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Augmented Reality and E-Commerce: Bridging the Physical-Digital Gap

Is Reality Already Becoming Virtual or Augmented?

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality were far beyond the imagination of early humans.

Since the dawn of humanity, tools have played a significant, game-changer role in the psycho-physical evolution of our species. At first, bones and rocks were used as tools to pound, cut, and kill. The early human couldn’t have even imagined the possibilities that future technologies hold. Millenniums after the stone age, technologies emerged with lightning speed – and in “2 minutes to midnight”, if we compare it with the timeline of human evolution. It is in the last 2-3 centuries that we as humans developed technologies that were beyond our imaginations and thanks to the great think ahead minds that made this possible. This gave birth to a change of world views and tendencies, i.e., strives towards the development of technologies that can mimic or interact with reality.

On the threshold of the 21st century, the technological possibilities that lie ahead can be easily overlooked. The definitions between “artificial” and “natural” are blurred and the boundaries can not be defined precisely, because of the constant technological and scientific breakthroughs and discoveries.

The issue is not whether technology is altering our world. The real issue is how and to what extend our world is affected by technology. In some instances, this has been a matter of fierce, but relevant debate. However, what cannot be reasonably denied is that solutions regarding the applications of future technologies will shape even reality in no time.

New innovative technological ideas for gadgets – possibly to revolutionize the world.
Virtual and Augmented Reality post imageTech companies are always more energized at the start of each year, announcing ambitious plans for the coming months. Startups and multinationals are also sensing the interrelated effects of industry innovation, where the technology is becoming more and more intertwined with daily life, year-round.

Some of those current developing technologies are the famous VR/AR. VR is initialized from Virtual Reality while AR stands for Augmented Reality. You may find them together or in a mutual implementation, but they aren’t the same. While VR and AR are immersive technologies (technology that integrates elements in the virtual and real-world) and have similarities, certain differences among them exist. Тherefore, in this article, we will take a closer look at these technologies. Let’s start with Virtual Reality (VR).

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) means experiencing objects or working trough a computer-built non-existent environment. Virtual Reality is already a process in-demand, and with so many new integrated components like cameras, fingerprint readers, geo-locators, etc. you can quickly trail behind. Still, VR is a relatively new technology in commercial terms and it is expected to be developed further and become more advanced.Virtual Reality InfographicVR can also be defined as a credible, interactive 3D computer-generated world to explore and experience everything physically and mentally.

VR is becoming close to reality in no time. It will reach up to a point where it would be hard to distinct VR vs. the reality, as the experience will be similar and consistent with the real one that we perceive through our senses, and if what is predicted comes to be true, that means the inclusion of systems for stimulating human senses i.e simulating through sounds, odors, images, movements, even tastes, it could be raised up to the level where VR will become more colorful or abundant than reality itself.

Virtual Reality Has ROI. While it might feel as if virtual reality has been around forever, it’s still a relatively new technology. This has caused some businesses to question whether virtual reality is actually beneficial. The truth: of course virtual reality has shown to have positive ROI. British travel group Thomas Cook reported a 190 percent increase in tours booked to New York City after offering a virtual reality experience of the city in their stores. Amnesty International reported a 16 percent increase in direct-debit donations brought on by its VR campaign.

Virtual Reality Is Essentially:


Credible

Simulates exact images of reality that prompts credible experiences for the user.

Computer-generated

Only powerfully-built machines are fast enough to make interactive, alternative, and credible worlds.

Interactive

All movements are intuitive, that is why they need to be registered intuitively by the VR system.

Explorative

The world of VR must be large enough in order to carry the title “world” with rich details making it attractive and adventurous for exploration.

Immersive

To be interactive and convincing, VR needs to interact reliably with both your mind and your body.

VR is completely immersive, which makes you think that you are in a different environment or world than the real world. Using a head-mounted display (HMD) or headset, you will experience whole worlds through computer-generated images and sounds in which you can manipulate objects and navigate around using haptic controllers while on a console or a computer.

The History and Future of Virtual Reality

Jaron Lainer firmly coined the term Virtual Reality in 1989.

We have been trying to ride on the waves of Virtual Reality since the mid of the previous century. There were generally-public peer-through toys in the 1950s and enclosed simulators for flight introduced in the 1960s, but the idea of ​​VR goes back even further.

Back in the 1930s, inventors, science fiction writers, and think tanks have dreamt of an environment where you could escape reality through art and machinery. We weighed questions about Virtual Reality versus Augmented Reality, long before we had the technology to pose or answer such questions.

Technology is catching up with fiction and materializes as reality, and market researchers are predicting a rapid growth of the VR industry.

How Does It Work?

Virtual Reality has become possible, thanks to the advancements in computer technology. There are several systems and hardware that allow users to experience virtual worlds. These include headphones, specialized bracelets, and the ubiquitous treadmill for running and jumping, enabling the user to explore the environment and experience the virtual world in a more dynamic way. Our brains and our senses have evolved enough to work together to give you accurate feedback about your immediate surroundings. Creating fun and practical Virtual Reality experiences can be so tricky. Besides, for the virtual worlds to be convincing enough to deceive your senses, developers need to consider your field of vision – which includes your peripheral vision.

Your senses and your brain, have evolved to work in symbiosis in order to provide fine-tuned and accurate feedback of the surroundings. When something is pleasing to your senses, it can draw your attention and stimulate your actions. That’s why creating, compelling, and enjoyable VR experiences can be so tricky.

As previously mentioned above, virtual worlds must be stimulative enough in order to attract your senses. That is why it is necessary for developers to consider various aspects from the biological microscopic level and to translate everything into the virtual world. Among all considerations from this pool, your field of vision, including your peripheral vision is central. The sense of balance is crucial and to make it possible, technically speaking, avoidance of any lag as you turn your head to explore your virtual surroundings would be the key for now. In stages when it was not developed to perfection, it caused motion sickness. When the VR system achieves what is already discussed in terms of software, hardware, and sensor input, you will experience something known as a “sense of presence.” It means that you will experience as though you are truly present and able to interact with the virtual environment.

Why Do We Need Virtual Reality?

At this point, you may be thinking that this is a lot of effort, and for what purpose? The truth is, you are right. It is a lot of energy. But the contribution to society can be enormous. And we’re not just talking about the entertainment industry.

For example, VR will also be used for:

  • Medical diagnosis and treatment
  • Sports Science, Training and Recovery
  • Training Medical Students
  • Education
  • Work Collaboration in the Workplace
  • Creating Ideas and Forecasting Trends
  • Pain Management
  • Architecture and design
  • Leisure
  • Military
  • Movies
  • and many many many more uses

The quest for Virtual Reality technology will provide essential breakthroughs in each of these disciplines, positively affecting many lives in the process.

It Is Global. Virtual reality is not just a thing in the United States alone. People all over the globe are learning to embrace the technology. Some of the biggest virtual reality conventions are actually held in other nations. Some of the leading companies behind virtual reality are located overseas as well. Virtual reality is gradually becoming a great way to connect with people from around the world. No matter the distance, this technology can bring people together.

Virtual Reality will give a firsthand experience of any kind of staged scenario, which in reality would be too costly, impractical, or unsafe – making it also, a better way of learning new skills.

From highly improved flight simulators to complex and complicated surgical procedures, highly qualified professionals will gain real-world experience without the hazardous implications in the real world. And as the cost of VR hardware and software decreases, and its use is starting to grow, you will see it incorporated in classrooms and jobs worldwide improving education and productivity.

All successful VR systems have one thing in common: they all provide a seamless experience. That is, when the user turns his head or moves his eyes into the virtual world, there is no delay in the appearance and the upscaling of computer-generated images.

All interactions in the virtual environment should take place in real-time. Even the slightest delay between user action and system response can destroy the sense of presence that is fundamental to be created by the virtual world. As soon as the user realizes that he is wearing a headset, the interaction seizes.

The key to a robust VR system is to create a natural-looking interactive but virtual environment in which the user can enjoy an unforgettable and immersive experience. All of the successful Virtual Reality systems have one norm: they all provide an experience that mimics reality or a whole new virtual world is displayed. Everything seems real, life-sized, and enjoyable, with no lagging or graphic glitches that might cause movements to become unsynced. All interactions in the virtual environment shall take place in real-time.

To sum up: VR will affect a wide range of industries, especially in the entertainment industry, and it will fundamentally improve the way many high-risk professionals are employing the future by using cutting edge hardware and software.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, unlike Virtual Reality, can be defined as technology that expands our physical world, adding layers of digital information to it. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), AR does not create the whole artificial environment, it projects digital information on it. AR makes live footage of the existing environment and adds sounds, videos, graphics to it. Viewing the physical world through the projection of computer-generated images, with changes imposed on the environment, is AR.

I bet most of you remember the famous Pokémon GO game. It is the best-known Augmented Reality application – technology that encompasses digital real-world information. Pokémon GO has ignited the entertainment industry in such a way that it resulted in a merge of the physical world with the digital, in such a way that was not previously known by the public. Although the number of trainers hunting at Squirtles has fallen sharply, the game has enjoyed over 30+ million players a day.Instead of providing a fully immersive virtual experience, Augmented Reality enhances the real world with images, text, and other virtual information through devices such as head displays, smartphones, tablets, smart lenses, and AR glasses. Unlike Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality applications can be useful by either using a head-mounted display (often known as a smartphone) or just by using a smartphone. It is well-known as Augmented Reality based on the use of smartphones, and this is the type of AR that is currently booming, thanks to its availability and low entry barrier.

IKEA created an AR application that helps shoppers visualize what specific products will look like in their home before purchasing them. The app projects images of virtual products in real-time onto the customer’s living spaces. In addition to IKEA, companies in the aviation, automotive, healthcare, travel, and tourism industries are developing solutions for Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality can improve travelers’ experiences in numerous ways. Imagine being on a self-guided walking tour and wanting to know the architectural design of the preferred buildings. With the application of Augmented Reality, you only need to direct your phone towards the building and the details will be projected. Thanks to tools such as Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore and because smartphones can support many AR apps, more people outside the tech industry are already experiencing AR in various ways.

Endless Possibilities with Virtual Reality. Ever wanted to play a tennis match with the likes of Maria Sharapova, or save the world with the Avengers? VR technology has made the impossible possible, thanks to amazing content now available to let users virtually experience stuff they could only dream of. With the help of add-on features or accessories, such as a surround sound audio system or gloves with attached sensors detecting hand movements along with wands and treadmills, VR enthusiasts can enjoy an alternate reality and an entirely different world.

The History and Future of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality was first achieved, to some extent, by a cinematographer named Morton Heilig in 1957. He invented a sensor that gave the viewer visuals, sounds, vibrations, and odors. By all means, it was not computer-controlled, but it was the first example of trying to add additional artificial data to the human experience. Later in 1968, Ivan Sutherland, the American computer scientist, influenced by the advent of Internet technology has invented a head-mounted display incorporating a virtual world. Anyway, this invention was impractical for wider usage. Seven years later, in 1975, Myron Krueger, an American computer artist, developed the “Videoplace” which was the first “virtual reality” interface that allowed its users to engage and manipulate virtual objects in real-time. By giving the world wearable computer in 1980, Steve Mann, a computational photography researcher, became popular in those years. Back then, these technologies haven’t been named as “Virtual Reality” or “Augmented Reality” because Jaron Lainer discovered Virtual Reality in 1989 and Thomas P Caudell of Boeing coined the term “Augmented Reality” in 1990. The first properly functioning AR system was probably the one developed at the USAF Armstrong’s Research Lab by Louis Rosenberg in 1992. It was called Virtual Fixtures and was an incredibly complex robotic system designed to compensate for the lack of high-speed processing of 3D graphics in the early ’90s i.e., making sense of sensor information gathered through the stages of work in order to improve human productivity.

The most notable AR breakthroughs are:

  • Bruce Thomas develops a mobile outdoor AR game called ARQuake in 2000
  • ARToolkit (a design tool) is available in Adobe Flash from 2009
  • Google released its open beta version of Google Glass (a project with mixed successes) in 2013
  • In 2015, Microsoft announced Augmented Reality support with their AR headset HoloLens

The future surely will leave a great portion of space for AR – when task efficiency is improved in parallel with the quality of the output for the user’s experience – which presents fundamental challenges to the 21st century UX area.

How Does It Work?

AR is more than a fun smartphone. It is a technology that finds use in a multitude of domains, from business to military and medical application. The US military, for example, uses AR tools to recreate digitally enhanced troop training missions. The possibilities of AR technology are limitless. The only thing that is uncertain is how quickly and smoothly, developers will integrate these technologies into the devices we use daily. The basic idea of ​​Augmented Reality is to impose graphics, audio, and other sensory enhancements onto the real-world in real-time. There is a specific range of data like images, animations, videos, or 3D models for AR from where people can see the result both in natural and synthetic light. Users are also aware that they are in the real world with advanced computer vision through the utilization of Augmeted Reality, unlike Virtual Reality.

AR is compatible with and it can be displayed on various devices: screens, cups, handhelds, mobile phones, head-mounted displays, etc. It includes technologies like S.L.A.M. (simultaneous localization and mapping), depth tracking (in short, sensor data to calculate the distance to objects), and the following components:

Cameras and sensors

Collecting user interaction data and sending it for processing. The devices are equipped with cameras to scan the environment and make sense of this data, so as to locate physical objects and generate 3D models.

Processing

AR devices eventually have to act like small computers, something that modern smartphones already do. In the same way, they require a processor, GPU, flash memory, RAM, Bluetooth / WiFi, GPS, etc. to measure speed, angle, direction, space orientation, and so on.

Projection

It refers to a compact AR headset projector, which captures sensor data and projects digital content (processing result) to the surface for viewing. The use of AR projections has not yet been fully emerged in commercial products or services.

Reflection

Some AR devices have mirrors to help human eyes see virtual images. Some have “a series of small mirror curves,” and some have a double-sided mirror to reflect the light of the camera and the user’s eye. The purpose of such thinking paths is to align the image properly.

Virtual reality is meant to enhance real life, not replace it.

Why Do We Need Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is likely to grow significantly in the coming years as a result of rising demand in the health sector. Factors, such as the high adoption of smartphones and the growing demand for smartphones, can drive the market in the years to come. The ever increasing popularity of e-commerce and the increasing adoption of digital media are also expected to contribute to the market. Besides raising awareness of tracking customer transactions, sales records and account generators can have a positive impact on market growth. The growing penetration of AR devices into the gaming and entertainment sector is also one of the most significant driving factors in the market.

Augmented Reality gives us flexibility – unlike Virtual Reality. The device does not have to produce a whole new world, because it is based on the existing one. It takes the data from the existing environment and solves the problem we have. Now you may be asking what that problem is, but it depends.Augmented Reality InfographicYou can solve numerous problems that require solutions, and AR allows you to do so. Because AR devices do not always require high-performance hardware, we can use technology as small as your glasses day by day!

AR has proven to be very useful in many industries when it comes to location-based technology. Investment in this market continues to grow as several applications that utilize AR’s power are now available in different areas. The usage of AR in marketing is appealing because more detailed content is incorporated within regular 2D advertising with highly interactive and productive results for the creation of viral campaigns. Other areas that incorporate AR successfully, yielding desirable results for any digital company are:

Education

Academic publishers develop applications that incorporate real-world text, images, videos, and curricula with classroom lessons.

Travel

AR has enabled travelers to access real-time information for tourist landmarks by pointing their cameras at specific locations.

Translation

Globalization encourages the development of translation applications to interpret a text in any language, from Chinese to French, Italian, German, etc.

Locators

With location applications, users can access information about places near their current location, along with user reviews.

Gaming

Used for developing real-time 3D games through Unity 3D engines.

Defense

Several governments across the globe are already implementing AR solutions for their military. The US military has begun using Google Glass designed for the battlefield. The glasses feature virtual icons that are projected onto the real world, giving data to increase the soldier’s environmental awareness.

Automotive

In 2013, Volkswagen launched an app for the luxury brand Audi, which allowed potential customers to experience AR-based car driving represented through graphics and audio to enhance real-world vehicle driving.

Health Care

AR usage at present is developed by manufacturers of optics that have developed the technology up to a stage to be able to design smart contact lenses that deter optical radiation which can worsen the vision or cause cancer.

James Bourne, Author at Virtual Reality News
James Bourne, Author at Virtual Reality News
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