Augmented Reality v. Virtual Reality

In general, December is the month that yields a high volume of consumer activity, and the purchase of new technology devices. One of these is Virtual Reality (“VR”) technology, slowly trickling down from a niche market. However, it is not the only new reality-altering technology coming into the market, as Augmented Reality (“AR”) has had its growing pains in the world after its adoption.  So, what are these new technologies? What are the current risks? Do they have any practical use?

What is Augmented Reality?  What is Virtual Reality?

They are technologies meant to immerse a user into a different world by substituting or enhancing the reality.  AR has the largest number of examples, such as Google Glass and Pokemon GO.  They take data and overlay it into preexisting reality, allowing us to pull up contacts or catch imaginary creatures. While still in its infancy stage, AR has the potential to work as an overlay, where a camera can read and translate signs and books with the new text viewable, or a device can allow a person to follow arrows overlaid onto a road, or see parts of devices highlighted for repairs on the display.

VR is more complex, and while the most prominent preconception may be something out of The Matrix, in essence, it’s more of an enhanced AR due to limits on what can be experienced by the body.  Its current use is mostly for entertainment, with devices like the Oculus Rift allowing individuals to see the expanses of a world that they cannot properly walk through, or as it is taking off on YouTube, “360” media pieces that place an individual in the middle of the action.  It has been used for roller coasters, concerts, sports events, and films. Also, as VR becomes more immersive, it opens the way to more interactive telecommuting. The former is far more likely in the immediate future, as the motion-detection capabilities of smart phones, which already facilitate media consumption, the only thing needed would be a device to hold the phone close enough to the eyes.

What are the risks?

AR has many of the more prominent risks that we have learned about, primarily through Pokemon GO’s extensive popularity. However, VR remains in a murkier space. Individuals cannot truly be immersed in VR due to a usual lack of motion.  It has been known to cause a slight disorientation due to lag in processing the motion, as well as its inability to properly simulate sensations (i.e. riding a roller coaster without the accompanying sensations). This potentially opens VR to a user’s claim for failure to warn or inadequately marketing the product. However, till then, VR suffers from the same potential issues as any other media might, with copyright, trademark, and appropriation concerns in the case of 360 videos.

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