Ten years ago, having virtual reality as a household form of entertainment seemed like something that would only be possible by reading a science fiction book or waiting until the year 2116. However, over the last year, that is exactly what we are beginning to witness. Various companies such as Samsung, Google, FaceBook have all invested in virtual reality technologies for a multitude of reasons such as video games or documenting monumental events through 360 photos.
These last few months I have been fortunate enough to have a hands on experience with the Samsung Gear VR headset. In my intro to journalism course, the dean of the journalism school came in to speak to students about the possible uses of virtual reality in the journalism field. The concept of having a New York Times article in which a reader could be completely submerged in a swamp in Zimbabwe, for example, had the entire class ecstatic. Between these two events it made me curious as to the possible uses of this technology in the future as well as if it could truly become the new norm for how we consume media. Seventy years ago, when America consumed its content via the radio, it would have seemed unfathomable to watch content on a screen. Now, we are faced with the possibility to be completely submerged in content via virtual reality.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently came out saying that he believes augmented reality is the more promising prospect as opposed to virtual reality, and after last summer’s Pokemon Go fiasco, who am I to appose? “My own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far, because this gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present talking to each other, but also have other things visually for both of us to see,” Cook said. This would explain why Apple does not seem in any rush to develop a virtual reality product of their own while all of their fiercest competitors have crafted their own virtual reality devices. Cook’s sentiments seem to be that VR is on the more antisocial end of the spectrum, due to the technology covering your face, while augmented reality can be more collaborative. Plus, Apple has always been known to enter product categories slightly later in the game and capitalizing on their competitions shortcomings. It’s like the great 21st century American philosopher Drake once said “it’s not about who does it first, it’s about who does it right”.
Personally, I do not believe that AR and VR have to be mutually exclusive, I believe that overtime, consumers and brands alike will find ways to integrate both into society, hopefully for the better. VR is a great way to completely immerse yourself in a distant environment; AR is a great way to build on what is in front of you.