Virtual reality (VR) is not brand new. Despite the long-term hype about pending futuristic immersive experiences, it is still exciting to see how VR is becoming really real.
VR has been around for decades. In the 1950s, a Hollywood inventor wanted to see how people could feel like they were “in” a movie. He built the Sensorama experience that simulated riding on a motorcycle through a city. Multisensory stimulation lets you see the road, hear the engine, feel the vibration, and smell the motor’s exhaust. The first VR goggles and wired gloves for gaming were sold in the 1980s.
Previously, the general public believed that VR was only accessible to gamers or for astronaut training. The Covid pandemic has forced the acceleration of the development and deployment of many VR applications into the mainstream consumer and business realms.
Over these decades, VR has morphed into a few different categories with different names. All versions can positively impact our lives and businesses, so let’s take a look:
What is XR?
Extended reality (XR) is the umbrella term used to capture augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).
What Is AR?
Augmented reality adds to our real-life experiences by inserting computer-generated interactive elements and enhancements into our real-world environment. Almost anyone with a smartphone can now access AR.
When it comes to AR, many of us (um, some of us) think of Pokémon Go!, the uber-popular augmented reality mobile game that lets us see Pikachu in our own world. AR has moved into numerous enterprise solutions. For example, Boeing uses an AR program that overlays digital 3D wiring diagrams on ships to speed up manufacturing and increase accuracy.
What Is VR?
Virtual reality has similar elements but goes to the next level by producing an entirely computer-generated simulated alternate world. These immersive simulations can create almost any visual place imaginable for the viewer using special equipment such as sensors, headsets, gloves and omnidirectional treadmills.
UPS is successfully using VR to train drivers to spot potential road hazards. They replaced their touch-screen training with a VR solution, and since adding the VR component, their driver retention rate climbed to 75%.
What is MR?
MR is a step beyond AR, in which additional information is added to the user experience to further connect the real and virtual world. Some say MR provides the ability to have one foot in the real world and the other in an imaginary world.
Surgeons are using MR as surgical planning tools and real-time guides for operations. The first use in the US was in 2018 where a doctor used a blended view of real and digital imagery to perform sinus surgery.
Are You in Reality?
Plummeting prices and exponential advancements in XR hardware and software are pushing these XR solutions into our homes and businesses. New business applications roll out daily with the ongoing need for stable computing power, storage and security.
Reality leaves a lot to the imagination. – John Lennon