During the first week of the Virtual and Augmented Reality course I had the opportunity to see many applications of VR and AR, getting in touch with technologies I have never seen so closely.
The first day in the EVL lab I could see CAVE2, an immersive virtual reality environment that can be used for multiple purposes. One being a transplantation of your experience in to seeing other parts of the world including other planets. It is composed of 72 HD screens, and the resolution can be modified by zooming in and out. I was really fascinated by this possibility.
Another VR system is the HTC VIVE, it is different from the CAVE in that the VR experience is just for the person wearing the system. I think it is more engaging because it is a 360degree wide experience, although it is more difficult to use during meetings and conventions because of its singular user experience.
Then I also used HoloLens, an Augmented reality device that enriches the real world with elements that can be helpful for people. Obviously, the experience is very different from virtual reality because the purpose is different, HoloLens can’t substitute the real world but can absolutely improve it. I really enjoyed HoloLens because it was the first time for me to use such a device and I appreciated the mix of the real world and the virtual even if it was just a videogame.
HoloLens is also a portable device that doesn’t need to be connected to a computer so it is possible to carry it and wear it wherever we want.
The next lesson in the classroom was also interesting, I had the opportunity to see VIVE. Applications like Google Earth can give anyone the possibility to explore cities and places all over the world. It can also be used for painting your own world as you wish.
All the devices described so far are quite expensive, the special purpose tools are not the only way to experience virtual and augmented reality. There is also the possibility for everyone to experience VR/AR by just using a smartphone.
For augmented reality, I used the Quiver application, then printed some special drawings on paper, the app can then bring them to life. For example, keeping an airplane drawing on frame using the smartphone camera, we can see its 3D model flight that interacts with us. It is also possible to color the picture and the application will recognize it coloring the 3D model in the same way.
Using Google Cardboard, which is a very cheap tool, you can insert your smartphone and by running the appropriate applications we can experience VR in an easy way. Obviously, the experience is not as immersive as with a sophisticated headset, but it can still be satisfying. We used the cardboard application that let us visit several cities in the world. I have also used it to watch 360degree videos from the New York Times. I found it really interesting to look at what can be possible throughout the world with this technology because it can really make you feel like a reporter.
In my opinion, Virtual reality and Augmented reality have more benefits than drawbacks. These technologies can improve everyday life for a lot of people. Virtual reality can be used to make school more fun and interesting for children, but also can be used to give the opportunity for people to travel the world without ever leaving their own house. Virtual reality can also help for modelling problems concerning different research areas.
Augmented Reality can also be very useful, it can be used with devices like HoloLens to virtually furnish a house to show if the chosen furniture is a good fit. It can also be used to improve GPS navigation, for example a driver wearing HoloLens can follow the arrows directly on the road without ever looking at the navigation, this can cut down on distractions.
Obviously, people must always distinguish the differences between reality and the virtual world that these technologies can create. The main disadvantage of VR/AR in my opinion is that people can become more isolated and boxed in their own houses. This behavior can be avoided though by educating people and making sure they understand the difference between what is real and what is not.