Virtual reality and augmented reality are technologies that transport people into a simulated digital world or that supplement reality by means of special glasses, headsets, handsets, motion sensors, loudspeakers, tablets and/or smartphones.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are two different but closely related technologies. While virtual reality gives you the experience of being somewhere else, augmented reality adds to your experience of the real world. A lot of people associate both technologies with gaming and entertainment, but more and more people are seeing their commercial value. Here are some example applications:
1. The health sector is using both virtual and augmented reality as a training tool for surgery.
2. The real estate industry is using VR to provide virtual viewings of existing properties and to show potential buyers what their new flat will look like before it has been constructed.
3. The furniture industry, specifically IKEA with its AR app “IKEA Place”, allows you to take a picture of your room and to select products and their location. You can then experience the sofa you have chosen in 3D and its actual size. The image also includes product information.
4. The public sector, for example the municipality of Trondheim, is using augmented reality to demonstrate how climate change will affect the city both now and in the future.
5. The media industry uses augmented reality to communicate news stories and sport in a richer way. Examples include TV presenters delivering forecasts and election results with the help of columns that they walk between, and the names and national flags of runners being displayed in each lane on athletics tracks.
Other uses of virtual and augmented reality include:
Enriching experiences - by using virtual reality to travel to a place you cannot physically enjoy, such as the moon.
Understanding information in foreign languages - by using the AR functionality in mobiles to translate signs, pictures and text from other languages to your own.
Improving navigation and orientation - by using AR functionality to provide information on street names and buildings. You can also get virtual arrows that show you the way to your destination.
The most exciting potential for virtual reality is probably how the technology can help us to understand ourselves better, to provide us with new insight into how our brain, perception, consciousness and reality are interconnected. However, specialists are of the view that augmented reality has the greatest potential because the technology is so accessible. All you need is a mobile phone to see information layered on top of the real world.