Virtual reality and augmented reality, what are they? It is a legitimate question whose answer must start from initial consideration. The modern information technologies over the past decades have significantly accentuated the human being's ability, making it possible to interact in a few clicks with a quantity of information that, until recently, they weren't even available in the largest libraries on the planet. All this, of course, has had incredible impacts on our personal and working lives. Traditional ICT, however, has a limit that cannot be overcome: the human being, in nature, is used to interacting with three-dimensional reality. At the same time, the immense volume of data that today can determine our decisions and our actions remain at the beyond a two-dimensional screen — a limit which, sometimes, unleashes our frustration with PCs and all hardware devices in general. The problem is more and more accentuated every day by the impetuous growth of the mass of existing information, in turn, generated by the increasing presence of billions of intelligent and interconnected products all over the world, which risks making our frustration more acute.
Fortunately, there is an increasing spread of virtual reality and augmented reality applications to the rescue. So let's try to understand what they are.
As the definition says, in Augmented Reality (AR), the computer uses sensors and algorithms to determine the position and orientation of a camera. AR technology, through a computer, creates objects in 3D graphics and orients them as they would appear from the camera, finally superimposing the images generated on those of the real world. In essence, therefore, augmented reality transforms huge masses of data and analytics into images or animations that are superimposed on the real world. In combination with IoT data, AR applications are leading numerous companies to completely redefine the way they design, manufacture, sell, manage, and support products. Making the phenomenon clear to the general public was the Pokemon Go application, which for the first time, demonstrated the potential of augmented reality.
Similar but distinct to AR is the so-called Virtual Reality (VR - Virtual Reality), which presupposes the use of information technologies to create a simulated environment. Unlike other traditional user interfaces, VR places the user within an experience: instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with virtual 3D worlds in which they can be simulated all the senses. So what is the fundamental difference between virtual reality and augmented reality? Simple: augmented reality represents the real world enriched with virtual objects. Virtual reality, on the contrary, is a completely virtual world.
Augmented and virtual reality applications are already capable of bringing innovation and creating significant opportunities in many business sectors, so much so that all forecasts indicate an exponential development of this market in the coming years. The problem is that the operation of AR and VR applications presupposes the use of a huge amount of data since both of these technologies have to do with video content that interacts in real-time with users. In environments where there is the availability of a fixed network, interaction is already generally satisfactory today, but in all those cases in which end users only have to rely on the bandwidth capacity of their mobile devices, latency problems can arise, which have a negative impact on the overall experience. The classic case is the Pokemon Go, which can often jam due to having to rely on 4G.
Fortunately, a technological revolution is looming on the horizon that could significantly push the potential of virtual reality and augmented reality solutions: we are talking about 5G, the fifth generation of standards for connections from mobile devices, which will become the reference starting from 2022. In less than four years, each device connected to the network will, in fact, be able to count on a speed of 100 Megabits per second in download and 50 megabits per second in upload, with a maximum latency of 4 milliseconds. A capability that should allow us to overcome all the speed and latency problems we referred to earlier.
Thus promoting the spread of augmented reality, especially in some areas, for example, we think of the world of retail, where AR solutions are already being used to improve customer interaction. Thanks to 5G, it will be much easier, for example, to try on a certain item of clothing without having to wear it physically. By completely changing the scenario, 5G also appears to be the key to definitively enabling the connected vehicles revolution. The greater availability of bandwidth will make it possible to truly exploit the Internet to obtain additional information (presence of speed cameras, distributors, traffic, etc.) in the form of augmented reality in our cars, without distracting the driver from driving.
But, perhaps, the field of AR that could most benefit from the enhancement guaranteed by 5G is that of sporting events. Today, some stadiums are testing augmented reality applications to provide additional entertainment for spectators. With the fifth-generation mobile, these services could become the norm, allowing for example to view player statistics, episode replays, as well as choose and buy the favorite place, etc. The use of special micro-cameras and sensors could even soon allow fans to see and "hear" the pitch from a player's perspective. Similarly, 5G should improve the museum visitor experience by making additional visual information about works and artists immediately accessible. In short, the AR and VR applications that have so far been courageously tested in the field by a few early adopters could soon become a mainstream service, precisely because they are really within reach of all users due to the introduction of the 5G standard.
Feb 04, 2020