VR & AR: technologies that rule our time

15 August 2017

Let’s start from the very beginning. The spectrum of realities was formulated by Paul Milgram in 1994: from the physical environment (where all the objects are tangible) to the virtual environment (where the computer generates all objects).

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-simulated environment that helps user to plug into it completely using different receptors like sight, hearing, smell, tactile sensations and realistic graphic. The term “virtual reality” was formulated by American CG artist Myron Krueger in the end of ‘60s. The first attempt to create instruments to plug into the VR appeared during that period.

During the 15th century, Filippo Brunelleschi tried to create the first tools of augmented reality. He painted an object that was combined with another one existing in the real world. Then, he proposed to look at them through a glass with a hole. However, Brunelleschi did not coin the term “augmented reality”. It happened much later in 1990.

Augmented reality (AR) is the overlaying existing reality with computer-generated images, and because of this process, the existing reality improves. One example of augmented reality is the information for the pilot (like speed, weather changes and other indicators) projected on the windshield of the pilot’s cabin in the aircraft.

Hype Cycle of VR and AR

Both technologies evolved through the few life stages. In 1995, the research company Gartner proposed the concept of “hype cycle”. Each technology of existing market goes through a certain stage of this cycle.

The first stage is called “Innovation Trigger”. At this stage, no one except scientist and enthusiasts knows about the technology, so no one has invested in it.

The second stage is the “Peak of Inflated Expectation”. More and more people learn about the technology and the interest in it increases. In the early to mid-‘90s, Nintendo produced VR gadgets, but the sales were very small because of poor content and low graphics.

People became disappointed with the VR hype that time and waited for what would happen next. “Trough of Disillusionment” is the third stage in hype cycle. Augmented reality is now in this stage.

Virtual Reality is now on the fourth stage called “Slope of Enlightenment”. Solutions to the main problems of the technology have been found, plus there is a lot of quality content and a wider audience. The success of the Oculus helmet shall be regarded as the starting point of VR development. At the same time, VR is approaching to the fifth stage — the “Plateau of Productivity”, when technology becomes an ordinary, everyday thing.

Scope of VR/AR applications

The market of virtual and augmented reality is flourishing and every year, more and more applications emerge.

  1. Entertainment. Everyone who starts engaging in virtual and augmented reality goes to games and 360-degree videos first.

Virtual reality gaming is where a person is involved in a three-dimensional environment and interacts with it directly. Bio-sensing is the way the person’s presence is detected. Small sensors attach to a data glove, suit or even the body and records movements made by that person in the 3D space. The computer interprets those movements and trigger a variety of responses.

3D internet. Do not forget the Internet. The idea of a three-dimensional internet in which you could explore websites in a dynamic way is becoming popular among programmers. You will be able to touch physically the webpage and manipulate it instead of clicking on a link and scanning the information on it. Webpage will become a location where you could explore at your leisure.

  1. Design & Engineering. With the help of VR helmets, designers improve the efficiency of their work. VR technologies can also be used in prototyping, modeling, and in production when assembling products.
  2. Sports. Athletes could prepare for the game with the help of VR, which simulates the game and the player’s position on the field. Athletes can then experience and develop strategies with the coach.
  3. Military. In the virtual world or with the help of augmented reality, the military simulates warfare, demining or other operations to reduce the likelihood of error in real-life.
  4. Medicine. This area uses VR technology in many ways. For example for virtual training of doctors on how to do surgery correctly. VR is also used to provide patients rehabilitation and treating phobias (fear of heights, spiders and others).

Market forecasts

According to analysts, the market volume of virtual and augmented reality in the revenue from the sale of content and devices is now several billion dollars, but by 2020 will increase to more than $150 billion.

This is a huge possibility for start-ups and investors. The main revenue for now is generated from VR helmets and the accompanying content. The picture will change soon as the main thrust of the industry will shift to augmented reality.