In this JOurnal we frequently talked about augmented reality and virtual reality, two fields of ICT research that are often combined and frequently confused, especially in Italy, where their diffusion is less rapid than in the rest of the world. In fact, the two technologies are quite different and have applications that are completely distinct and irreconcilable. Two similar ways of approaching an artificial reality.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AUGMENTED REALITY AND VIRTUAL REALITY
The augmented reality enriches the reality with a whole series of information that overlaps to what eyes can see, adding multimedia elements to non-existent realities, allowing users to live a unique interactive experience.
With augmented reality, instead, human experience is enriched thanks to technological devices such as smartphones, with which it is possible to observe virtual elements and interact with our reality.
Virtual reality creates a totally new world that does not exist anywhere else.
To resume textbook definitions, we could say that virtual reality combines hardware and software devices that work together to create a virtual space within which the user can freely move. It is a simulated reality, which is computer-built, of a simulated and three-dimensional world that appears real and makes the users’ experience more immersive.
Thus, while in the case of augmented reality it is the virtual world that “enters” the real world, in the case of virtual reality we “enter” into a new world. Let’s see them in details.
AUGMENTED REALITY AND VIRTUAL REALITY: USES
Thanks to technology, it is possible to interact with a large amount of information. This affects our daily life and can represent a great limit for the human being, who by nature is used to interact with a three-dimensional reality. In this scenario, virtual reality and augmented reality are two related technologies that offer the possibility of concretely improving the capacity of the human being, accentuating its potential.
Through the five senses, in fact, we access information and process it thanks to our mental capacity, which is reduced if we perform multiple activities simultaneously, affecting the so-called cognitive load. However, thanks to our sense of sight combined with technology, when we look at the physical world, we instantly receive an enormous amount of information with no effort, because an image that superimposes information on the physical world minimizes the cognitive load and makes augmented and virtual reality effective.
Moreover, some recent scientific studies show that virtual reality can be effective for motor and cognitive rehabilitation, for example to support treatments for pathologies such as autism.
THE FUTURE PERSPECTIVES OF AUGMENTED REALITY AND VIRTUAL REALITY
According to some researches, both augmented reality and virtual reality will expand rapidly in the near future, reaching a growth rate of 58.1% from now until 2023. The new generations of smartphones, combined with the progress in connectivity, as well as the innovative platforms and services developed by Apple, Google and Facebook, will accelerate this process. If today the virtual reality seems to be more widespread than augmented reality, by 2023 the latter could overcome virtual reality, due to the growing demand in the tourism and retail sectors. Indeed, virtual reality is currently used mainly for games, but both augmented reality and virtual reality can be extremely useful to improve the users’ experience in the world of tourism and smart cities.
The assumptions seem to be positive, also because many global companies are willing to apply these technologies within their realities. 82% of companies currently exploiting the advantages of augmented reality and virtual reality are satisfied with the benefits obtained. In general, augmented reality is considered more applicable in a company, because of its ability to interact with reality.
Now, around 65% of companies dealing with augmented and virtual reality produce hardware devices, such as virtual reality viewers. The demand for software solutions is lower, but it is intended to speed up its expansion.
Between these two technologies, augmented reality is certainly easiest to be applied by companies, due to the way in which it interacts with reality. Also virtual reality may be able to have a positive impact on the company’s business. In order to make the most of the opportunities offered by these two technologies, it is necessary to create teams dedicated to their management.
Examples of virtual reality and augmented reality
AR is ever more a form of visual content management 2.0, thanks to its ability to help companies and organizations to add new information levels that include high interaction using mobile devices and wearable technologies. In fact, the entertainment was the first field in which the augmented reality was experimented, exploiting the its surprising effect. For example, among the precursors of AR there is Lego. It explains, in fact, the use of the game contained in the packages, using augmented reality as a form of smart packaging. Framing one of the packages, from the monitor you can see a sort of trailer with the characters involved in the game in animation.
In the automotive sector the brands use this technology for remote assistance and the lauch of new models in showrooms. In the industrial environment, instead, the AR allows to carried out more accurately and safely checks for all monitoring and maintenance activities, providing detailed information for possible interventions.
It has become apparent that the augmented reality and virtual reality are very useful also for the tourism sector and for smart cities. Virtual reality, in particular, is more used for games, but it is also useful for employee training activities.
The use of AR in Industry 4.0 also ensures a significant improvement in production, maintenance and assistance activities, as well as support for the design and planning of products and innovative solutions. Both augmented and virtual reality make it possible to see the product before it is realized, optimizing the design phases and anticipating the problems relating to the object. Thus, it will be possible to significantly reduce the impact on product development costs.
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