Will AR affect VR's long-term prospects?

Can virtual reality live with augmented reality? Jonathan Easton asks the channel for its opinions on the two techs
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Virtual reality (VR) has long been heralded as the ‘next big thing’, but in the time that it’s taken VR to hit the mainstream, augmented reality (AR) crept into most people’s lives and phones in the form of Pokémon Go. Now, in spite of big marketing campaigns from the likes of Samsung and Sony, it’s likely that more people have been exposed to AR than VR. So, we asked the channel a simple question: are people more excited about AR than VR?

“Pokémon Go provided a breakthrough AR application of course,” says Ed Daly, MD of digital arts studio seeper. “Though regarding head-mounted AR or ‘mixed reality’ then, no, fewer are interested because not as many people know about HoloLens type products.”

While it might be easy to portray the two technologies as similar things, vying for the same market, Gekko managing director Dan Todaro views the two as different and contrasting. “VR and AR may be similar in name and function, but belong to two different categories. Where VR is overhauling how we play the latest AAA title, AR has applications in industry and business beyond gaming.”

Gaming seems to be a big differentiation between AR and VR for many, with the general consensus being that AR has more of a focus on enterprise use. “They are two different experiences driven by very different devices, and as yet Augmented Reality in its true form is not very consumer facing,” states SNY UK’s Charlie Stringer.

Ultimately there might be a solution in a combination of the two, says Wearable Technology Show COO, John Weir. “The new buzzword is mixed reality, where a blend of augmented and virtual reality – Microsoft Hololens for example – offer the opportunity to blend the experiences for users.”

This idea of mixed reality, the merging of VR and AR, is an idea that many in the channel believes is an exciting prospect. “The future of VR has never been an isolated technology solution, the emergence of Mixed Reality” says Digital Jam founder and CEO Tanya Laird. “Whilst the excitement for AR has been less public, the general consensus within the industry is that the future of VR will be fused with other technologies including AR, AI, Volumetric Holographic, Smart Cities to name a few.”

It is safe to say that there exists a bright future for all of the realities in tech, be it virtual, augmented or mixed. What remains to be seen over the coming months and years is how they all develop, and how consumers and businesses respond. So can VR and AR exist with each other? According to the channel, it looks like they’re going to get on quite nicely.

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