Smackdown: AR, VR and the consumer race


By Matt Hunt, CEO at Apadmi Enterprise

In the past 10 years, we’ve seen gadgets, devices and software emerge that wouldn’t even have been considered possible not too long ago. Developments that are gaining particular traction in the media are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). So what really is the difference between these technologies that were once a figment of imagination?

How are they different?

While they are often categorised together, AR and VR are extremely different technologies. AR alters the user’s view of the real world by overlaying virtual images and 3D graphics over what you are seeing. Microsoft’s HoloLens system is a popular example of this, through which users can see computer-generated objects pop into the real world; monsters that appear to be coming towards you or a robot sat on your sofa. These images are placed over the user’s real world, creating an augmented reality.

While AR does alter your environment, it keeps the key components of reality. However, VR differs in this way as it offers an immersive, utterly virtual world. VR technology can include headsets that create simulated senses such as sight, hearing, smell and touch. That isn’t to suggest that VR worlds don’t necessarily look or feel real. For example, a VR flight simulator needs to be as realistic as possible to allow pilots to train. That said, VR can be used to make an entirely imaginary environment, much like a video game world. And for many consumers, that’s the fun part.

AR and VR now

While both are still somewhat in their infancy, AR and VR have already drawn the attention of developers at huge names like Snapchat and Facebook, who are avidly investing in the technology. Forward thinking car manufacturers are also jumping on the bandwagon, with Audi, Volvo and Toyota bringing AR and VR into the car buying process.

Consumers are perhaps more reluctant to buy into technology which, for the time being, is often pricey; the Oculus Rift will set you back £550 and HoloLens is currently on sale in America for $3000. But appetite is growing, for example, one obvious use of AR and VR from a consumer perspective is in gaming and entertainment.

Apps such as Pokémon Go – which embraced AR technology and rocketed to global popularity – have had some experts suggesting that such technology may overtake VR in consumer adoption.

This is all just the beginning. Both technologies are set to come on leaps and bounds across a number of sectors such as healthcare, education and military, and will no doubt revolutionise the way many businesses interact with consumers.

Which is going to be the real success?

VR is inherently unsociable; it cuts users off from those around them and therefore may only be used as an occasional, home-based form of entertainment. Some developers have also suggested that potential nausea caused by VR [UBM Game Network 2016], not to mention the price of some products, could put consumers off. Tim Cook of Apple agreed that VR may have a shorter lifespan with consumers, saying that it had “a lower commercial interest overtime” than AR, due to its isolating nature. AR on the other hand adds to your surroundings and interacts with you on a much subtler level, allowing you to use devices in public more comfortably.

Cook did concede, however, that VR had potential to succeed in areas like gaming and education, which are arguably more singular activities, and I would agree. But in terms of mainstream consumer success, AR appears to have more staying power.

Apadmi Enterprise is the enterprise division of UK mobile app developer, Apadmi.


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