Preparing for a New Reality: Augmented and Virtual Reality
When we think of Augmented and Virtual Reality, our minds immediately go to either video games, Snapchat, or Pokemon GO. While these are all early adopters of this technology, AR and VR have so much more use than just entertainment.
AR and VR alter and create realities
When describing different types of realities, we refer to the reality spectrum.
The spectrum is essentially a scale of how much a reality contains digital elements as opposed to real, tangible elements. On the left end of the spectrum we have the Real World, the world we perceive without any forms of digitization. On the other end we have Virtual Reality, a fully immersive digital environment. In between we have the Mixed Realities, a combination of both real world and virtual elements. Augmented Reality is the most commonly known Mixed Reality. It takes virtual elements and layers them on to the real world. For example, Snapchat adding filters to your face or Pokemon GO adding Pokemon in your house.
These new realities are coming fast!
This sounds like sci-fi craziness! No way we can create a fully immersive VR environment! Up until now this has been the case. We are reaching an inflection point where massive technological developments are being made more frequently, the technology is becoming more consumer friendly, and it is starting to look more and more like how we envisioned this technology in the 1900s.
The Gartner Hype Cycle describes the expectation trend seen in emerging technologies.
When companies first introduce a new technology, everyone gets super excited. This creates a steep upwards climb in expectation very early. As you would expect with a new, hyped up technology, the initial release is not quite what your vivid imaginations thought it would be like (Pokemon GO 😢). The result is a steep decline in “hype”. Finally, while companies continue to develop the technology, the hype slowly grows and grows until the technology reaches its maximum potential and the hype plateaus. AR and VR are at the exciting stage where progress is being made and there is still more to come!
Coolest Innovations in AR and VR
While we are clearly not at the amazing hyper reality described by Google, there are still amazing companies doing amazing things in this area. The following are three of my favorite innovations in this field.
Dyadic Projected Spatial Augmented Reality (DPSAR)
DPSAR is a form of AR that is being explored by Microsoft Research. One of the things that makes it so cool is that it eliminates the need for a phone, headset, or any other AR device. Instead, they use projectors to generate holographic images. They also used an X-Box Kinect sensor to recognize movement and Unity’s physics engine to calculate how the object would respond. The results were amazing!
Google AR/AI Cancer detection
Google also sees massive potential in AR technology. They used a combination of Machine Learning and Augmented Reality to help them detect tumors.
The microscopes they developed have a special AR lens and a camera to capture what the pathologist is seeing. The images from the camera are fed to a computer which runs a computer vision algorithm that is designed to detect tumors. After identifying the cancerous cells, the information is sent to the AR display which outlines them accordingly. This is insane because now pathologists can make more accurate predictions on whether or not a cell is cancerous and they won’t skim over any by mistake!
Last, but certainly not least, Medical Realities is using VR to train and prepare pediatricians for high pressure medical situations. While in these situations, it is crucial that the doctor makes the best decisions as quickly as possible otherwise the patient’s life is at risk. While you can gain textbook knowledge from studying various situations, you will never experience the real thing until it happens. This is why Medical Realities created a platform where doctors can simulate a variety of different situations in an as-real-as-possible simulation. Now they can get the practice and knowledge they need to comfortably handle these situations.
There is still more to come!
AR and VR have both come a long way. From watching TV shows or playing video games to literally saving lives. And it is not over yet. We can expect industry disrupting developments to be made within the next few years. Who knows, maybe Google’s hyper reality will become the new reality?
- Virtual Reality is a completely immersive digital environment. Augmented Reality layers digital elements onto the real world.
- Both AR and VR have hit an inflection point. We can expect major developments within the next few years.
- AR and VR are the future. Many companies are already developing insane use cases for AR and VR.