The Future is Now: Augmented and Virtual Reality

The advancements that we are seeing in today’s technology are mind boggling. There are things that have become mundane, which wouldn’t even seem possible at the end of the 20th century. Currently, you are walking around with a computer in your pocket that has more processing power than the computers NASA used to launch the Apollo missions.

Everything is running through a computer now, and it is hard to find anything around you that does not rely on computing power. The reliance on computers has happened quickly, but rather quietly. It started with rather simple things, such as climate controls that could be set and forget. Now everything from getting out of bed, to getting to your destination uses the technology around us.

This trend is continuing, with the increase on technology that is becoming available at our fingertips. The newest move to the future is the exciting advancements in augmented and virtual reality. These are two different ways that technology will become further integrated into your life.

Augmented Reality

The purpose behind augmented reality is to increase the integration of information into your life. This integration is done through an interface, which sounds a little complicated. It really isn’t; an interface is just how you interact with a computer, and how it interacts with you.

Typical interfaces that you are probably familiar with include a keyboard and mouse, a remote control for a TV, or the touchscreens on modern smartphones. It is just a way to get the technology information. It is combined with a way to convey information to you, usually in a graphical manner, via a screen. Today’s interfaces are getting better, but are still being improved upon.

Where it is Today?

The advancements that are seen currently include better ways of displaying information. There are some car manufactures that use technology called heads up display to help provide information to the vehicle driver. It works well, and helps drivers stay safe, while still getting access to data like traffic conditions and navigation.

Another place where augmented reality has started to become prominent is with the introduction of smart glasses. These were designed to provide information that would just appear in front of your eyes. Unfortunately, when the first commercial model of this technology came out, it was not very well received.



Where it is Going?

There is many different ways for augmented reality to grow into your life. While the first iteration of smart glasses did not take hold, there are many ways to improve on that technology. As we, as a population, start buying into the idea of constant information flows, the idea of having a screen always in your vision will be embraced with more vigor.

The technology can also advance to make things less cumbersome. The smart glasses were not very appealing because they had to be visible on your face. Newer versions of this technology are moving to be smaller and less noticeable mechanics.

There are patents filed that hint to the prospect of having smart contact lenses, which provide the interface into computer programs similar to your phone that sit on your eye. They are almost completely indistinguishable, and provide quick access to large amounts of data.

Virtual Reality

Another great stem of technology revolves around virtual reality. The idea of virtual reality is that you are able to log into a world, and experience it as though you were there. It would make the idea of distance nonexistent; your physical location would mean nothing, as long as you could connect into the virtual world.

This was an idea that seems extremely science fiction like, but it is something that is quickly becoming a reality. The technology is being developed, and there has been some great leaps forward in the last several years. It is an exciting time, and the future looks extremely bright for the idea of virtual reality.

Where it is Today?

The technology in virtual reality has recently become available to the public. There are small and large systems on the market today, which provide the virtual reality experience to the masses. They have mixed experiences, and you can tell the lower quality systems from the more advanced easily.

The smaller systems typically rely on a headset and a smartphone. These systems run about $100 USD, not including the smartphone. You install certain apps, and put your smartphone into the system that includes lenses and headset. This gives you, the user a chance to explore the idea of virtual reality.

Once you experience the idea of virtual reality, it is easy to want to explore further. The major systems that are currently on the market are much more expensive, running up and past the $1,000 price point. They do provide more comfort, can run more advanced programs, and will likely avoid some motion issues that come from the lower end systems.

Where it is Going?

The potential for virtual reality is amazing. There are some troubles with the current technology, and that means there is a lot of room for improvement. Current troubles include the amount of processing power required and the motion sickness like feelings occasionally reported by users.

Processing power is one of the main barriers to mainstream markets for virtual reality. The high end systems require huge amounts of graphical output. This is a level of computing power that the average person just does not have access to. For this to be accessible by the average population, the access to high-end graphical computing must increase. This is a major goal of graphic card producing companies, and it is something that is possible in the next several years.

Some portion of the users of virtual reality report symptoms that are similar to motion sickness. The likely cause of this is slight delays between movement, and the change in view. It is possible to reduce this with better computers. Faster reaction times need more computing power, and that also needs to be shown to the user faster. This can be done with displays that operate on a faster refresh rate, and are currently in development.

What is the Mean to You?

While all these advancements and possibilities sound exciting to the people working on it, what does it actually mean to you? There are many different ways that this set of technology will change your life.

The current trajectory of augmented reality leads you to a world where vast ranges of information shows up in front of your eyes. You no longer will have to glance to a map while driving for navigation; your driving speed, route information, and vehicle specifications can all just be accessed like a science fiction character. You can search the internet for some random tidbit of information without even a glance at a screen. This full integration of your world with all the information available is the direct outcome of moving forward with augmented reality.

Virtual reality can seem even more invasive. The real world could mean very little in the future. Virtual reality will, at some point, allow whole lives to be built in a virtual existence. As it becomes more available and more popular, you could see a world where meeting up for drinks does not even happen in person. You and your friends may be meeting at a virtual location, and never need to travel to interact, or even to exist.

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