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AR and VR: The future of computing platforms

Technology enthusiasts around the world have hailed AR/ VR to be the 4th wave in consumer computing platforms. Previous waves which significantly disrupted the computing platforms were- personal computer, internet and mobile, respectively. Although, each of the previous waves madea huge impact, it is yet to be seen if the 4th wave would make a dent in the tech world, as predicted.

AR and VR
Before diving deep into the analysis, let’s understand the basic difference between AR, VR and mixed reality. VR typically involves a headset and immerses the user in a virtual world. AR, on the other hand, overlays virtual objects as well as information in the real world for the user, the whole experience is augmented and is as discreet as possible. Whereas mixed reality is a subtle mixture of augmented as well as virtual reality. To understand better, VR requires a headset which is connected to a powerful PC, hence the movement is restricted, whereas with AR the user’s movement significantly free.

Shift in trend
The trend in the industry is slowly shifting when it comes to computing platforms. Since the late 20th century to early 2000s, the world was dominated by personal computers, with majority of the profits going to Microsoft. But the game changed significantly in 2007, when Apple released the iPhone. Smart phones/tablets became the defacto standard for productivity in almost all fields be it personal computing or industrial usage. In the current scenario, the VR/AR market is set to grow upto $108 billion by 2021 with AR taking $83 billion and VR $25 billion of the total share.

Pokémon Go
What kick started this shift in trend was a unique game that took the world by storm and introduced gaming enthusiasts to AR – Pokémon Go! 

Pokemon Go
This one of a kind game was based on mobile AR wherein the gamer could move around, catching Pokémon characters through the mobile device, essentially an AR interface.
The game single handedly delivered $600 million mobile AR revenue in its first three months, more than what the VR games software market could make in the whole of 2016.


Google Daydream
Taking advantage of this shifting trend towards AR, Google came up with its Daydream project. Google’s Daydream is a VR platform for Android devices, built straight into Android’s Nougat software. The whole experience can be enjoyed on Google’s Daydream view hardware.

Google Daydream
Though the usage of Google’s Daydream is currently restricted to entertainment and gaming, it provides an opportunity to brands and businesses around the world for marketing and product development. According to reports, Daydream will support everything from games to educational apps, something developers and businesses can look forward to.

Microsoft Hololens
Looking at what the industry has on offer when it comes to AR experience, nothing can surpass Microsoft’s brand new Hololens. Currently, hailed as the best known immersive AR system in the market.

Microsoft hololens
The Hololens is styled like smart-glasses, running on Windows 10. It essentially tracks gestures, eye movements with the help of various sensors, cameras and microphones to create 2D/3D virtual objects called “Holograms”. Windows has opened up the Hololens platform for developers around the world.

Growth prospects
When it comes to growth, AR and VR are set to grow in 3 broad areas:-
1)      Content (which includes Film and TV, gaming, healthcare, education and social)
2)      Software platforms (including analytics, B2B software)
3)      Hardware (including handheld computers, headsets)

Challenges
But with all the good things, challenges come aplenty. AR and VR will face some major challenges before they cater to mass consumers.
1)      Mobile connectivity for the devices coming installed with AR/VR software would pose a challenge since internet is something that will drive this market forward.
2)      Good battery life for AR/VR devices will be needed to support long term usage and would eventually be a big factor in user acceptance.
3)      A potent app ecosystem would be required to support the hardware, since this is a new area of development, creating that ecosystem for the developers would be a challenge.
4)      Hardware support for the various existing AR/VR platforms from various OEMs will take time.
5)      User acceptance would be the biggest hurdle, considering the fact that majority of the people around the world are not acquainted with the AR/VR technology.
Taking into account the growth prospects and challenges being faced by AR and VR, it can be rightly said that the 4th wave of computing platforms is here. With support coming from giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft this wave will only get stronger, complemented by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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