Historically, alternate realities have dominated both fact and fiction. From the use of augmented and virtual realities in air combat training to sci-fi stories and novelistic tales of gazing into a crystal ball, these surrogate realities have frequently assisted humankind in operating better or coping with the harsh realities of the real world.
Looking ahead, we can see virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies becoming more common in our daily lives. From 2021 to 2028, the combined market for AR and VR headsets is expected to grow tenfold, and in the future, AR could potentially replace that one gadget on which our lives rely so heavily — our smartphones.
To be sure, the future of the internet — and how it affects our lives — will not be linear. However, the astonishing overuse of buzzwords (such as the metaverse) reflects the growing fascination with immersive experiences. Looking at screens no longer makes us tick, and we now want to immerse ourselves in and perceive our surroundings through the extension of reality. AR and VR technologies can satisfy this desire to either augment our current reality or escape into a more comfortable one.
Although both AR and VR manipulate our vision and psyche in similar ways, virtual reality experiences are much more immersive and transport us to a completely different world. This exposure can be thrilling at first, but it can quickly become alienating as it disconnects us from reality. Furthermore, because VR experiences completely block out our actual reality, confusing our senses, they can be nauseating if used for extended periods of time.
In the meantime, augmented reality bridges the gap between reality and a continuous VR experience. As the name implies, augmented reality only enhances our interaction with the real world by providing additional information that is not always readily available. This broadens our imagination without removing us from the reality in which we exist and live.
We can already probe our surroundings with our smartphones or tablets. For example, we can use apps like Google Lens to translate food menus and road signs in foreign languages by pointing our smartphone cameras at them. We can also learn about the surrounding buildings and streets, or use Google Maps or Apple Maps for step-by-step navigation.
Although VR and AR can be equally entertaining, useful, and impressive, the latter appears to be a more promising successor to our smartphones. Below are some additional arguments in support of this claim.
An AR headset is light and easy to use because it only augments the real world rather than creating an entirely new virtual realm. Second, the quality of graphics from an AR headset is not limited by the resolution of the display because we still see the real world in all its glory. Because an AR headset’s display must render and process fewer elements, it can rely on less demanding hardware (or even a smartphone) for processing. As a result, the majority of AR headsets are available as a pair of glasses.
People, in general, gravitate toward products that they are familiar with, and this familiarity with glasses could be a significant driving force for the adoption of AR glasses. In comparison, VR is still primarily used by enthusiasts and professionals for gaming, exploring the multiverse, and learning. The number of AR users was reported to be nearly 1.5 times that of VR users in 2020, and the gap is expected to widen in the coming years.
Computer vision, also known as video intelligence, can be used to identify objects, faces, gestures, poses, and the overall optical flow, according to Nvidia. When combined with cloud computing, computer vision can become widely available and reasonably priced for businesses to use on their AR glasses.
Even before Apple, we see lesser-known brands like Oppo demonstrating the use case of AR glasses as smartphone extensions. Simply replace the smartphone with cloud processing, and we should have a standalone AR headset tailored to tether you to a walled garden.
Simultaneously, Meta’s AR glasses might hit the shelves months before Apple. Considering the company has a very successful portfolio of Oculus VR headsets, its success with augmented reality and metaverse experiences is nearly guaranteed.