VR vs AR – it’s quite the debate! A lot of people are awfully excited about augmented reality. Tim Cook recent said he saw more potential in AR compared to virtual reality and they’re said to be working on a product. Google bet on their AR product (Google Glass) years ago and while they’ve temporarily pulled the product, the tech and in-house knowledge remains as they perfect it. Pokemon Go made over a billion dollars as the first major AR product. And plenty more prominent people/companies have said big things about the technology possibilities.
However, we disagree. While there are undoubtedly cool things ahead in augmented reality, we see it evolving into a merged technology with VR. Let us explain why we think the VR vs AR battle easily goes to virtual reality…
The biggest reason is when you explore the difference between “cool” and “needed”. And AR is definitely cool. A few examples…
A hologram of people could exist in AR. So you could be sitting on the beach and then put your AR glasses on and see real people sitting next to you (even though they aren’t really there). Cool!
This goes beyond just fun places like the beach. You could use this to physically work remotely but have meetings where you all feel like you’re in the same room. More than just cool, this is really useful.
You can view websites, tv, and anything else on a screen as a floating image in front of you. AR will definitely eliminate the screen at some stage.
Pokemon Go showed us that having game figures in actual places on your GPS is a fun experience. With AR glasses on, you could see them like they were real people. The game possibilities are endless. Battle zombies in your home city or do a role playing game using real places (as examples).
When it comes to training, you could practice a sport on a real field but with AR generated imagery as your competition. Or perhaps you could go diving in a real swimming pool but put your glasses on and envision a beautiful coral reef around you.
You could redecorate physical locations every day. Artists can create 3D objects that make your house, office, or other locations more aesthetically pleasing with the glasses on.
There are a lot of interesting industry uses. A surgeon could perform an operation but have floating images from other camera angles, data points, etc off to the side or above where they are directly operating. The same goes for programmers, technicians, mechanics, architects, the military, and plenty more professions.
Altogether, AR is quite exciting. All these uses have a sizeable market. But consider this. You can do all these things in virtual reality too. But you can also add features in the virtual world (have your meeting on a mountain-top for example).
You can play all these same games in the virtual world, but developers can add features that are more fun and exciting than the real/augmented world.
Training is already possible in virtual reality and will continue to add life-like simulations.
You can make your house VR-ready. Once you do that, your house isn’t constrained by the actual dimensions of where you live. It could be an entirely different world and can change every day if you preferred.
And while not all the industry uses can be replicated, many can.
At the end of the day, virtual reality offers most of what augmented reality can. However, the reverse is not necessarily true. You can’t go to a different planet in AR. There’s no going back in time. No virtual nightclubs. You can’t go to a concert or stadium in AR. AR might enhance these things IF they exist in the real world. But it’s merely an enhancement of the real world. It’s a nice to have. It’s cool and fun.
But virtual reality is a game-changer. You can invent your world and make anything possible.
Augmented reality offers some really cool possibilities. Enough of them have big markets with good business cases. However, there is limited mass market potential. Meanwhile, virtual reality could be used by anyone for fun, education, professional applications, digital commerce, and more. Augmented reality has more specialized uses due to the real world’s many constraints. It doesn’t have the same mass market potential (which would be an issue if the costs are say $1000). And a specialized technology won’t get mass investment or inspire mass open source development.
This is why we think they will eventually “merge”. Virtual reality technology is already here and will improve every year. Improvements need to be made, since we’re only seeing the first wide release. However, it’s already a game-changing technology with room for growth. It’s already possible to do a lot of the things we’ve predicted at Reverse Tide. And that will truly take off over the next 5 years.
As time goes on, the VR headsets will likely become smaller, lighter, and more comfortable. Perhaps they look and feel like sunglasses at that stage. And by then, perhaps AR technology arrives in greater force (it doesn’t do many useful things in today’s versions). Why not build it into the VR sunglasses people will inevitably already have? Then you press a button to make your forward view transparent (so you can see the real world in front of you). And by pressing that button, it activates the AR features. Pressing the button again allows you to move back into VR.
That capability is many years away. Perhaps there are reasons it will never be possible. However, until proven otherwise, we think that’s the most likely scenario. VR has the mass market and mass usage appeal. Everyone will have virtual reality in 5 years. So rather than try to create a similar technology with less possible uses, we think it solves a lot of problems by combining the two.
We suspect Tim Cook is pre-marketing his AR offering in the next IPhone. Obviously he has access to a lot of research and development and is the CEO of the world’s largest company so his opinion is very interesting. We’d love to hear him elaborate on this prediction a bit more. But our bets are on virtual reality until evidence comes forward to change our mind. Augmented Reality will be cool but not a game-changer like VR! So in the VR vs AR battle- VR wins!