Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are not in the distant future anymore, thanks to Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens.
When we talk VR or AR, the first thing that comes to mind is gaming. While this isn’t an entirely wrong notion about the Oculus Rift’s VR and the HoloLens’ AR, associating AR and VR with gaming right off the bat is underestimating the power of the Oculus Rift and the HoloLens. So, what exactly are the Oculus Rift and the HoloLens, and how different are they from each other?
The Oculus Rift, as Facebook puts it, is one of the units at the forefront of Virtual Reality. When Facebook acquired Oculus Rift in 2014, Facebook saw the virtual future: a future behind the Oculus Rift headset. In a Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg in March, 2014, he envisions the future that’s possible because of Oculus Rift’s Virtual Reality.
“Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible. Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences. Immersive gaming will be the first, and Oculus already has big plans here that won’t be changing and we hope to accelerate… But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a courtside seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”
In its most basic sense, Virtual Reality is different from Microsoft’s HoloLens in that sense that the Oculus Rift is complete immersive, removing the user from the world and planting him/her into the virtual reality realm. The physical world gets lost the moment you put on your Oculus Rift VR gear, since it replaces your vision and senses with a different world altogether.
Pocket Lint effectively explains how virtual reality works. It is basically a device that projects a 3D environment that you can immerse yourself in and interact with. Oculus Rift’s strength, its full immersiveness, is also its limit, however. Since the user is fully removed from reality and completely immersed in the new reality, the user’s entire focus is on the world, allowing for nil interaction with the real world during virtual reality time. You’re essentially “trapped” in the world unless you shut off the app or remove your Oculus Rift for a time out.
This Achilles’ Heel of Oculus Rift, among other VR gear, is the saving grace of the HoloLens’ AR. Microsoft’s HoloLens is like a Windows 10 laptop strapped to your face, albeit less immersive than Oculus Rift’s VR experience. It provides layers of information simulated through the glasses, allowing the user of the HoloLens access to the virtual world without losing touch of the real world.
Google Glass, in its conception, aimed to create an effective and wearable piece of augmented reality gear, but it was too early for its time. But now that the moment is right, Microsoft is striking with the HoloLens to give people the VR experience that’s still rooted to the non-virtual world.
The Motley Fool explains the functionality of Microsoft’ HoloLens in terms of the AR device as a wearable Windows 10 PC.
“Anything you can do with a Windows 10 laptop, you can do with this device. That means HoloLens can be used completely offline as a stand-alone device or connected to the Internet, and it will work with any applications written for Windows 10. While the HoloLens’ potential may center around futuristic, 3D applications, HoloLens owners will be able to take advantage of traditional 2D staples such as Excel or Word.”
Remember the Minecraft demo using HoloLens Augmented Reality during the E3 presentation of Microsoft? That’s the power of the HoloLens. In Oculus Rift’s VR, you will be in the shoes of the main protagonist, groping around for materials before the night creeps in. In HoloLens’ AR, you will have your own Minecraft city sitting on your coffee table while you actually drink coffee.
So, which one do you prefer? Facebook’s Oculus Rift has already been up for public sale last January for $599, shipping to homes come March. Microsoft’ HoloLens is not yet available for the public, but dev kits are available for purchase at $3,000.
[Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images]