Consuming Virtual and Augmented Reality

Consuming Virtual and Augmented Reality

Content consumption options are readily available for Virtual Reality (VR). VR devices cover a spectrum from high-end to low-end options to everything in between, with more devices launching every day.
High-end VR consumer devices include headsets such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Windows Mixed Reality. All of these options require powerful external hardware to power the headphone experience and include options such as a “room scale” experience, or the ability to move in physical space and translate that movement into the virtual environment. Mid-range options for VR consumption include headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream. This VR headset is powered by high-end mobile devices. They allow users to look around in virtual reality, but they cannot move physically as if there was a user. Google Cardboard is an example of a low-end VR device. Released as a low-cost way to democratize virtual reality, almost any reasonably powerful mobile device can run Google Cardboard. Unlike the mid-range VR options, user input on Google Cardboard hardware is very limited.

Augmented reality (AR) devices such as headphones or goggles still exceed most consumers’ budgets at the moment. High-end augmented reality devices such as the upcoming Microsoft HoloLens, Meta 2, or Magic Leap One are aimed only at enterprise customers or developers. It’s probably a generation or two away from augmented reality devices before we expect to see consumer augmented reality headsets launched, although you may encounter some devices being used in commercial settings. There are also a few potential “mid-range” augmented reality headsets like the Mira Prism that are powered by users’ mobile devices. These headphones are currently aimed at developers but may see their release to consumers in the near future.

However, many consumers can experience low-level AR for the time being. Modern mobile devices running iOS and Android come with augmented reality capabilities. Simply put, searching the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for “ARKit” or “ARCore” respectively will reveal a plethora of apps designed specifically for augmented reality experiences on mobile devices. For example, the New York Times mobile app allows users to browse news stories featuring enhanced content, and Amazon’s ARView app allows users to place digital holograms in their physical spaces and walk around as if they were actually there.