AR, or augmented reality, is VR’s younger cousin. VR is targeted mostly towards developers at this point. AR doesn’t have many popular apps, and security is becoming a large issue now with Pokemon Go being able to read everyone’s GPS data and sell it to our reptilian overlords.
Let me start out by outlining the difference between the two. VR (virtual reality) is essentially using a headset to project oneself into a made-up experience. AR uses images from the world you’re in and puts virtual elements over them, like an interactive skin. Got it? Good.
Plenty of AR applications have already been developed, most notably: Pokemon GO!. The technology and the idea has been around for a while, though. Hell, Ikea has one to help you pick out furniture for your home. There are a plethora of apps that work with Google Cardboard– remember that thing?– that use AR as their base, from horror games to Yelp and Google Translate. The possibilities are endless.
AR’s main selling point is that it’s a lot more accessible than VR. Aside from that free GearVR Samsung was giving away with the purchase of any Galaxy S7 for a while, it’s pretty expensive and hard to get into. Not everyone has $800 to drop on an HTC Vive, and not everyone has the funds to get the newest Galaxy either.
As far as real-world applications go, Yelp and Google Translate have it pretty spot-on. They offer something expected. Useful, instant information about the surrounding world. Ikea’s onto something as well: better to see what your furniture would look like rather than buy it, bring it home, build it, and realize that it doesn’t go with your home decor. At least, that’s what I think.
On the gaming side, there are plenty of things that would benefit from an AR facelift. For instance, take Viridi: a free game on Steam about raising a small garden of succulent plants. There are expansions you can buy that allow you to have plants around an apartment, among other things. If you haven’t picked it up on Steam yet, it’s free (with micro transactions). It’s relaxing and each week there’s a random free plant available in the shop. I highly recommend it. Needless to say, it would be pretty sweet to have some low-maintenance electronic plants chilling in my house.
There are other situations I can speak to that would lend themselves to VR nicely, and for fear of being unable to develop them myself, I won’t disclose quite yet. (Sorry folks!)
The long and short of this is, while I think VR is going to be big and it’s going to be something pretty interesting to get into, I don’t think now is the time. It’s much like 4k video: it’s expensive (noticing a trend here?) and a bit unwieldy. No one’s going to wander around with a full headset on, but almost everyone has a smartphone.