Virtual Reality Vs. Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two closely similar technologies trying to take over the same marketplace. VR is a digital recreation of the environment around the user, whilst AR overlays visual elements in the real world. But what if we looked at them working together instead of against each other…

Could convergence be on the horizon?

As experienced in multiple new developments, both virtual and augmented reality work well together as part of the increasingly popular experience of mixed reality.

What is mixed reality? In simple terms, it’s a mixture of reality and virtuality. On the reality-virtuality continuum, the middle area between these two extremes is known as mixed reality.

Diagram of the virtuality continuum

At Sundance last year, the startup company Magic Leap made its debut with the Magic Leap One Headset, to show the potential of mixed reality experiences. There were a number of augmented reality films that premiered using this technology. In particular, A Jester’s Tale, which follows a fictional storyline in a child’s bedroom, blurring a fairy tale with a CAPTCHA test. In this interactive narrative the characters seen through the Magic Leap experience are hollow meshes and constantly demanding proof that you are human. A Jester’s Tale represents what AR could become in the future, by blurring the line between realities and reflecting on our world in the digital age.

Could VR and AR push their respective boundaries and merge together to form a new version of mixed reality?

At the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival, technology company Magic Leap will premiere The Last Light, a new immersive cinema experience using the Magic Leap’s spatial computing capabilities to tell the story of a grandmother and granddaughter’s relationship. The use of the Magic Leap One technology allows the viewer to observe the personal family moments of the narrative as they unfold within the exhibition space around them.

The presence of this new wave of immersive cinema at the South by Southwest Film Festival is the latest in a growing movement to showcase storytelling through mobile augmented reality and head-mounted virtual reality experiences.

As these technologies are both relatively new forms, there are no set rules relating to storytelling methods. Every new project is an experiment to see how far we can go in these early stages. There are no rules to break in this exploration of storytelling within immersive environments.

We are still at the initial stages of experimenting with mixed reality and are at the equivalent of the beginning years of cinema, (when The Lumière Brothers allegedly sent a theatre full of people running for their lives).

Image Credit: Virtual Reality Htc Vive GIF by Leroy Patterson

Firstly we need to get past the spectacle and find out the preferred grammar of storytelling for this medium. But, this cannot be done without a large degree of experimentation and exploration.

How will virtual and augmented reality transform storytelling? Maybe if these two technologies were to fully merge together we would experience its full potential and truly believe the stories we’d see.

Written by Grace Moore