Technically Speaking: The reality of augmenting your perspective

Our world is one that is filled with lots of different perspectives. We argue and counter-argue over one viewpoint or another ad nauseum during our various online discourses. The hardware we have in our pockets – or on our laps – could be used to accomplish incredible things but too often we’re determined to only use it to “prove our point” and make sure people see things from our own vantage point.
It’s like we’re fighting to make sure that people know what it is like in our own reality. But while we can’t ACTUALLY change someone’s perspective with our technology, we CAN change their reality – almost.
As you are no doubt aware, there are two versions of this idea floating around on the old world wide web these days – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, I’m so glad to tell you. However, there are quite a few nuances in the two topics so in order to best explain each of them I’m going to do something a little unprecedented for this column. I’m going to break the two subjects up into two different installments.

Pokemon Go!

That’s right, you’ll have to wait until next issue of The Mountain Breeze to read about the other form of reality enhancement. But for now, let’s get right into it with the briefest explanation of Augmented Reality that I can muster up for print.
So, with augmented reality you view the real world and the graphical or virtual world through the same lens. Now, this lens can take many forms here on Earth, but in the augmented reality verse it is usually presented as part of the environment.
Augmented reality is actually a really useful tool that you’ve likely used at least once already even if you may not have referred to it as AR. Have you ever used Google Maps or Apple Maps to view your destination in real time before you arrive? That’s augmented reality at work.
Ever use an app on your smartphone to see what you might look like with a new pair of glasses or with a different haircut before actually buying the glasses or going to the beauty shop? That is also an example of Augmented Reality at work.
But it can be a lot more than that. Of course, there’s countless applications for Augmented Reality in video games. One of the most famous fads to be centered around Augmented Reality over the previous decade was the humble Pokemon Go mobile game on people’s smartphones. In case you somehow missed the massive trend that was taking over the world and also causing new forms of trespassing laws to be passed around the globe, Pokemon Go was an Augmented Reality game that had players take their smartphones to certain locations in the real world to find little animated Japanese pocket monsters in a virtual world.
Shopping malls and schools across the country had to pass new rules about children playing the game on their smartphones after huge crowds gathered. The idea is while you stand in the food court you can see all the restaurants and fellow diners. But if you hold up your phone and activate the camera on the back, the software insides coordinates between your GPS sensors, your accelerometer and your light meter to show you a version of the food court on your screen but then AUGMENTS the picture to also show you a floating yellow monster sort of … hopping around the mall. Swipe your touchscreen correctly and you can “capture” the Pikachu and score points.
But Augmented Reality can be used for a lot more than pocket monster or Harry Potter games. Realtors can get in on the action by having information about a house for sale display on your smartphone screen when you point the device at the property in question. Want to know more about certain historical markers and the important event that happened in that area? Some signs can be “scanned” with your phone and factoids will be floating nearby on the screen almost immediately!
And some Augmented Reality can be even more important in its uses with doctors and other medical professionals utilizing it to display medical data and important health tips based on your activities and the locations you visit.
Just remember this simple rule of thumb when telling apart Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality changes the way you the user interact with the real world. With Virtual Reality, you’re not interacting with the real world at all – you’re only interacting with the virtual or “created” world based on the software and hardware interface.
One more thing you can do with AR that is quite popular – head to IKEA and use images of your own living room to visualize what the Scandinavian furniture would look like in your home. And after you get tired of doing that, you can check out some Virtual Reality in my next installment. But until then…download complete.

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