I am a huge fan of Second Life, a virtual reality platform well over 10 years old. A user can register and is immediately assigned an avatar to navigate and explore virtual worlds or sims. The sandbox environment allows users to rent or purchase virtual land to create anything they can muster in their imaginations. Users can learn SLS, SL’s powerful scripting language to bring creations to life if they wish. If a user is talented with 3D rendering software, they might design and import a mesh object that could be furniture, an avatar skin, a car, a castle, a zoo animal, clothes… The list could go on, because anything you can find in the “real world”, can be created to be enjoyed in SL’s virtual world. You avatar can be as beautiful or as hideous as anything you see in the movies. What’s more, is you can interact with all of these things in a manner of role play that a “real world” human might not find in their home town. You can be a vampire, pirate, ghost, horse, Sponge Bob Square Pants, dragon… It’s more than life. Real life has limitations. Financial. Physical. Social. Limitations all broken by virtual reality.
“Augmented reality is a virtual layer over the real world.”
Why can all this exist? Talent and hard work pays off in SL, just like real life. All of the glorious arrangement of scripts, textures, and objects that come together and create entire dream-scapes, were imported and sold on the SL marketplace. Millions of SL users browse the market and buy all they desire at the low cost of mere pennies. While higher detailed work might cost several US dollars, a majority of items sold in SL are micro-transactions that just about anyone in the world that can afford if they can also afford a computer. Micro-transactions are loved throughout the gaming community because to an individual, they are insignificant, but to the platform selling the virtual goods, thousands of small transactions a day really adds up. So much that virtual goods are already well over a billion dollar industry and projected to grow substantially into the future.
Virtual reality takes a few forms. Second Life is an older way of viewing virtual reality. Only a little more recently, head sets showing entirely different surroundings and objects is another way to see virtual reality along with handsets that allow users to interact and make changes to the environment in the virtual space. This technology is incredibly innovative, but once a person decides situation awareness of the real world space is more important at most time, wearing head gear makes it hard to justify the fun.
Augmented reality is a virtual layer over the real world. A real world you can continue to see and knowingly interact with while seeing and interacting with a world that renders facets of imaginations that manifest objects never before seen. It’s gorgeous! For now, the attainable and accessible technology to view augmented reality is a bit bulky. That will change in the very near future.
To reference my explanation of SL above, I wish to make a prediction about one sliver of the future of augmented reality. AR will provide the same creative and income opportunities that SL has for the last decade. Talented designers and developers will dream and work to bring the visions of their respective imaginations to the eyes and minds of millions. Reality only exists in our minds. Our existence is to experience, and what is real is what is experienced. What is AR now will be reality later and the realities of each individual could be all of our realities… if we want it to be.