March 20

Reality Shift: Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps and Services

By now you’ve probably seen the pictures of people with giant devices strapped to their heads. Alone in a virtual room, game, office or other world, they swing their heads back and forth, interacting with things only they can see.

At first glance, the technology seems useful for games and top-secret military stuff. But virtual and augmented reality tools are making headway into our workplaces and homes.

Augmented vs. Virtual Reality

You should understand the difference between the two concepts. Virtual reality devices immerse you into a different world where everything you see is, well, virtual. Augmented reality probably has more practical and business applications in the immediate future because the viewfinder is clear and allows you to see overlays on the objects around you. Both reality concepts are available today, right now, on your phones and through objects around you.

Virtual Reality Today

Because virtual reality immerses you, the associated gadgets block out your senses with awkward devices you wear over your eyes and sometimes ears. Facebook bought the company that makes Oculus Rift, which more or less started it all. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg looks past the obvious gaming applications to a day where you can “imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all of the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

Big players in the virtual reality industry are HTC, Sony and many startups. These devices can cost hundreds of dollars for space-age-looking glasses or less than ten bucks for a cardboard, fold-it-yourself box for your smartphone.

Augmented Reality Today

On the high end, you have gadgets like (the failed) Google Glass, but believe it or not, you can also download free apps that turn dollar bills into political statements, create zombies to battle on your desktop and allow recipes to pop up on the back of your ketchup bottle. The most usable augmented reality app in my humble opinion is the hidden feature in regular old Yelp that lets you look through a viewfinder to see reviews of local businesses pop up around you.

I started using the augmented reality app Layar several years ago to add bonus information to my business cards and book. Blippar acquired Layar last year. The pricing has fluctuated wildly over the years, but they’re still an affordable (and even free) option to add a layer of excitement (get it?) to your printed material.

Here are three short videos of some of my most recent experiences.

Aurasma, Blippar and Zombies Everywhere App Demos




augmented reality, just plain fun, productivity, virtual reality

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