Virtual Reality (VR), sometimes referred to as immersive multimedia, is a computer simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in the real or imagined worlds. VR can recreate sensory experiences such as taste, sight, smell, sound and touch. There are many tools and devices that help deliver VR experiences to consumers. Different companies such as Oculus, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, Playstation, Google and more have created their own versions of head-mounted displays (HMD). I have tagged each HMD for easy purchase options. There are a collection of apps available that convert your smartphone into an HMD including Within, NYT VR, RYOT, YouTube, Google Cardboard, and more. Other apps connect with most HMDs and offer video game-like experiences. Some popular apps are Allumette, which is a free-to-play app that chronicles the story of a young girl in a village, transporting you into a storybook world, and Colosse, a samurai like real-time VR storytelling experience. More apps and their descriptions can be found here.
As of 2016 in China, there were approximately 3,000 VR arcades, estimated to grow 13-fold by 2021 and amount to a market of $782 million. China’s government is pushing for it to become a world leader in next-generation technologies including artificial intelligence and VR. One of the Shanghai VR arcades hosts games that cost up to $10 or more for 15 minutes. Shanghai also has a VR+ Amusement Park where a new game emerges once every three months. Many large Chinese companies are investing in VR entertainment and online shopping, and a number of towns and cities in China are integrating VR into research, manufacturing, education, and more.
Similar to VR is Augmented Reality (AR), which is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. The main difference between AR and VR is that AR adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone. For example, Snapchat lenses, Google Sky Map and Pokemon Go game are both AR. Virtual Reality (VR) implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world.
Snapchat recently announced new augmented reality experiences for creators, partners, and Snapchatters. Users will be able to reveal hidden information about the world.
“Our camera lets the natural light from our world penetrate the darkness of the internet . . . as we use the internet more and more in our daily lives, we need a way to make it a bit more human,”-Snap CEO Evan Spiegel at the company’s first-ever press event, the Snap Partner Summit.
From Tech Crunch’s article, “When users tap and hold on the Snapchat camera, they’ll start to Scan their surroundings. Answers to math equations will magically appear. If you view a $10 bill, Hamilton will come alive and sing a song from the musical. Scan a slice of pizza and a dancing Giphy pizza slice appears. Users will also see the new Snapchat AR Bar with dedicated buttons to Scan, create a lens or explore the 400,000 AR Lenses created by Snapchat’s community.”
Clearly both AR and VR are rapidly revolutionizing technology every day. Not only news and journalism but social media, entertainment, and our every day life are being impacted by it. I am looking forward to following the innovation in AR and VR technology as it evolves globally.