We’re living in exciting times. The world is moving at a pace faster than ever before. Technology has made leaps and bounds that might’ve been considered to be rather improbable a few years ago. The world around us has become characterized by consistent growth and innovation. So, there’s no uncertainty in the fact that there’s only more from where this came from.
 
One exciting development during this massive technological growth has been the introduction of alternative realities. We use the word “realities”. Because there are two separate categories in which we can understand them.

Augmented Reality

The first is augmented reality. Which simply put is a rather ‘enhanced’ version of the real physical world. Achieved through the use of digital visual elements. Or other forms of sensory stimuli that are delivered through technology. This is a form that’s become increasingly popular in the realm of mobile computing & business applications.
 
An example of the utilization of this could be the AR offering by one of the world’s leading furniture brands, Ikea. Ikea’s design lab came up with “IKEA Studio”. An AR application that would help customers place virtual furniture within their current living spaces. By simply taking a picture of their living space through their phones. Customers would have the option to browse through the Ikea catalog. See what particular items could go well with their current space.
 
One of the primary goals for AR has been to highlight specific features of the physical world. Derive data from it through an increased understanding. Then use that to help organizations analyze patterns. Also, develop insights into a variety of patterns. Such data will help companies make better-informed decisions. This is through gaining insight into customer behavior patterns.

Virtual Reality

The second is virtual reality. Which unlike augmented reality is a rather fully encompassing digital experience that either simulates. Or may even differ completely from the real world. The term ‘virtual reality’ refers to a computer-generated, three-dimensional environment. It is separate from the actual world. So, requires individuals to access it through particular mediums/resources.

Our experiences are built through our perception of reality. This is only possible through our senses. Which theoretically means that everyone’s reality is unique to them. VR takes it a step further, by providing our senses with new ‘simulated’ or ‘computer-generated information. This inevitably changes the perception of reality. So, thereby creating a new, virtual reality.

Deciphering Realities: Difference Between Augmented And Virtual Reality

How Does VR Works?

When dealing with AR, the process is rather simple. Since all, you would generally need is an integrated mobile application. It can create synergy between the physical environment and the virtual tools.
 
With virtual reality, however, it’s not as straightforward.
 
Virtual reality creates a unique 3-D environment. The Applications of virtual reality are creating greater technology impact in society. The actualization of this VR can be possible only through the integration of both hardware and software. Both of which work together to create an immersive experience for the user. Along with this, the developers have to create interactive components within the environments. So, they look (and also feel) like the real deal.

VR Software

At the end of the day, VR is all about building experiences for users. These experiences can range from helping companies test products virtually with consumers. Help the users learn something new, or build something from scratch on their own. Even create social platforms for VR software developers to communicate with each other.
 
Some software also goes a step further. Helps users to develop, sculpt, model, paint, and create tangible objects in VR environments. With these tools, users have the option of interacting with 3D models from any angle. Thereby giving them a free hand on the development aspect.

Who Uses VR Software?

While VR is gaining widespread popularity across a variety of fields. There’s a couple that has been involved in the space for a long period of time.

Game developers

VR is a massively popular medium within the world of game development. With users across the world demanding immersive experiences through which they can be “put into” the gaming world.
 
Developers of such games have to so use such tools/software to create such particular environments. In an attempt to help players communicate with characters. As if they were part of the universe themselves.

Architects and engineers

With modeling and designing becoming even more challenging over the years with increasing creativity. There’s no surprise that 3D design is becoming more common within these fields. With the usage of such design tools. Developers have the ability to manipulate the object from every angle possible. While also being completely immersed into the ‘design environment’ thereby removing any distance.

VR Hardware

Once the developers have utilized the tools to create VR environments. The next step is integrating it with hardware. It helps users to become immersed in the created environments.
 
Think of this as the ‘key’ to the world of VR. Through the usage of particular hardware. Users can be provided with the illusion of being in the designed 3D environment.
 
Examples of such hardware include VR glasses, gloves, and any other accessories that are in use to simulate senses such as touch.
 
Over the years, we’ve seen a massive increase in the production of VR glasses. Both console-gaming companies and mobile companies utilizing these products. To help create a distinct experience for their customers. This also follows for gaming companies that use accessories. It helps users interact with the objects in the environment. Feel as if they truly are a part of that environment.

Types Of Virtual Reality

Since VR is a huge and rather complicated deal on its own. There’s a need to understand it with its peculiarities. This leads us to the discussion on the types of virtual reality present.

Fully-Immersive Simulations

Having read everything above. Also, based on whatever you might’ve seen going around the internet when it comes to VR. You will probably imagine a fully immersive experience every time you think of VR. An experience that has head-mounted displays, headphones, gloves. Or, any other accessories required for a completely immersive experience.
 
This is one of the types of VR and is prominent usually for entertainment purposes.
 
These simulations give users the most realistic experience possible that’s contributed to by both sight and sound. VR headsets are the heroes of this particular simulation. Since they give users high-resolution content with a field of views. This lead to the feeling of actually being there.

Semi-Immersive Solutions

Used primarily for educational and training experiences. Semi-immersive solutions give users a partially virtual environment to interact with. An experience that is possible through graphical computing and large projector systems.
 
A great example of this is pilot training tools used at pilot schools. Here the pilots are together in rooms with actual instruments in front of them. But a virtual screen that depicts the environment they’re supposed to navigate through. In other words, these trainees can ‘fly’ airplanes. Take part in training sessions without actually having to ‘fly.
 
Even though these aren’t completely immersive. They still give users the perception of being in a different reality. Through the creation of specific physical environments, virtual reality is supplemented.

Non-Immersive Simulations

Probably the most common out of it all (and one that’s usually forgotten). This refers to the kind of VR whereby the user (while sitting in physical space) can interact with a virtual one (albeit, in a distanced manner).

The easiest example of this is video games. Which are technically non-immersive virtual reality experiences. The development of the Nintendo Wii or the rather revolutionary PlayStation EyeToy are examples of systems that actually detect the motion of the players. Translate them onto the screen. To create a synergy of sorts between the physical space and the virtual one.

Artificial Intelligence In Video Games

Collaborative VR

A relatively new form of VR. This refers to the type whereby users from different locations can come together in a virtual environment in the form of 3D projected characters. An easy example of this is the world-famous PUBG game. Whereby users create virtual 3D characters. Play with other players from across the world. Thereby creating a platform for interaction like never before.

Virtual Reality Applications

Virtual reality is a tool that has shown massive potential. Not only in the field of entertainment and gaming. Also, when it comes to training/education. 
 
In the fields of sport and even the military now. VR has begun to be utilized to create simulated environments for individuals to practice/train through. Let’s go through some virtual reality applications.

Military And Defence Training

The military uses it for aspects such as flight simulations, combat simulations. Also, for medic training, virtual boot camps, etc. Since VR is a completely immersive experience. It puts the individual’s right in the middle of these rather dangerous training situations. It
them with a visual and auditory experience that mirrors reality.
 
One of the more interesting uses in the military has been its usage as a tool to tackle PTSD in soldiers. This is through a therapy form called Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET). It aims to help these individuals adjust to normal life situations.

VR In Sports

In sports, this has become a rather revolutionary piece of technology. It has helped coaches and players to plan/train more efficiently across a range of sports. They have the option of reviewing. Also, making changes to the program on a consistent/regular basis. While creating new situations along the way.
 
Not only for players but also viewers of these sports, VR has created a novel viewing experience. Audiences can now view games without having to be present in the stadiums! So anyone from anywhere in the world can feel like they’re watching the game live AT the stadium. Despite being at their homes hundreds of thousands of miles away.

VR In Healthcare

We touched upon the subject of VR being used in therapy for soldiers with PTSD. But it has also had widespread usage in the field of mental health in general. With VR exposure therapy, people can enter re-enactments of traumatic events. In an attempt to navigate through those events and heal from those experiences. Moreover, VR helps patients with anxiety by helping them immerse in calming environments. Or practicing modes of therapy that have helped manage stress levels. Also, help them boost their coping mechanisms. VR at the end of the day provides individuals to come in contact with things they fear. Whilst remaining in a rather controlled and safe environment.

Back To Reality

Virtual reality is creating a space that has the potential to change how we experience everyday life. Thereby changing the human experience as a whole leading to a new way of life for everyone.
 
At the moment this is a piece of technology that has found its way into the world of entertainment and training. But over time it will seep into how we perform some of our daily activities and shape our interactions. With not just the physical environment but also other individuals within these environments.
 

These are exciting times, but for now, let’s get back to reality.

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