Virtual and Augmented Reality – what’s it all about?

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two of the most exciting technologies of recent years. Both VR and AR have the ability to change the way we interact with the world around us, and are already being used for gaming, education and healthcare, Star Trek is with us and has been for a few years now!

It can seem a bit ‘ooh the matrix’ and scary but let’s delve in a bit and look at what the differences are between the most commonly mentioned types of ‘reality’ (just chuckling as different versions of reality have been a thing with humans for a very long time haven’t they 🤣).

So, Virtual Reality is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that you interact with using special equipment, such as a VR headset. When you put on a VR headset, you are fully immersed in the virtual world, and you can interact with it in a realistic way. I had a go at this with a Google Cardboard which you can pick up for a couple of quid a few years ago using a city simulator and was walking around in Paris whilst actually being in the dining room of my lovely late parents’ dining room. I was trying it out with my youngest, so as we each took turns, the other alerted us if we were going to walk into something on the ‘real side’ of things, good fun!

It’s been used for years to train pilots and is also used for things like fire fighter training. It’s really coming to the fore in education for children and adults too, giving people the chance to experience things that they might never have the opportunity to IRL (in real life, that’s in our lexicon now folks!)

Augmented Reality is a technology that overlays digital information, such as images, videos, or text, on top of the user’s real-world environment. If you are lucky enough to have a fancy car you’ll be experiencing AR with what they call Headup display. I’ve been a passenger in a car with Headup display and I have to say it’s really cool and if I were a betting peeps, I’d bet that like electric windows (which used to be fancy), it will be standard on most cars before too long. Check out this video I found on YouTube that does a little demo of it.

Games like Pokémon Go use AR technology to overlay digital creatures and objects onto the real world. Do you remember how much coverage Pokémon Go got when it first came out in 2016? It’s still going strong today.

As with VR, AR is making a big impact is in education, an AR app can be used to show students how the human body works for example which I think is really cool and just one of countless examples where it can be a brilliant learning resource.

VR and AR are two exciting technologies that are already changing the way we interact with the world and will continue to evolve, VR creating a completely artificial environment and AR enhancing or augmenting the real world with additional information. We are only just scratching the surface of what is possible with these technologies and I’m really looking forward to what’s up the road.

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