AR/VR Platform Comparison

As a whole, VR allows for a more immersive experience whereas AR is more useful in day-to-day activities. By setting up someone in a VR environment, a person has a more emotionally and physically active response to whatever experience they are currently engaged in. In a game context this means more genuine interaction with the medium; in an educational/training context this means higher retention of the material worked with. By contrast, AR often generally improves a person’s ability to get information from the world around them and act upon that information. This offloads cognitive resources so a person can interact with the world more efficiently.

The phone as an AR platform holds the greatest current use case of any VR/AR platform we interacted with. Even though we looked at some examples of AR as an artistic/educational tool, the greater possibilities of AR on smartphones can already be seen in something like the Google Translate camera. The camera function on Google Translate takes written text in one language and instantly translates it to the language you want – oftentimes in a similar typeface to the one it was originally written in. This enhances a person’s base ability to interact with the world at large. By placing applications like this on a portable device that many people have, we can improve how people communicate with the world at large. The main detriment I see with placing AR applications like Google Translate on the phone is that the process of using it isn’t as instant as some would like. Even though the process is: turn on display -> unlock phone -> navigate to application -> place phone over words; this still feels cumbersome. This cumbersomeness is attempted to be fixed by glasses-based MR hardware. 

Glasses-based MR hardware is the platform with the most important future use case of any of the platforms we interacted with; however, the technology has a long way to go. If we could take applications like the previous mentioned Google Translate and place them on these platforms, we would have the perfect merger of ease of use and ability to enhance everyday life. The main problem is that using one of these devices always feels like a letdown. Personally, I’ve used both the Microsoft Hololens and the Magic Leap One; both of which have problems. Both are $2000+, much higher than what the average consumer would want to spend. The Magic Leap One feels responsive, works well with both the remote and hand gestures, and generall feels good in use. Despite that, the extra processing pack and the glasses themselves don’t feel good on your person. The Hololens fixes how cumbersome MR glasses can be, but is not nearly as responsive as the Magic Leap One. Both of these platforms further devalue themselves by focusing development time on applications that operate on spectacle, instead of for things that can actually be more useful. The applications I’m shown are always more of a VR application that has some interaction with the world around you, instead of giving a person more information about the world around them. The main problems with these platforms could be fixed with further technology improvements: namely, price and ease of use. They need to be fine-tuned for actual AR applications instead of trying to make something closer to VR if they want to find a good market. 

The greatest advantage of the Vive is the enhanced emotional and physical response of people engaged in VR experiences. By fully immersing people in a VR environment, they are more attuned to reacting and retaining whatever experience they engage with. The main disadvantages are portability and pricing. The Vive is not standalone and requires an expensive computer to run, which means many people would not purchase it unless they already are into playing games on a high-end PC. They also have to be tethered to the PC in order to use it, meaning they cannot take the Vive anywhere they wish. These two issues are fixed with a device like the Oculus Quest, in that it’s only a $400 device that doesn’t require tethering to a PC to run. The caveat is graphical limitations and power consumption(~3 hours).

The Cave2 feels like an odd beast. Where I’ve seen it have the most success is in something like military training simulations. More hardware can be created to work with the Cave2 because of how it’s run. The main disadvantages are portability and cost. The Cave2 is less portable than tethered VR due to requiring a large amount of processing power and many projector bulbs. It’s also incredibly costly – I saw $500,000 thrown around + maintenance + software development. This makes it less portable in both the grab and go sense, but also less portable in that only corporations can really afford it. 

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