We are hearing quite a lot about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality. But what exactly do they entail, and what is the difference between them?
Almost all major technology enterprises are pushing these trends and bringing their VR and AR smart glasses and head-mounted displays to the market. Microsoft's HoloLens, Samsung's Gear and Vive from HTC are just three examples. In principle, the technology is easy to explain: Virtual reality (VR) refers to a digital image of the real world that is created on a computer. VR glasses let users immerse themselves in an artificial world which seems remarkably real. People can swim with whales, explore a shipwreck or walk through a new house before it has even been built.
Interaction of digital and analog worlds
Augmented reality, by contrast, is based on the interaction of digital and analog worlds. This is usually achieved using glasses, but smartphone cameras can be used as well. Unlike the VR experience, users are never completely separated from their normal environment. Additional information about their environment is presented to users through their AR glasses or devices. For example, a warehouse worker can see where a specific spare part is stored on a shelf, or a mechanic can see helpful information on his smart glasses that can help him repair a particular component.
There are already many commercial VR and AR applications and products available, but the technology is still very new and will undergo rapid development in the years ahead. It will be exciting to see which scenarios, solutions and manufacturers emerge in this market.