Because we love a good platform war (right?), using technology to alter our reality in certain situations is becoming all the rage. Whether it’s virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), our phones are getting more powerful and becoming focal points for these technologies. Samsung has already gone all-in with VR headsets, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
And other companies, like HTC, are jumping on the bandwagon, too. Virtual reality is, for all intents and purposes, seeing another big push like many of us remember seeing many, many years ago. The difference now is the technology is here, with less-than-awful headsets, better graphics, and much more going for it.
It’s hard to ignore VR these days. Companies want it to work, and the biggest names are getting in on the movement. Google has its Daydream platform. Facebook has Oculus in its corner. And even Apple is said to be building out its own headset and platform.
So what about AR?
That’s where Microsoft comes. That company is building out HoloLens, a headset that looks built for VR, but actually transforms the real world around the wearer to bring in digital constructs. We’ve seen aliens slam through bedroom walls, and weather information placed on refrigerator doors. Microsoft is going big with AR, even as its major competitors go a different route.
And yet its Nintendo that has me thinking AR might just be the better option.
Specifically, Pokémon GO. Yeah, you’ve heard of it, and you’ve seen the craziness that has unfolded across the world where the game’s available. It’s a huge title. Everyone seems to be playing it, as they walk around the real world catching Pocket Monsters. I’ve tried it a few times, and I think it’s a ridiculously good —and cool— idea.
I also think it makes a strong case for augmented reality. The technology makes us part of the world, has us interact with it, and, like with this game, interact with others, too. Meanwhile, virtual reality has us put a headset on our face and basically block everyone out, just to make sure we get that full experience. VR’s best experiences come with isolating ourselves away from the world and other people. And while Microsoft has a big ol’ headset on people’s faces with their own implementation of AR, it’s still about interacting with the world around us.
Pokémon GO isn’t the first game to use augmented reality, but we all know that being first isn’t the most important part. A popular brand, a name like Nintendo, and a ton of cool features baked in makes for a popular game — and a way to really put attention on the technology therein. And as far as I’m concerned, the case for AR is stronger than VR right now.
I made the joke at the start of this about a platform war, but to be honest there’s no reason for one to exist here. Virtual reality and augmented reality can exist side-by-side and not ever really compete. They do offer different user experiences, and if someone wants to go outside and interact with people with their AR-powered Pokémon GO, and then go home and slap a VR headset on to block out the world for awhile, well, there’s no reason that can’t be a thing. AR and VR aren’t really competing, and that’s a good thing.
Have you tried out Pokémon GO or any other AR-powered game yet? What do you think of the technology? Let me know!