In business, what typically catches the eyes of investors and analysts is the hottest or latest thing.
Also, something that happens to make a lot of money is well appreciated.
In the case of virtual reality, with everyone questioning its future as a mainstream thing, the prospects might be not as attractive as its sister, augmented reality, which, along with Pokemon Go, is doing a great job of convincing analysts and corporations of its applications in daily life.
So, the question is: Will augmented reality surpass virtual reality in the short term? And what does that mean for VR?
AR is, arguably, its own thing but, as many will point out, the lines between it and VR are quite fine indeed. Rather than immersing a user in an interface spun out of whole cloth, AR uses the world around you as the canvas and adds digital information on top of it. You could think of it as a half step towards full virtual reality and, as some analysts have pointed out, as a way of introducing VR into greater consumer use.
An excellent example of AR is the Google Glass project or even the Microsoft Hololens. Google Glass, initially derided as a gimmick, has found great success in industrial applications and in corporate settings. This is because it is capable of assisting people with their tasks in new and novel ways. For instance, you probably wouldn’t use AR to teach someone how to fly a plane, but you could use it to help them learn the layout of a cockpit. You would probably want to use a VR sim to teach someone to fly because it is fully immersive without consequence.
But AR can also be used for other things like entertainment, video games, and even, perhaps most potently, for advertising. Think about Pokemon Go and the things Niantic planned for its future. From tie-ins with local companies to earning in-game gold for signing up for a Sprint account, the ability of AR to push a product is pretty unmatched.
One thing that a keen eye can probably tell from the examples offered above is that AR is kind of its own thing and pretty different from VR because of the ways it can be used. It would be jarring to have an advertisement displayed out of nowhere in your headset, but it would not be so jarring to see an AR-generated ad outside of a storefront. Another salient thing is that VR often requires hardware and often powerful hardware at that. A lot of simple AR applications, on the other hand, can run through your phone’s camera.
What AR is doing is acclimating people to virtual things existing in real spaces. The more interactive this becomes, the more likely AR and VR are to complement one another in the marketplace. Far from being a competitor to VR, AR is actually helping to pave the way for greater infiltration of VR into the consumer consciousness.