Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality

Technology is improving at a rapid pace, as many things are possible today that just dreamed 10 years ago or purely in the realms of science fiction. Today, some of these once impossible things are rising to the occasion in the form of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality. But what are they exactly? 

By Vineel Raj

Technology is improving at a rapid pace, as many things are possible today that just dreamed 10 years ago or purely in the realms of science fiction. Today, some of these once impossible things are rising to the occasion in the form of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Mixed Reality. But what are they exactly?

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that thread contents in the real world. With AR, users can interact with virtual content in the real world and can distinguish between the two. In augmented reality, users see and interact with the real world, while digital content is added to it. Augmented reality is heavily used in fields such as medicine, architecture, construction, and education, while with the advancement of technology, it has been introduced to everyday life as well.

Virtual Reality 

The most advanced VR experiences even provide freedom of movement – users can move in a digital environment and hear sounds. You do need to wear a special VR headset to experience virtual reality as most VR is connected to a computer (Oculus Rift) or a gaming console (PlayStation VR). Still, there are standalone devices (Google Cardboard is among the most popular) as well. Most standalone VR headsets can also work in combination with smartphones. Virtual reality is most heavily used for computer gaming as inherently, it should put the user into a virtual world. It is also used for therapeutic use for treating disorders such as phobias. For training purposes also this is a crucial technology especially for areas such as air force

Mixed Reality

This is the most recent development in reality technologies that sometimes causes confusion, primarily because different experiences are called so. Mixed reality starts with the real world – virtual objects are not just overlaid on the real world but can interact with it. In mixed reality, a user remains in the real-world environment while digital content is added to it; moreover, a user can interact with virtual objects. This form of mixed reality can be considered an advanced form of AR.

Concerns on new Virtual and Augmented Reality technology 

Mel Slater, director of the Event Lab in the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona (UB), together with international researchers, has published a new paper in the journal Frontiers in Virtual Reality reflecting on potential ethical problems of the mass spread of virtual and augmented reality. Researchers warn of the dangers that could arise. These technologies become more and more realistic and urge for new research to address these scenarios.

“Virtual Reality has been used almost exclusively for good, mostly focused on psychotherapy.” Said Mel Slater, “but like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. To prevent its use for the evil, we need better scientific understanding, and therefore research into its effects.”

Researchers also highlighted another potential problem with an ultrarealistic experience: we don’t know what the after-effects and mental consequences of using virtual reality are in extreme violent games—and real-world transition from virtual reality.

Social isolation is another issue highlighted in the paper. “Some people may use the technology to such an extent that they lose face-to-face social contact with other people so that people withdraw from society,” said Slater.

Some other issues they warn against were data privacy and the dangers of identity impersonation and fake news. “People (e.g., politicians) could be shown to carry out actions in virtual reality that they never did in reality. Although the same is true with just video, it is more powerful in virtual reality because it seems to happen life-sized in the same space in which you are located. It happens in front of you, not through a screen,” said Slater.

Researchers warn about the dangers that might arise as these technologies become more realistic and require new research to address these scenarios.

“Virtual Reality has been used almost exclusively for good, mostly focused on psychotherapy.” Said Mel Slater, “but like any technology, it can be used for good or evil. To prevent its use for evil, we need better scientific understanding, and therefore research into its effects.”

Some other issues they warn against were data privacy and the dangers of identity impersonation and fake news. “People (e.g., politicians) could be shown to carry out actions in virtual reality that they never did in reality. Although the same is true with just video, it is more powerful in virtual reality because it seems to happen life-sized in the same space in which you are located. It happens in front of you, not through a screen,” said Slater.

Information sources:  techtimes/techxplore/quora/ Faculty of Psychology of the University of Barcelona/Mel Slater