A cursory look around the web on the topic of virtual reality vs. augmented reality would lead you to believe that there’s a race going on and augmented reality is ahead. But how close is that race? What are the strengths of each contestant and would the race have a different result in the Situational Intelligence space?
First, let’s have a look at the contestants. In virtual reality, you are immersed in a world created for you. Usually, you get there using a helmet or goggles. It is a world that a developer creates and controls through rules for how you can interact with the virtual environment – think computer gaming.
With augmented reality, you stay in the real world, but see and hear it populated with phantom images, sounds and sensations that you can manipulate, overlay, and try out in the real world. Usually, you can augment reality using simple devices such as the camera on your phone or tablet computer and an AR application. Heads-up displays in cars and planes are current and increasingly common forms of augmented reality.
With situational intelligence, Virtual Reality is useful for placing you in situations and letting you gather information in places that you wouldn’t, or couldn’t, physically inhabit. For example, you can fly over, or even through, a piece of super-heated equipment or through a noxious environment to gather real-time data about how that equipment is performing. And, everywhere you look—up, down, under, over—is display space to tell you what’s going on. You are no longer limited to a 2D screen, so yo ucan visually connect the data that’s being generated to the object that is producing it.
With Augmented Reality, you can bring Mohammed to the mountain, rather than the other way around, to test how changes in parameters or different placement could effect the performance of a piece of equipment. For example, working with your tablet, you could drag furniture from an online catalog into a real-time picture of your living room to ensure that all your redecorating ideas work and look good. Once you’re happy with your selections, simply click a button to place your furniture order.
I’d say that the race between virtual and augmented reality is currently a tie. Both have a place in situational intelligence, depending on the application.