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AR vs. VR – The Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

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Augmented reality vs Virtual Reality - AR vs VR

Just about everyone these days knows what VR is, but people still get confused when someone refers to Augmented Reality or AR.

So what exactly is the difference between the two?

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is used to create an alternate experience that is completely removed from the real world. Think about it. You put on a VR headset and you are completely cut off from your view of the real world. Instead, you see a computer-generated world in perfect 3D. You can look around. If you have touch controllers, you can even touch things.

Virtual Reality Game

The HTC Vive allows you to set a pre-determined movement area that you can move around in without bumping into things. This is because when you are in VR, you are so removed from the real world that you could very easily step on a pet or trip over a child, or a piece of furniture, for that matter.

Virtual Reality Gaming

This just underlines how Virtual Reality completely removes you from the real world.

VR in 4D

We haven’t even begun to discuss 4D, which is an enhanced form of Virtual Reality that includes effects like mist or wind or rain, these being generated by machines to mirror experienced reality in the virtual world. For example, you would see rain falling in Virtual Reality, an a machine would actually spray you with water so that you actually felt the rain.

Child explores space in VR

You see that Virtual Reality tries to create an immersive set of experiences that actually work to convince you that you are in another world, or in another reality. So that’s what Virtual Reality is.

So what is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is a very interesting concept in which computer graphics are used to alter your experience of the REAL world. At first glance this may not be as exciting as Virtual Reality, but if you stop to think about it, it has a lot of appealing applications.

For example, in Augmented Reality, you would no longer look at a physical monitor.

Instead, you would wear an AR headset that would give you a view of your room, and the monitor and whatever was displayed on it would be generated by computer graphics. To all effects, you would see the display hanging in the air in front of you. You could even turn it transparent to see the room around you through the displays.

Augmented Reality

This is a very futuristic sort of interface, and the kind of thing that we are likely to see increasingly as AR develops, and as the technologies that support both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality develop.

Augmented Reality

Other applications could be 3D modelling.

At the moment, to create 3D models you need to use complex software like 3D Studio Max or Maya to create 3D models. But if you had Augmented Reality, you would actually see ‘virtual’ modelling clay floating in front of you, and you could actually mould this with your hands to create the model you want. You could mould it, or carve it with a number of sculpting tools, all of which would be digitally created in Augmented Reality. You could set the texture of the clay, or even how easy it would be to mould or sculpt.

And that’s still only one more application of Augmented Reality.

You could display a Google map right across the floor of a large room, and actually walk around it pointing out different features to a friend or a business client.

If you were working on a complex project, you could generate as many monitors as you wish around the room in Augmented Reality, and these would all cost no more than the cost of your single AR headset.

The applications in terms of design interfaces are staggering. Engineering models or Computer Animations could be created entirely in Augmented Reality.

Design teams could work together in a shared Augmented Reality…

So these are some of the potential applications of Augmented Reality.

So, is Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality the superior experience?

Actually, the two are quite different experiences.

It is possible that at some point in the future, a headset will exist that can offer both Virtual Reality as well as Augmented Reality. But this would have to be a complex device, and it would require a great deal of miniaturization, as well as great many technical problems solved.

To be honest, I doubt such a device is even on the drawing boards as of yet.

For now, AR and VR are two different experiences, and they serve two completely different purposes. At the moment, there’s is no overlapping between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Virtual reality is an experience of a subtly generated different reality, while Augmented Reality is more focused upon applications, interfaces and helping you to process information.

In the future, Augmented Reality could offer many benefits in the real world.

A surgeon could call up data on his Augmented Reality headset even as he operates. Similarly, a car mechanic could draw readings from a car’s sensors even as he worked on the car.

Augmented reality vs Virtual Reality - AR vs VR

Perhaps ten years into the future, business cards may be able to display three dimensional animations, or even a small video if a person looking at them were wearing a Augmented Reality headset or goggles.

A tourist walking around a new city could have all sorts of information displayed to them using their Augmented Reality headset, including maps and directions. At some point, as processing power increases, this could even include a language protocol providing the tourist with the appropriate local phrase to use when someone addresses him or her.

How much of this is possible today?

As far as Virtual Reality is concerned, it is on the high road to becoming an ‘actual reality’.

Of course, this still depends upon how many people ultimately buy the overpriced high-end headsets. But cheaper headsets like Google Cardboard have put Virtual Reality within the reach of everyone, and it is unlikely that VR is going to disappear anytime soon.

Whether the high-end headsets ever become common in every home is a matter of debate and we’ll just have to wait and see how that works out. I doubt it will happen unless mass production greatly reduces the cost of the headsets, and I doubt that will happen unless more people start buying the headsets.

So it’s a sort of vicious circle.

convince your wife to buy a vr headset

As for AR, it is still in the extremely experimental and prototype stage.

There are still some great apps available today. If you’re excited and want to venture into this bold new frontier, we suggest you get the Google Glass Headset today! There are lots of other AR headsets as well. The Epson Moverio is recommended as well.

Augmented Reality Game

Companies like Apple are conducting extensive research into AR, so both apps and hardware should improve exponentially.

But AR is still largely in the future.

Sure, there are apps around right now, and good ones, but there’s a lot of space for growth. Augmented reality has a lot of potential, perhaps even far more than VR does, and it can truly be useful in every aspect of our everyday lives.

It goes without saying that when it does arrive in every home, it will completely change the way we interface with our reality.

Augmented Reality Desktop

7 Best 3D Movies to Watch on Netflix

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3D movies featured

So you’ve just bought your favourite VR headset and you’re ready to dive into the endless stream of 3D experiences available, but where to start? We’ve covered quite a few games available in VR, but why not try first with a movie or two?

Maybe you just want to relive the 3D experience so vividly portrayed in your favourite cinema or you just want to enjoy the movie from the comforts of your home, so here are the top 7 movies you can watch in 3D on Netflix.

The Future of 3D Cinema

3D is a gimmick they say, and although there are many movies which prove their point, there are also quite a few movies that have utilised the technology in such a way that will simply leave you in awe.
The rise of 3D was achieved by no small effort with the movie Avatar that put it on the map. by looking at the chart below, you can see a sharp spike, but unfortunately the hype has diminished in time.

The industry has moved into the area of 4K technology with main television manufacturers such as Sony and and LG making a statement that they won’t be pushing their 3D viewing TV forward.
The decline in their interest is a result of many directors dismissing the technology as not being suitable for cinema experience, most notably Christopher Nolan who said:

It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life. When you treat that stereoscopically, and we’ve tried a lot of tests, you shrink the size so the image becomes a much smaller window in front of you.“

You might argue that everyone has their preference, but there are undoubtedly many movies which actually enhance the experience by shooting it in 3D and making the movie as engaging as possible.
That being said let us move to the next point.

How Do I Start Watching 3D Movies On Netflix?

Netflix is currently the world’s largest video distributor with over 70 million viewers in over 190 countries in the world with vast library of movies and television series, so naturally they possess a library with 3D movies and documentaries.

To watch 3D movies on Netflix you should keep a couple of things in mind:

  • Finding 3D movies is similar to finding regular movies, first you should make sure that you have a 3D TV or your device that you watch Netflix that can stream 3D movies.
  • You need to install 3D-enabled Netflix app
  • Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) must have an access to the Netflix Open Connect Content Delivery Network
  • Since 3D movies consume a lot of bandwidth you should aim for the download speed north of 6 MBps minimum
  • If you are looking to order 3D movies on Netflix, you need to have a Blu-ray disc player and a TV to support 3D streaming

So the first thing is to make sure that everything is set up as mentioned above. Next, you should watch for the 3D sign next to the movie, which brings us to the main point of the article, the pure gems you should be viewing.

So, let us start with the list of movies that captured us with their nicely done 3D effects, in no particular order.

  1. Avatar

It is impossible not to include the movie that put 3D movies on the map. Filmmaker/visionary James Cameroon has raised the bar with this movie for all filmmakers willing to try themselves in the new arena of 3D.
So what was it that made the audiences go crazy over it? It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing, but it’s a combination of gorgeous environments, opportunity to explore unseen worlds all coupled with magnificent camerawork that makes you seem as you’re living in it.

  1. TRON: Legacy

TRON: Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 classic, was a box office success, with older fans visiting the familiar setting with the help of modern technology, and younger ones surprising themselves with the reboot of an older movie.
There are many elements that make the movie a joy to watch, from the Daft Punk’s robotic soundtrack that blends perfectly into the movie’s setting to the stylish CGI done with a true artistic finesse.
Undoubtedly, the visual effects make a movie a true 3D treat.

  1. Life of Pi

Life of Pi is a true example how a novel should be adapted into a movie. A true cinematic success coupled with mesmerizing visual effects that made the studio file for bankruptcy, to the wonderful musical score, which will have you on an emotional roller-coaster from start to finish.
Add in 3D effects done right that truly enhance the vividness and add extra something to the experience and you have a true cinematic treat.

  1. Gravity

Gravity is a movie that you simply must view in 3D. It’s director, Alfonso Cuarón, by using groundbreaking Light Box technology crafted a painstakingly 3D experience that will have you panic stricken, floating in the vacuum of space trying to dodge satellite debris.
Like Avatar, the movie takes us to the place we simply can’t experience on Earth, the vacuum of space seems so real thanks to the specifically designed camera work that the movie will have you gasping for air.

  1. How to Train Your Dragon

Although Pixar holds dominion over the sphere of animated movie, DreamWorks with its beautifully done “How to Train Your Dragon“ has challenged their rule, and rightfully so. The movie that came out of nowhere, captured the hearts of young and the old alike with heart warming story of a young boy outcast and his dragon friend who just might be the key to his tribe survival. The movie is a must watch for all lovers of animated movie and the scenes with the dragon gliding and flying are the next best thing to owning a real dragon.

  1. Dredd 3D

This adaptation of a dystopian future where humans are cramped into a few megacities with mobs running rampant and whose violence is kept at bay by the effort of even more violent cops, judges and executioners is an improvement of a Sylvester Stallone version, but truthfully what wouldn’t be? In one of the best action movies filmed that year we follow Judge Dredd on his path of righteousness as he executed thugs storey by storey to get to the final boss. The slow motion and blood splattering effects are done so realistically that will have your heads turning side to side in an effort to evade it. Truly an action movie treat.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

You knew it was coming, you might have wondered what took me so long. This list wouldn’t be complete without it. Fury Road is one of the most action packed, gasoline infused, visually stunning movies that has ever come out. Watching it in 3D only enhances the experience. Come and join Max, our unwilling protagonist, while he experiences one of his worst days. The Road Warrior is truly mad, mad at  dystopian world tossed into Darwinian struggle for survival, mad at himself for allowing his wife and child to perish…There are only so few words that can describe pure mayhem, destruction and chaos that inhabit that place, and watching it in and way other than 3D is pure sin.

How to Stream PC Games to Cardboard?

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Stream VR games to google cardboard

If you have a reasonable gaming computer that could handle VR, but if you can’t afford a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or the Vive at the moment, you might be interested in streaming VR games to a cheap headset like Google cardboard.

Is this doable?

Well, not with all games, obviously, but there are apps that can allow you a reasonably fulfilling experience.

What you’ll need…

You can do this if you actually have a PC that can handle VR. Also, the cheap VR headsets that you buy should have a good strap for the head, or you’ll have problems. You’ll also need a fairly modern model of Android, and a Leap Motion tracker.

elite-dangerous-vr-game
A cardboard star-fighter good enough for you?

Start by arranging streaming

Getting your PC to stream games to your Android requires you to install RiftCat. Here’s where you can get the installer. Once you’ve installed RiftCat on your PC, the next step is to pair it with the VRidge app on your phone, so you’ll need to install that on your phone next.

Once you have RiftCat on your PC, and VRidge on your phone, then things really start to happen.

Log into RiftCat, and then set up a VRidge connection to your phone (there’s a tab for this).

Connecting the Phone and PC

This is done through local WiFi, though USB connections are also possible, and can be more reliable. Now your phone and computer should recognize each other through the network.

RiftCat-Vridge connection

RiftCat games

We suggest that you test-run your setup on the database of RiftCat games, all of which have been well-tested to run through VRidge.

Here’s a step-by-step video in case you’re confused about any stage of the setup…

Playing SteamVR Games

Remember that the RiftCat-VRidge connection must be active before you launch SteamVR. Once you launch SteamVR, there is a button in VRidge that allows you to “Play SteamVR Games”.

Now just start the game of your choice in SteamVR.

Set your ‘room settings’

We’ll be going into how you can activate some simple tracking, but for now, once the game begins, you must remember to set your virtual world settings to the minimum of standing room only.

Passive streaming

The games will now stream into the headset in an essentially passive experience controlled by a handheld controller.

Movement and Tracking

If you want something more interactive than this, then you will have to buy either a Leap Motion controller, or a small gyro mouse.

For Leap Motion to work with the VR headset, you’re going to attach the tracker to your headset and connect it to the computer. Do bear in mind that there will be a cable reaching from your headset to your computer, and you  need to make sure this cable is long enough, and that you won’t trip over it with the headset on.

farpoint-vr-game
Colonizing known space… at a fraction of the price!

After this, just install the Orion Beta application.

It has a nice tutorial that will take you through the remaining steps of the process. It goes without saying, of course, that you will have to mount the controller on your headset.

A gyro mouse is also a nice way to institute tracking

It’s very efficient and there’s no lag detectable. It is also, unlike the Leap Motion controller, wireless.

You’ll have to mount it on your headset, but once you do, you have a lovely wireless tracking headset that can allow you to use a fairly wide range of VR experiences.

And that’s all that it takes to stream VR games to cardboard, or any cheap mobile-based headset. Bear in mind that the system isn’t perfect – some games will run, and others won’t. I wouldn’t suggest that you buy a game to use on this system, unless it has a shareware version you can try for free to make sure it works – but there are lots of those! Try out a game, and if it works, go ahead and buy it.

And if you’ve added tracking, you can have quite an immersive experience… at a fraction of the price of a high-end headset.