Many people have had some sort of experience with virtual reality. Whether in a game, on the internet, or any other way to show information electronically, these are all just different ways of presenting the same information. Virtual reality is more than just a supplement to video games and the internet though. More and more often, virtual reality is getting funneled in alongside physical reality in a form called augmented reality. This means that features of both areas can be used and, taking the best from either, make something better as a whole.
Microsoft’s Hololens is a prime example of the applications of this as a whole. While not completely game changing yet, the Hololens allows for information to be continuously fed to the wearer, giving them instant updates while keeping their hands free. While still illegal on the road due to interfering with driver eyesight, these devices are invaluable in places like wall street and on the traders floor.
Having information on the fly is immensely helpful for making snap decisions. Several military companies have put forth ideas on possibly incorporating information into such a headset for soldiers in order to keep them up to date with information on the status of other squad members, supplies, and intel over enemies. While simple things that can be figured out by looking around, the snap decisions that these enable could gain an important few seconds that may save lives.
Other possible uses include porting of games or other such entertainment into the real world. A proposed minecraft version sees the real world overlaid with blocks and and monsters, allowing a player to play with their own room as the landscape. An interesting development that this has been inspired by this stems from the effect of digital environments from real world stimuli. Some graphic artists and modelers have begun to create and use programs that create an augmented sculpture with the glasses of which they can use normal tools on in real time. This process creates models that can be extremely detailed as they are interacted with in a more realistic and natural way.
A very unique instance of augmented reality recently released came from Castrol EDGE. According to their testimony of spending many long nights in empty parking lots with an old Mustang and an assortment of computer equipment, They were able to design an augmented reality game that overlays a parking lot with an assortment of obstacles to traverse in an attempt to “escape the world”, as their objective was told to them.
The resulting commercial seems out of a science fiction movie in how well coordinated the augmented reality was for the driver. If you want to see the video, it is located here: http://www.engadget.com/2015/05/27/castrol-virtual-drift-vr/. There have been other notable versions of this technology stepping out onto the market, from the purely virtual reality oriented Oculus Rift and Vive to Googles Cardboard ‘slide your phone in for some virtual reality’ box. While certainly not game changing outside of their initial use, each headset has come with proving and pushing the point of a hard aspect for virtual reality. From the amazing fix to motion sickness from the Vive to the Cheaper start up fees of the Oculus Rift, all are pushing boundaries and slowly bringing the virtual world closer to our own world. Maybe there will be a point here where most applications or software are run on a virtual platform feeding to some augmented reality glasses that let you work with them through motion gestures. As always, it will be interesting to see first hand.