Augmented Reality today

Augmented Reality today

The idea of full immersion into other worlds provided by Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR) has been humans’ dream for decades, and we’ve seen their utopian applications in many books and movies. The moment may have arrived, and several games and devices are currently working on making this dream come true.

However, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality are not the same: the first one combines both the real and the virtual worlds by overlaying digital information onto reality, making it interactive; the second one replaces the real world with a totally virtual one. Keep reading to find out some of the most interesting AR projects!

Google Glass

The state of Google Glass is quite uncertain. Google’s AR device popped out in 2013, and since then nothing remarkable has happened. The project seemed to be in standby for some months, and now rumors affirm Google Glass 2 will arrive in 2016. Many sources point towards the launch of Google’s smart glasses’ second version next year, but according to Slash Gear website, it won’t be a public release. Apparently, the Google Glass Enterprise Edition will only be aimed towards businesses that use the Android for Work program. Improvements over the first version include a larger battery to be kept in the pocket, attached to the glasses with a wire, and a Wi-Fi connection, which will be boosted from 2.4GHz up to 5GHz.

As we said in a previous post, it’s possible that Google is changing its strategy and stepping away from consumer-oriented applications, focusing on specific areas like enterprise.

Augmented Reality

Microsoft’s HoloLens

HoloLens was introduced by surprise last January, during a Windows 10 event. There’s no information about its price or a definitive launch date, but rumor has it it could arrive this fall. HoloLens works autonomously, it’s not a PC peripheral, and it will have an incorporated version of Windows’ latest OS.

HoloLens is an AR device which uses a small LCD screen and motion sensors to change the reality that surrounds you. Microsoft’s device will of course support games (like Minecraft’s holographic version), but it could be more targeted to practical applications like industrial design, 3D modeling, medicine, anatomy education and even Mars navigation in association with the NASA.

Holo Lens

Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift is a VR headset that will be released during the first trimester 2016. The enterprise that manufactures it, Oculus VR was bought by Facebook last year.

The main difference between HoloLens and Oculus Rift is that Oculus Rift completely erases the real world and replaces it by the computer-generated one. Oculus Rift looks pretty finished, while HoloLens is more a work in progress. That’s because Oculus Rift first appeared in 2012 and the company got $2.5 millions to develop the project, so the device has since then been updated several times.

The Oculus Rift might cost $1500, including the price of both the headset and the powerful PC it requires to work. For now, Oculus Rift will be aimed towards gamers who already have a potent PC.

Oculus Rift

Samsung Gear VR

Samsung landed in the AR market not so long ago, but they partnered with Oculus VR and have come up with the Samsung Gear VR glasses.

They are comfortable to wear and easy and intuitive to use. They fit any size, have a wheel to regulate the view even if you have sight problems, there’s place enough to use them with your glasses and they are not heavy. Although, they still look a bit bulky and are not at all the cool and almost unnoticeable AR glasses we’ve always dreamed of.

The Samsung Gear VR requires a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone to work. This can be a handicap, though Note 4’s screen is one of the best in the market, with an outstanding WQHD resolution which makes it perfect to show clear stereoscopic images. Samsung Gear VR uses the smartphone’s screen to show the content: you attach the phone to the glasses and they turn the visual content into a stereoscopic view. There’s a mechanism to pull the phone closer or further, and a touchpad on the glasses’ side. Samsung Gear VR’s technical part is great; the main problem comes from the content. For now, there’s not enough appealing content for the users, it lacks of a solid catalogue.

At the moment, we can divide Samsung Gear VR’s content in two: on the one hand, there’s some 3D material with stereoscopic images. On the other hand, we find 360 degrees videos where you can move to see the scene from any angle. You just have to move your head to navigate through the short video. The problem is there are not so many videos, and once you’ve seen them, that’s all. About games, there exist Samsung Gear VR’s own games as well as adaptations like the Temple Run one. Of course, you can also see your videos and pictures with the glasses, which will give you a new, deeper point of view. But again, users need more content, like games especially created for that AR platform. Then and only then, the device will show all it has to offer.

Samsung needs to focus on finding developers to create interesting material; an amazingly innovative device which offers nothing exciting apart from its own technical specs, has no future. As it happened with IMAX and 3D movies for many years, the point is not the container, but the content. It seems that with Samsung Gear VR, the best is yet to come.

Samsung Gear VR

Ingress: the game

Ingress is a fascinating multiplayer, global game developed by Niantic Labs that literally turns the streets of your city into a game scenario. It is a location-based app, which uses your geolocation to include real-life elements into the virtual story. The game is set after the discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN and the discovery of some elements from Earth emitting a strange "exotic matter”. This substance has been associated with a mysterious phenomenon or alien race which serves as a MacGuffin to the game. The discovery of “exotic matter” leads to the creation of two opposing factions reacting to it: the Enlightened and the Resistance.

Once you download the game, you will choose a team and become an Ingress agent. Ingress uses actual locations (here called “portals”) from the real world, such as monuments or murals, and makes them virtually emanate this “exotic matter”. Ingress has more than 13 million downloads and is interesting because it’s one of the only games that encourages users to jump from their sofa, meet people and discover new places of interest (or even re-discover their own cities). In Ingress, you are your own avatar.

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