Virtual Reality: The New Breed of Apps

January 22, 2016 | Rob LaPointe

Virtual Reality: The New Breed of Apps
Virtual Reality: The New Breed of Apps

VR has been tearing up the web recently. And for good reason: VR technology has reached the point of real-world mass market potential. In plain English – the tech is now good enough that it can be sold to the average Joe.

In 10 years, devices like the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and Sony’s PlayStation VR are going to hold a similar place that the iPod or iPhone has for us today. They will occupy that sweet spot where the tech seems amazingly cool now but will seem rather primitive in just a few years. The biggest difference between VR devices today and the first iPhone? Mobile Apps.

Today, apps are how we interact with technology. They let us perform complex tasks with a few simple taps and swipes. When you think about it, it’s pretty damn amazing – we’re asking tiny computers to do ridiculous complex tasks, many beyond the ability of most of the human race, in a matter of a few seconds. And when it takes longer than 3 magical seconds, well, that’s just too long!

While VR is a far cry from what Captain Picard had (possibly for the best, considering how often that thing malfunctioned), its more primitive (sorry, Google Glass) counterpart Augmented Reality (AR) is really taking off. AR apps are a good way to prepare yourself for the burgeoning VR market. Build your brand, learn what works, and make some money. When true VR hits the market, you’ll be ready.

What’s the Difference Between AR & VR?

Most people struggle with understanding the differences between these two types of tech – and that struggle is entirely justified. The similarities between the two are obvious, but the differences less so.

Very basically, AR uses a headset to digitally enhance actual reality, while VR uses a headset (for now) to create a virtual environment. For fans of Science Fiction out there, AR is Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End while VR is Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

So what does this mean for the entrepreneurs out there? Well, the fact that Oculus is working with both VR and AR should indicate how closely the two fields are intertwined. There are strong similarities between the two especially in terms of user interface and experience (UI/UX) design.

That being said, there are key differences. However, we have already discussed apps for VR extensively in a previous blog, we’ll be focusing on AR, and its applications.

Augmented Reality

As mentioned above AR involves a headset or lens that shows virtual elements overlaying the world around us. Unlike VR, it is expected that users will wear an AR device pretty much constantly. This has huge applications for the entrepreneur out there, as there are potentially millions of different application types that can take advantage of such as system.

In fact, if AR truly takes off, it is likely that it will eventually replace smartphones and other mobile devices. While Glass never really launched with the success desired by Google, the tech giant has announced that they aren’t giving up.

This past November, the company released pictures of the new Glass, and its release is expected soon. In other words – Google sees the potential here. As they aren’t exactly known for their misses, it’s probably smart to pay attention.

What are the AR app potentials? Endless. No exaggeration. AR devices can be used to provide context (i.e. providing historical details at an object to which a user’s gaze is directed) to the medical field. Additionally, it can help in fields from engineering to the tourism industry.

    • HealthCare

    AR and VR are both hugely helpful to medical professionals. While AR and VR (especially) can greatly help in training, AR can be especially helpful in treating patients. Imagine an app that overlays the respiratory system over the body of an actual patient. Doctors can use AR apps to make it easier to identify problems or concerns – and that’s just a start.

    • Engineering

    This one may seem a little out there to many, but think of an engineer watching a machine in motion. Now imagine that same engineer wearing an AR device running your app; your app that breaks down the machine into virtual components to show the engineer how the various parts work together.

    • Tourism

    This arena is a little more self-explanatory. AR apps for tourism are already out there. Most show the historical context of an object (as mentioned above) but other features can include anything from an interactive virtual tour guide to navigation apps (a whole other field in and of itself!).

    • Gaming

    No conversation about AR or VR is complete without talking about gaming. Gaming companies have been trying to crack VR since Nintendo’s Virtual Boy (and likely before). While the applications of VR to gaming are relatively clear, AR stands to make its own impact.

Apps like Blippar use AR techniques to turn any visual object into an interactive and immersive experience. Anything from paintings to cars can become a virtual game known only to the player – and whomever the player chooses to invite!

As is hopefully clear, AR is distinct from VR, but there are some marked similarities. While VR is just getting its feet under it, AR has been around for a while and provides a great avenue into the world of digital realities. Take advantage of it and prepare for the next big wave of app types.

About SDI

SDI is a small business dedicated to providing technical solutions to the enterprise and entrepreneurial world. We’ve built everything from large SaaS platforms to Virtual and Augmented reality apps. We know the industry, we know the market, and we know how to make your app a hit. Get in touch now for 40% off your first project.

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