Augmented reality and virtual reality are close relatives but which technology will have the greater impact in the future? Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, states that he loves Augmented Reality because it gives us a possibility to improve what is happening in the present.
He compares augmented reality with the smartphone. The smartphone and augmented reality technology have the possibility to improve everyone life: “It’s for everyone”. While “augmented reality” is not a product per se it is still a core technology. Right now the augmented reality technology is not yet good enough for the mainstream customers so there are still many things to discover before that technology is ready for the mass-market.
“I do think there can be a lot of things that really help people out in daily life, real-life things, that’s why I get so excited about it.” Tim Cook
What exactly defines Augmented Reality? Augmented reality is basically an enhancement of your reality by using computer graphics and other inputs such as GPS data or sound. The two best known AR products are Snapchat’s geo filters and masks and Pokémon Go. There are smartphone- and glasses based augmented reality solutions out there. If you have an Android or iPhone you can easily experience your first AR experience by downloading the Augment app or the IKEA app. Both let you place e.g. furniture into your apartment (into reality). The Google Glasses were pretty much the first popular prototype of AR glasses. While the Google Glasses failed there are already more advanced solutions such as the Microsoft Hololens out there.
Virtual Reality in contrast excludes the reality completely. The purpose of virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift is to bring you to a new world: a virtual reality. The main use cases of virtual reality are limited to gaming right now but it expands beyond of this. My favorite virtual reality use cases are for example education, health-care, and collaboration.
Augmented- versus Virtual Reality
Which technology is more promising for a everyday use? I hook up with Tim Cook when it comes to the possible market size. Augmented reality is more likely to be a technology for everyday or even 24/7 use. AR glasses, lenses, or projections may displace the smartphone. Whereas virtual reality will require a complete VR headset.
Virtual reality requires an undisturbed environment. You cannot simply wear a VR headset in the subway as you will most likely miss your stop. The usage of VR will thus be limited to in-office and home environments. Environments you can completely trust while wearing the VR headset.
Augmented Reality is different. Current AR technologies are working with glasses or phones. There are already companies working on AR contact lenses or other companies who are working on projection based AR solutions. You will never leave the reality. With augmented reality you always realize everything that is happening around you. The great thing about AR is that it puts a helpful layer onto your field of vision. Just a few days ago I met a 14 or 15 year old guy who programmed a software for the Microsoft Hololens to simplify the interactions with our daily devices.
Why simplify interactions with devices? Because some people find it hard to use certain devices. Just think about seniors or disabled people who cannot control certain devices without the help of others. This reminded me of my co-founders concept who is combining brain interfacing technology with augmented reality. This allows disabled and paralyzed people to interact with phones, gadgets, and devices without any movements and without operating a computer or phone by themselves.
The use-cases of AR are of course much broader. As Tim Cook said there is a use-case for every human worldwide. AR technology may revolutionize how we consume information, how we communicate with our friends, how we share experiences, and how we learn.
The use-cases of both technologies – augmented- and virtual reality – are not yet explored and there are plenty of chances for entrepreneurs worldwide. If we work hard these two technologies will replace our mobile phones, computers and our TVs.