When it comes to altering a person’s reality for a brief time, the conversation continues to be whether that should come down to virtual reality or augmented reality.
As far as companies are concerned, the general consensus seems to be that virtual reality (VR) is the biggest draw right now. Facebook (and Oculus), Sony, Google, and many others are all investing quite a bit in VR, some even using it as a tentpole feature for their platform, as headsets and peripherals make their way out into the real world.
Google has been making a push into VR for quite some time now, starting with Cardboard, but its big bet comes in the form of its Daydream platform and the Daydream View headset, the latter of which the company unveiled earlier this month.
However, augmented reality is not without its fans. Microsoft, for instance, is betting on AR in a big way with HoloLens.
And then there is Apple, which, as it stands right now, does not seem to be making inroads in either reality-altering medium. At least, not on the surface. Apple appears to be making moves towards an AR-based plan, letting virtual reality take its course with other companies, while Apple works on something related to AR.
Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, has made praises for AR on multiple occasions, and does so again in the latest interview with BuzzFeed News. Cook says that there’s “no substitute for human contact,” and says that the technology should “encourage that.”
Cook goes on to say that while VR has its uses, and has interesting applications, it does not feel like a “broad-based technology.” Instead, Cook says AR is more “profound,” and that he obviously believes AR is less of a barrier than VR when it comes to having contact with other human beings:
“VR, I think, has some interesting applications, but I don’t think it’s a broad-based technology like AR,” Cook explained. “Augmented reality will take some time to get right, but I do think that it’s profound. We might … have a more productive conversation, if both of us have an AR experience standing here, right? And so I think that things like these are better when they’re incorporated without becoming a barrier to our talking. … You want the technology to amplify it, not to be a barrier.”
On the surface, this is probably the case. Augmented Reality has a virtual world come to life in the world around you, like having pocket monsters appear in bushes in Pokemon GO, or as Microsoft has demonstrated in the past, having aliens erupt from a bedroom wall with HoloLens. Having the technology simply placed atop the real world, rather than transporting the user somewhere else entirely in their self-enclosed headset, would indeed lessen that barrier.
However, it’s worth noting that virtual reality doesn’t have to be a barrier by any means. Facebook, for instance, recently showed off hanging out with friends in a virtual world, avatars and all, at the Oculus Connect 3 event. And video calling, in what could look (and sound) like a mega amphitheater, would certainly be epic in scale.
One could even argue that having a bunch of digital content splayed out in front of a person, while they’re trying to have a conversation with someone in the real world, serves up its own barriers.