What can augmented reality and virtual reality do?

Smart glasses will change the way we experience the world: either through superimposed information that tells us more about what we’re looking at (AR = augmented reality) or by diving into completely new digital worlds (VR = virtual reality). Whether gaming, shopping, studying, or even building a home – these smart glasses will change nearly everything. Until we get there, intelligent apps can already do a lot, particularly with AR – which means your smartphone can, too. Here are the six most interesting examples from both worlds: 

Walk through your new home as if it’s already been built

A boy – playing with virtual balls.

Virtually keeping the balls in the air.

There they are: the blueprints for your new house. But who has the imagination to really visualize what the new house will look like based on the blueprints? Probably not many of us. That won’t be a problem in the future: simply put on your virtual reality glasses and you’ll be able to walk from room to room in this new virtual world. Likewise, you’ll also be able to walk through a virtual rental and check whether it fits your needs.

Returns again, because it didn’t fit? That needn’t be the case

You want to order some new jeans online. It just takes a few clicks, and delivery is fast, too. But unfortunately, they don’t fit – again. Many of us are familiar with this frustration, but that needn’t be the case. Think of the “meepl” app, for example: It takes a body scan, which is then used to recommend sizes in the online shop. Zalando was so thrilled that they simply bought the startup, in October 2020. Give it a try! 

Similar apps are also available for hair dyes and even makeup. It’s almost magical …

Need a new style for your home? AR apps can put a couch in your living room and paint on the walls

You’ve found love at first sight with a new couch and need to know whether it will fit in your living room? No problem. 

Yourhome – a subsidiary of mail-order giant OTTO – will project the furniture into your home. Of course, a certain Swedish furniture giant isn’t missing this trend, either: Ikea Place measures your living space and places the selected items directly in your rooms. You can even move them around virtually to find the best spot.

If you find it difficult to decide on a houseplant, augmented reality can help there, too. Take Swiss plant retailer Feey, for example. Try it out for yourself. I’ve already ordered the Monstera …

And for the new wall paint, the Dulux Visualizer will show you what your home’s walls can look like in a new hue, making it easier to choose between a signal color or something more subdued.

Plan operations in detail 

Virtual assistance isn’t just limited to everyday problems, either. It can also help support important work: surgeons use VR glasses to practice difficult operations at no risk to patients, working on the patient’s digital twin instead. They can examine the real organ from all sides and the doctor can think about the best approach for the surgery. 

In addition, they can blend in patient data such as blood values or images of blood vessels during the actual operation. As a result, they can keep track of the patient’s vital signs at all times.

Explore the depths of the ocean or a destroyed synagogue

You no longer have to get wet to explore the Baltic Sea under water. OstseeLIFE from NABU (Germany’s Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union) shows you a virtual underwater reality. You can view it on your computer screen, but VR glasses make it really cool: see seaweed meadows, pipefish, and harbor porpoises that seem real enough to touch. You can dive in here.

The Jewish Museum in Fürth offers an entirely different VR experience: Together with students of Würzburg-Schweinfurt University and the Chair of Jewish Studies at Otto Friedrich University Bamberg, they have rebuilt the “Altschul” synagogue, which was destroyed during the “Crystal Night” pogrom, in an interactive virtual reality app. Suitable music or choral singing make the experience even more realistic.

Social VR – In a different place, but still in the same room

Deutsche Telekom’s VR Lounge lets your custom-designed avatar meet and hang out with friends on the virtual sun deck. Or you can watch 360-degree videos from the media library together. VR glasses make the experience even more realistic, of course. If you’d like to give virtual reality a try, you can simply use the VR Lounge on your smartphone. The Lounge can be used free of charge in the Magenta VR app (registration required).

 A woman in front of a refrigerator with a monitor on the door.

"Technology becomes invisible, but is always there"

Interview with Professor Peter Wippermann and Andreas Schlegel.