Aug­mented re­al­ity en­hances the real world. Vir­tual re­al­ity of­fers an es­cape from it. Both tech­nolo­gies may even­tu­ally change our lives, but for now they’re mostly fun. Here’s what they can, can’t, and may soon do.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Tech Quiz -

To ex­pe­ri­ence VIR­TUAL RE­AL­ITY, you put on a head­set and your en­tire en­vi­ron­ment is re­placed by what­ever the head­set is pro­ject­ing. You can’t see the room you’re in. Sud­denly, whether you look up or down or side to side, you’re on a roller coaster, or at the beach, or at a Paul Mccart­ney con­cert.


▶ A head­set with screens that, for each eye dis­play, off­sets right and left im­ages that trick your brain into see­ing depth, same as a 3D movie. Mo­tion sen­sors al­low your view to change as you look around. Ad­di­tional hand con­trols with mo­tion sen­sors let you grab, hold or throw ob­jects in the VR world. And teth­ered sets (at­tached to a PC and power source) can use wall-mounted sen­sors to map and track your move­ments around a room.


▶ VR can make you feel sick. But the faster a head­set re­freshes its im­ages, the less likely you are to feel mo­tion sick­ness. More pow­er­ful teth­ered units, such as the HTC Vive and the Ocu­lus Rift, run at least 90 frames per sec­ond. Mo­bile VR, with less pro­cess­ing power, tops out at 60 fps and usu­ally op­er­ates at 30.


▶ Rel­a­tively sim­ple games and pro­grams: crash­ing cu­bi­cles (Job Sim­u­la­tor), paint­ing in 3D (Tilt Brush), dodg­ing bul­lets (Su­per­hot VR).

In­ter­ac­tive VR is not like our re­al­ity. It’s safely on the Minecraft side of the un­canny val­ley, with video games on the most pow­er­ful de­vices of­ten look­ing like a crisp ver­sion of N64 graph­ics be­cause of the graphic pro­cess­ing power re­quired for your track­ing and move­ments.


▶ VR on a phone-based head­set is largely im­mo­bile. Teth­ered VR, which can move around a small room, has the power of graph­ics cards that alone cost as much as a phone. Lack­ing that power, mo­bile VR is lim­ited to pro­cess­ing the turn­ing of your head.


▶ Med­i­cal treat­ment, au­to­mo­tive pro­to­typ­ing, as­tro­naut train­ing. At the Univer­sity of Washington Har­bourview Burn Cen­tre, burn vic­tims use VR head­sets dur­ing pro­ce­dures so painful, mor­phine isn’t ef­fec­tive. Re­searchers there be­lieve VR re­duces pain to man­age­able lev­els by im­mers­ing the brain in an­other world and leav­ing fewer men­tal re­sources to process pain. Newer stud­ies have found pos­i­tive re­sults in wound care, chronic pain and the den­tist’s chair.


▶ VR, like AR, is wait­ing for an af­ford­able de­vice that of­fers an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence. There’s no hero de­vice on the hori­zon, says Scoble, but it’ll prob­a­bly be a phone – al­beit sig­nif­i­cantly more pow­er­ful than to­day’s op­tions. “Teth­ered de­vices re­quire (ex­pen­sive) gam­ing PCS. Not ev­ery­one needs those, but they do need phones.” Again like AR, he adds, our best bet is the next iphone re­lease.

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