In today’s fast-paced world the push for smarter, more intuitive and immersive technology – that eases the burden of complex systems – is continuous.

Caspar Schutte, a BBD software developer with a keen interest in virtual reality (VR), explains how the world is steadily moving towards a handsfree digital reality.

VR and augmented reality (AR) are not just for entertainment or media, the technology is being used in innovative ways. The International Data Corporation estimates the total revenue for both AR and VR will be over $162 billion by 2020.

Not sure of the difference between the two technologies?

• VR is an escape from the real world via an immersion into a fantasy “reality”, effectively cutting you off from the physical world. This is achieved with headsets (head-mounted displays), earphones (3D surround sound), optional motion controllers and position tracking. VR environments can be as detailed and engaging as the creator wants, able to run off both a mobile or desktop computer.

• AR combines the real world with a virtual world, by creating virtual layers on top of your physical environment. This is best achieved with non-isolating smart glasses, enabling interaction with the virtual ‘world’ while still staying in touch with the real world.

The healthcare, training, education, military, gaming, mining, marketing, real estate and entertainment industries are all finding unique uses for the technology. As immersive technology becomes more easily available to the public, the extent to which it can be useful will constantly be redefined. Gartner predicts that 20 percent of large-enterprise businesses would have evaluated and adopted AR and VR solutions by 2019, while consumers and businesses will have easy access to quality devices, systems, tools and services by 2020.

AR and VR are not as new as some may think. Large organisations were already using the technology in the 1990s for mining and flight simulations. Schutte says that “Current growth behind AR and VR is due to the technology becoming more cost-effective for smaller businesses and private customers”. Coupled with this is the growing need for this technology in sectors such as workforce training, education and the medical sciences.

Schutte has always been interested in creating 3D worlds and sees a lot of potential for the growth of AR and VR, despite the current drawbacks. “When using mobile VR – challenges such as phone batteries, processing power, overheating and low resolutions are somewhat balanced out by the complete freedom of the fully mobile setup. Desktop VR with its greater processing power negates some of the mobile issues, but one has to remain connected to the PC.”

A workaround to try and achieve the best of the mobile and desktop options is through a gamer’s laptop. These contain graphics cards, better processing power and with the use of a backpack, are portable. Schutte advises that VR and AR each have their own specific markets, dependent on the user’s needs for interacting with the physical environment.

Now that we have the potential to immerse ourselves in knowledge through virtual experiences, we can truly change how we teach, learn and understand.

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