BACK TO BASICS
Back to the Future, Universal Studios Florida, the most terrifying ride of my life. Most people like the excitement of roller coasters and thrill rides...but for me...well I just didn't get that gene, to put it quite simply. When I was a child, I vividly remember the Back to the Future Simulator at Universal Studios. For those of you who have not had the “privilege” of enduring those 2 minutes of excitement, for lack of a better term, it was basically a motion simulator in which the users are seated in the DeLorean, with a large screen placed in front of the car. The car itself utilized a motorized motion system that allowed it to move up, down and side to side on various axis points. The motion of the car worked in tandem with the motions on the video being played on the screen in front of the ride. The simulator was loved by many park-goers for a number of years until it was finally shut down in 2007.
So, what the heck does a Back to the Future ride have to do with anything AR, VR, or MR related? Well first, let’s actually define what each of those acronyms really stand for. One crucial element we define as a must-have piece of the process here at Sensuus, is education. It is very common for most of our clients (and sometimes their clients) to have never heard of these acronyms before, and if they have, they often time misconstrue what each actually stands for. The intention is for this to be a 2-part piece touching upon the basics of AR, VR, and MR on a simple, easy to understand level. If you find yourself desiring even more detail after reading through all of this, there are many online resources and articles that have been written which dive deeper into the origins and theories behind each of these (feel free to shoot us an email and we can help guide you on which articles are best).
It seems that nowadays everyone has their own specific definitions of what these terms all really mean, and what they encompass. AR, or Augmented Reality is a relatively simple concept to understand. Think about holding your camera phone up to take a picture of your loved ones. As you are looking at the screen on the phone, it’s basically acting as a piece of glass, allowing you to essentially view through it in real-time. Now what if some simple graphics were overlaid on that screen, perhaps allowing you to add flying birds overhead or place words around your loved ones feet? In its simplicity, this is a form of Augmented Reality, literally augmenting, in real-time, the physical world around you. Of course, the most recent, and perhaps most popular, AR App was Pokémon Go, which the majority of people under the age of 50 have at least heard of before. The Pokémon Go craze from a couple of years ago was an App which utilized AR, while adding additional layers of interactivity within it. Again, we will not dive deeply into this, as it is not the main purpose of this piece.
Next up is VR, or Virtual Reality. Unlike Augmented Reality, which enables you to still view the real world around you, Virtual Reality is a fully built digital environment. To add to the confusion, there are actually a couple different types of VR within the category, which we will break down in part 2 of this series. For now, it is important to know that anything relating to the term VR means everything that a viewer sees around them is composited from video, 3D modeling, or imagery (sometimes a combination of all three).
The last of these three maybe the most difficult for less tech savvy people to really grasp. MR, Mixed Reality is a term that has really gained traction within the past couple of years, led by the release of Microsoft's Hololens. Think of Mixed Reality as a fusion between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Mixed Reality places digital overlays, whether static, or animated, within the physical environment around you. However, one of the key ways it differs from Augmented Reality is that, with the proper hardware, the real world around you is digitally mapped in a way which can detect undulations, physical objects, and other obstructions. This means that built 3D animations can be placed in front of, behind, or around real world objects, even if moving. Hardware plays a key role for Mixed Reality as the computing power required for the sensors to detect all of the physical attributes surrounding the user is very demanding.
In brief, simple terms, this gives us a quick rundown of what all three of these technologies are. In part 2 of this series, we’ll be expanding on the unique interaction methods that each of these contain, as well as break down the VR category a bit further.
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