Consuming Virtual and Augmented Reality

By Paul Mealy

Part of Virtual & Augmented Reality For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Options for consuming content are readily available for virtual reality (VR). VR devices cover a spectrum from high-end options to low-end options to everything in between, with more devices being released every day.

High-end consumption devices for VR include headsets such as the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, or Windows Mixed Reality headsets. These options all require powerful external hardware to power the headset experience and include options such as a “room-scale” experience, or the ability to move around in physical space and have that movement translated into the virtual environment. Midrange options for VR consumption include headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream. These VR headsets are powered by higher-end mobile devices. They allow users to look around in VR, but not physically move about as if a user were there. Google Cardboard is an example of a low-end VR device. Released as a low-cost way of democratizing VR, almost any reasonably powerful mobile device can run the Google Cardboard software. Unlike the midrange VR options, user input in Google Cardboard devices is extremely limited.

Augmented reality (AR) devices such as headsets or goggles remain beyond most consumer budgets for now. High-end AR devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens, the Meta 2, or the upcoming Magic Leap One are targeted toward enterprise customers or developers only. We’re likely a generation or two of AR devices away before we can expect to see AR headsets released to consumers, though you may encounter some devices being utilized in commercial settings. There are also a few potential “midrange” AR headsets such as the Mira Prism that are powered by users’ mobile devices. These headsets are currently targeted toward developers but may see release to consumers in the near future.

Many consumers can experience a lower-end AR experience right now, however. Newer iOS and Android mobile devices come equipped with AR capabilities. Simply searching either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for “ARKit” or “ARCore,” respectively, will reveal a large number of applications built specifically for AR experiences on mobile devices. For example, the New York Times mobile app allows users to browse news stories featuring augmented content, and Amazon’s ARView allows users to place digital holograms in their physical spaces and walk around them as if they were truly there.