As far as Simulated Environment/Reality goes, Microsoft is sitting pretty at the top of the innovations list with ‘HoloLens’.
CNet columnist Nick Statt described HoloLens as..
“…a sleek, flashy headset with transparent lenses. You can see the world around you, but suddenly that world is transformed — with 3D objects floating in midair, virtual screens on the wall and your living room covered in virtual characters running amok.”
As Neil Armstrong famously said – upon landing on the Moon – this probably is an instant of ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’ in the field of Simulated or virtual reality.
The concept of ‘HoloLens’ now raises one big question: What is going to be the numero uno technology in Simulated Environment?
Will it be Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality or Holography?
But before we get to that question, the three apparently similar technologies need to be dissected and explained in simple terms for the average Joe. Why? Because just like mobile technology, Simulated Environment can soon become a part of our everyday lives.
The 3 technologies explained
Virtual Reality: Virtual reality is the use of computer-generated technology to create an artificial three dimensional simulated environment or to recreate a real life environment or situation. Such created environment can be explored and interacted with.
In simple terms we can say that virtual reality is a simulated artificial 3D environment and the person becomes a part of this new world. The person is so much immersed in the 360-degree view of this new world that he has little or no sensory input from the room his body is in.
Augmented Reality: Augmented reality is a technology that layers computer generated images atop physical surroundings in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. This superimposition of images onto real world surroundings gives a sense of illusion or virtual reality.
In simple terms, augmented reality is technique of enriching the real world with digital information and media, such as 3D models and videos. This is done by overlaying the digital information on the real environment in real-time camera view of your devices. The aim is to create a system in which the user cannot tell the difference between the real world and the augmentation in it. The systems are designed to enhance user’s sensory perception of the augmented world they are seeing or interacting with.
Holography: Holography is a lens less photography. It is a photographic technique that records the light scattered from an object, and then presents it in a way that appears three-dimensional. Such images are called Holograms.
In lay man language we can say it is a technique of capturing a 3D object onto a 2D surface in a way that it appears as the same 3D object with same surroundings, when viewed in proper illumination. Holograms are the pictures that never die. If the holograms are cut into pieces, then each piece would be able to generate the complete 3D object that was captured.
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How they Work?
VR: Virtual reality can be seen only through the use of headsets like Oculus, Sony, HTC etc. and requires 3 things. A PC, console or smartphone to run the app or game, a headset which secures a display in front of your eyes and some kind of input – head tracking, controllers, hand tracking, voice, on-device buttons or trackpads. A video is sent from the console or computer to headset via HDMI cable in case of headsets and for gears like Samsung and google the smartphone is fitted in the headset.
AR: The functioning of AR is not much different from VR. It needs glasses or camera to see the augmented view. The camera is capturing the video in the traditional manner. In the AR system a marker appears in the video and wherever you hold the marker the system super-imposes the 3d model of the object on the marker. To the viewer it appears as though the image has materialized by magic. The size and movement of the image is tracked by the computer via the placement and positioning of the marker.
Holography: According to the present form of technology, you don’t require any gear to view it. As the application of technology is limited to the holography stickers till now. Well, the research is still going on. Holography is based on the principle of Interference. Interference is the phenomenon that occurs when the two waves meet while travelling through the same medium. Holography is technology of producing holograms. To make a hologram we need the light of single color such as laser light. The figure 3 shows how holograms are made.
Background of Technologies
The most surprising thing about the history of these technologies is that these have been there from many decades. Virtual Reality dating back to Nineteenth century, reporting to be oldest of all. Virtual reality has beginnings that preceded the time that the concept was coined and formalized. If we focus strictly on the aim of creating illusion, then the earliest attempt is surely the 360 degree murals. These paintings were intended to fill the viewer’s entire field of vision, making them feel present at some historical event or scene. In 1838, the stereoscopic images were founded. In 1939 View-Master were developed and patented, which were used for virtual tourism. And this technology has been growing since then with first VR HMD in 1960.
The holography comes next in the list, and dates back to 1947 when for the first time we got its concept. In 1960 when the lasers were founded we got the first Hologram. It grew till 1990, and after that became dormant and limited to Japan and USA military research.
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Augmented Reality is old but youngest among the three and dates back to the year 1968 when the world got its first Head mounted display. The system used computer generated graphics to show users simple wireframe drawings.
Gears for all Technologies:
While we have gears for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality but there are no specific gears for Holography as this technology is still being researched in laboratories. Though we get some traces of this technique in the Microsoft’s HoloLens gear. But it is more dependent on the Augmented Reality feature.
Examples of All:
Well, we suppose that you have now got a general idea about all these most talked technologies. But it is not easy to decide which could be the best of all and which could be the technology of the future. As, these have just started to nourish. And each has their own limitation. Seeing to the limitations we could see the mixture of all three of them in Future, called as Mixed Reality. HoloLens is best example for that. A change could be that in future we would no more need to wear any gear to view the Simulated Reality.