Bowling Green, KY. (August 29, 2018) – Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are technologies that may not seem like they correlate with the real world. For many of us, the mention of these types of technologies leads to images of clunky headsets from arcades and failed gaming systems, masses of people walking the sidewalks looking for Pokemon characters, or Youtube videos of people losing their physical and spatial awareness while using VR headsets.
While we may enjoy this side of these technologies, it’s important to begin to understand exactly what the two technologies can do to enhance our daily lives or the many industries that make up our economy.
The Power of AR and VR
Augmented and virtual realities have developed tremendously over the past several years. These two technologies, either as standalone technologies or working with other technological breakthroughs like artificial intelligence, are beginning to change the way we think about accomplishing tasks or how we visualize and conceptualize the world around us.
Simply put, augmented reality mixes the real world with overlaid information, most often utilizing mobile phones and tablets. AR has already been used to place imaginary animals on street corners and in stores, but imagine being able to use your mobile device for navigation overlays inside of a hospital or concert hall. Imagine being able to identify where a friend or coworker is in a large, crowded venue. Imagine working in a manufacturing environment where the glasses you’re wearing are projecting to your eye the next part that needs to be installed or the torque specifications for the parts being attached.
Virtual reality is a term most of us are more familiar with, but the majority of us have only had a poor quality experience from the early days of the technology—with bad blue and red lensed glasses for 3D or even a Viewmaster. But the technology has come a very long way.
There are now high-end consumer VR headsets, such as the Oculus Rift, that do a much better job of creating a virtual environment and providing new or out-of-reach experiences for people. VR today can also be experienced with a relatively cheap headset; check out Google’s Cardboard project, https://vr.google.com/cardboard/, where Google has developed a set of virtual reality goggles out of cardboard. These are designed to offer a simple experience to help the masses understand how VR technologies can be used. In the most basic form, you can jump on Youtube with a set of VR goggles you picked up from Wal-Mart and watch video designed for virtual reality viewing. Teachers can now begin to transport their students to the top of Everest or through the Great Barrier Reef. The technology has progressed, and at this point universities are developing entire laboratories utilizing VR technology. (See the below Tedx Talk.)
VR gives us the tools to place people in scenarios and environments that wouldn’t be possible under most circumstances. Imagine being able to put a medical student in a high-stress surgical environment to prepare for the real thing. Combined with other technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and wearables, robust environments and scenarios can be developed and experienced in safe, low-risk locations. VR has been employed as a form of therapy to help people overcome fears, or to work through traumatic experiences.
The Future Looks Bright
The future of AR and VR is promising, but it’s important to note that these technologies don’t simply exist on their own, isolated from everything else. These technologies require robust connectivity and considerable amounts of data to be able to transport first-graders to the other side of the world or to bring a group of friends together at the next concert.
The key is that while these technologies can expand a child’s horizon, increase productivity among employees, teach new skills on the job, and provide great entertainment, the infrastructure to do that is critical. Both urban and rural communities can benefit from these technologies, but the networks needed to support robust applications utilizing them is essential to their transformative possibilities.
AGCO Video on “Assisted Reality”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIkPb4fsb54
Tedx Talk https://youtu.be/IYpovgka-9Q.
About the Author: Wes Kerr is the Director of Community Solutions for Connected Nation. Wes helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connectedsm) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.