For many, when they think of the future of the metaverse, the first thing that comes to mind is a set of virtual reality (VR) goggles. Search “Metaverse” on any stock photo website, and you will see image after image of somebody wearing a VR headset. However, we believe that augmented reality (AR) will lead to advancements in the coming years over VR that will have a real impact on our day-to-day lives. Tech giants have been facing the AR/VR dilemma for some time. Meta's placed its future on VR, Apple has chosen an AR/VR route, and Google will retest its AR glasses.
The difference between AR and VR
AR combines the real world and digital technology to create overlays of mixed-medium experiences that combine sensory modalities like visual, auditory, haptic, and more. VR, on the other hand, is an artificial 3D environment that replaces the real world. Users typically enter VR worlds via special equipment such as VR headsets.
VR is becoming more accessible and affordable. Meta is leading the way with its Quest 2 version costing $400. As it seems, the metaverse will become a functioning feature of our lives sooner or later. 54% of experts predicted in a study that the metaverse will become a certainty by 2040. The critical question is, what technology will the metaverse be powered by, AR or VR? Here are the reasons why we believe AR will outpace VR in the coming years.
If bulky VR headsets were the answer, we would already be socializing like this.
Portability is still a major issue for VR headsets which are still bulky and uncomfortable at their current stage. Eventually, VR headsets will become sleeker and a cool gadget for teenagers and adults soon (just look at Apple’s prototype here). However, the cost for one of these devices will still limit VR to more affluent customers. Even the aforementioned entry-level Meta Quest is too expensive at $400 for many to consider. This price barrier is why AR will outcompete VR, the simplicity involved in its technology. The iPhone in your pocket has over 100,000 times the computer's processing power that landed a man on the moon 50 years ago. (Source) This means endless possibilities for AR integration and new developments beyond global sensations like PokemonGo, launched in 2016.
Take, for example, the recently launched AR-inspired game NBA All World developed by 8thWall (who Niantic recently acquired to empower their AR metaverse.) It uses our surroundings to make our world immersive, with the virtual world giving us the experience of playing basketball with our favorite players, all without having any bulky or expensive headsets.
Niantic’s Captain Doty mascot. Image: Niantic
Another reason to prefer AR over VR is that the degree of change in user behavior is much less in the former technology. This is because AR does not change users' environment but improves and enhances their surroundings to make the virtual world more immersive. As a result, users need not adjust to a different lifestyle or environment.
More importantly, the degree of change in most current VR setups is so high that many users experience dizziness, loss of spatial awareness, disorientation, nausea, and many such critical issues if they have experienced VR environments long enough.
Beyond improving the accessibility of metaverses, AR technology also adds many potential use cases across different industries. From retail to education to technology industries, everyone will benefit from AR technology. For example, clothing brands already allow people to virtually try on clothes through AR technology, cosmetic brands enable people to virtually try on make-up, and even Ikea shows a virtual display of how a customer’s home will look using AR technology.
Augmented reality is already revolutionizing how people view the metaverse by immersing our physical world in digital realities. All it takes is the phone in your pocket to access these hybrid worlds, whether it be PokemonGo or trying on new clothes using AR technology; the possibilities are endless. Though AR is still at a nascent stage and has a long way to go, we believe that in the coming years, it will have a much more meaningful impact on our daily lives. Comparatively, VR has more significant hurdles, such as accessibility and adoption. We can also expect developers to integrate blockchain with future AR projects, which we will cover in a future article (imagine PokemonGo with NFTs and its own digital currency). Ultimately, we look forward to seeing how both AR and VR will shape the future of entertainment, communication, and interaction.