VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Boeing researcher Thomas Caudell coined the term augmented reality in 1990, to describe how the head-mounted displays that electricians used when assembling complicated wiring harnesses worked. One of the first commercial applications of AR technology was the yellow "first down" line that began appearing in televised football games sometime in 1998. Today, Google glass and heads-up displays in car windshields are perhaps the most well-known consumer AR products, but the technology is used in many industries including healthcare, public safety, gas and oil, tourism and marketing.
Augmented reality apps are written in special 3D programs that allow the developer to tie animation or contextual digital information in the computer program to an augmented reality "marker" in the real world. When a computing device's AR app or browser plug-in receives digital information from a known marker, it begins to execute the marker's code and layer the correct image or images.
AR applications for smartphones typically include global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint the user's location and its compass to detect device orientation. Sophisticated AR programs used by the military for training may include machine vision, object recognition and gesture recognition technologies.
One of the most well known implementations of AR is in the highly popular mobile app name "Pokemon GO!" By using the camera attached to every mobile device, it allows for Pokemon to appear in the real world. With the additional use of the GPS inside of a phone, the app uses google maps and turns real world locations into Pokestops that users can walk to and claim in return for in game items. Ah, Gamification at its finest.
Virtual reality in essence is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. Virtual reality is a way of tricking the senses into thinking we are a part of or seeing something that is not actually there. If an implementation of virtual reality manages to get the combination of hardware, software and sensory synchronicity just right it achieves something known as a sense of presence. Where the subject really feels like they are present in that environment.
Everything that we know about our reality comes by way of our senses. In other words, our entire experience of reality is simply a combination of sensory information and our brains sense-making mechanisms for that information. It stands to reason then, that if you can present your senses with made-up information, your perception of reality would also change in response to it. You would be presented with a version of reality that isn’t really there, but from your perspective it would be perceived as real. Something we would refer to as a virtual reality.
Me Using the HTC Vive in the second workshop. Photo Credit - Chirstie McBride
Within the second workshop where we got to experiment with both Augmented and Virtual reality, i enjoyed Virtual reality much more. Whilst Augmented reality is a good device to be able to picture something like what furniture would look like in a certain room or even bringing a card game to life. Virtual reality takes over our senses and i found myself forgetting where i was some of the time and had to be very cautious not to bump into any of the sensors. We also got to get hands on with some early versions of Virtual reality with the Oculus Rift VR headset, the difference between effect was much greater as the Oculus Rift only tracks head movement whilst the HTC Vive tracks full body movement. One downside of the virtual reality headsets for me was that they didn't support people who wear glasses very well and when wearing them without glasses, the curved lenses of the headset were causing strain to my eyes.
The real world applications for Augmented reality are already been taken into affect as seen with "Pokemon GO!". But also, progress is being made towards augmented reality being used in the design and creation of buildings and structures. A team at Bentley Systems is looking to change the way the construction industry operates. As it stands now, most construction is very analog. Buildings may be designed with advanced 3D tools, but it all eventually ends up as old-fashion blueprints. Working off of those blueprints is time consuming, since builders have to refer to them constantly throughout construction, slowing things down. Imagine if you could see the blueprints overlayed on the construction site right in front of you.
By having a heads up display, you always have blueprints at your fingertips, literally. These can also be supplemented with detailed instructions on how a specific piece of construction should be done. Bentley isn’t stopping at building construction, they also have some ideas to help with excavation as well.
In terms of Virtual reality, one of the first things that came to mind for me was the use of VR for surgery, using a virtual reality headset, doctors would be able to see what a camera inserted into a body is seeing much better and navigate to that nasty tumor more effectively. This idea is already being implemented into the real world. Surgeon Dr Shafi Ahmed became one of the first to offer a live virtual surgery experience in April 2016 at the Royal London hospital. Some 5,000 people in 14 countries tuned in to watch the operation to remove a tumour. Now the start-up he co-founded, Medical Realities, is launching Virtual Surgeon as a product, hoping that such surgery can reduce the cost of training doctors, reach a much wider audience and ultimately "democratise medicine".