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What are virtual and augmented reality?

In recent decades, the arrival of a virtual world or introducing holograms into the 'real world' was limited to science fiction films. Two of the largest technology companies, however, have made this a reality. A major Dutch supermarket chain is putting this technology onto its shelves for a few euros. It looks like it's no longer science fiction but reality!

The difference between VR and AR
In virtual reality (VR), a person is placed in a computer-generated world. The idea behind VR is that you are separated from the 'real' world and experience the virtual world as being real.

In augmented reality (AR), the real world is augmented by computer-generated content. A well-known example of this are the holograms as used in the first Star Wars films.

Both concepts are intended to blur the line between computer-generated content and the real world. A digital avatar, for example, no longer 'lives' only in a monitor, television or telephone but can also move around freely in the real world. Products like Microsoft's Hololens or Facebook's Oculus Rift are now making this possible.

The history of VR and AR
VR and AR might sound new but these concepts have been around for many years. The first examples included the panoramas that were popular in the 19th century. The most famous panorama in the Netherlands is the 'Panorama Mesdag' that was completed in 1881. Being inside this panorama is like standing on a sand dune. These panoramas were intended to place the visitor in another setting by means of optical illusions and changes made to reality.

De The basis of VR as we now know it was established by Ivan Sutherland and Thomas A. Furness III. Between 1965 and 1968, Sutherland developed a device while at MIT named 'The Sword of Damocles’ which projected a stereoscopic image onto a pair of head-mounted goggles. For head-tracking, a system of tubes hanging from the ceiling registered the direction of the viewer's gaze.

In the 80s, Jaron Lanier took the first steps toward commercialising VR technology that was meant to take off in the 90s. The world waited with bated breath! Unfortunately, this technology failed to arrive and the public lost interest.

Hereafter, VR was applied primarily for scientific research. It was used, for example, to create rooms to study phobias and possibly to help people get over them.

VR and AR today
Today, we have arrived at a time when this technology is ready for consumer use. The first of these products can now be purchased, and we can now consider how to implement this technology in the workplace.
If you would like to know more about this, read our article: 'Will VR and AR become the "New Way of Working"?'.
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