications for gaming, followed closely by commerce, data and voice and the entertainment and motion picture industry. Educators are also not missing out on the possibilities that both augmented reality and virtual reality will provide in the future.
Both technologies are also being investigated as training tools. Construction companies that require highly skilled labor are training people through the use of wearable devices. Texas-based construction company Black & Veatch plans to use augmented reality and virtual reality in order to train workers and improve worker safety. Site managers are also using the technology to confirm the placement of equipment and details of building sites.
Augmented reality and virtual reality can also be used by real estate developers, brokers, and sales persons to give prospective home buyers a way to do a virtual walkthrough of a number of properties without having to travel all over town to do it. This allows buyers to narrow down their choices in a much shorter amount of time. AR is also being used by scholars and archeologists in order to virtually reconstruct ancient structures that have been damaged over time. Museums have also begun to make use of the technology already available via smartphones to enhance a museum goer’s visit.
Even doctors are able to make use of AR in order to more accurately find the veins in a patient, for example, and more accurately draw blood or give injections to those patients. They are also able to educate future doctors by using augmented reality to teach anatomy and the diagnosis of ailments in patients.
Augmented reality is still in its infancy, however, schools, learning centers, and other educational institutions are quickly seeing the value of AR being added to their curriculum. Already there are low-cost or no cost apps such as AR flashcards for numbers and mathematics, the alphabet, and science applications such as astronomy, in addition to games.
Keeping kids busy in small spaces
Children react well to games that are a kind of augmented reality. Often, however, it requires that the child uses a tablet or smartphone to engage with the game or other content. If a child doesn’t have a device of their own or their parents are reluctant to hand their own smart phone over to their child, then keeping a child quiet, interested, and engaged can pose a bit of a challenge.
Today, there are programs and devices that make use of augmented or virtual reality not only in a classroom setting but also in other places where they are required to be indoors or stay in an area such as a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room. It isn’t easy to get kids to sit still, and sometimes even in a designated toy area, scuffles can break out between kids about who gets which toy.
Augmented reality features such as those developed by BEAM (formerly EyePlay) offer a wide variety of interactive floor games and virtual playgrounds where kids are active and engaged and are able to play and interact in a small space. Everyone from health care professionals who have begun to use these devices in their office waiting rooms to fitness gyms, restaurants and hair salons have seen the value of using augmented reality for their customers and their children. For these businesses, there is far less expense in providing these areas with very little extra equipment needing to be installed.
BEAM, a technology developed by EyeClick, is an award-winning gaming solution with the ability to transform any space into a highly-immersive and engaging play area for children. BEAM interactive projector uses cutting-edge projection technology that mounts to a ceiling, creating an interactive play space on any surface below. You can find BEAM in use at family entertainment centers, healthcare clinics, restaurants, hospitals and many other environments across the globe.
For more information about how BEAM increases customer loyalty and engagement, please contact the BEAM Team.