VR, AR and AI–What’s All This Virtual Stuff, Anyway?

posted: 09/20/16
by: Katie Morton

The Matrix came out less than 20 years ago and shocked us all with its portrayal of virtual reality. Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey showed us the power of artificial intelligence. And The Terminator gave us a glimpse into the world of augmented reality.

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are no longer just plots to sci-fi and action movies, they're now regularly being used in real life--and sometimes it feels impossible to keep up! But have no fear; we've got you covered. We'll break down each concept and explain how it's currently being used today.

Virtual Reality: Creating a New Sensory Experience

Virtual reality is not a new technology--in fact, it's been available to the public since the early 90's. VR uses computer technology to stimulate the senses into believing you're in an artificial environment. Picture this, you put on a pair of goggles and all of a sudden you're transported to the top of Kilimanjaro.

So who's using VR now? Samsung, Ford and The New York Times are just a few of the companies who have jumped headfirst into using the technology. For Ford, VR allows them to "experience" a car design before putting it into production. Samsung has invested in the Gear VR, which allows you to turn your cell phone into a virtual reality device. And The New York Times is using VR to enhance their reporting, letting you experience the news in a whole new way.

Interested in seeing what it's all about? At the Samsung 837 store in New York, you can take the Gear VR for a roller coaster test drive. It'll be like a trip to Six Flags, but without the lines, #win!

Augmented Reality: Blending Computerized Imagery with Real Life

Rather than create a whole new experience, augmented reality takes what you see and adds computerized elements. Think of the animated characters in the world of Who Framed Roger Rabbit as an example of what AR is like. Chances are you've already used or seen AR in your daily life. Weather visualizations are a very common example of AR. Those lines on the field during a football game...also augmented reality.

AR has recently come into the forefront of conversations because it's behind one of the most popular games right now, Pok?mon Go. The game uses your cell phone to transform your world into a board game where you can find Pok?mon (small animal-like critters) in your everyday life, as you walk around. Thanks to the cult-like success of Pok?mon Go, it looks like augmented reality is here to stay.

Artificial Intelligence: Engineering Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence is a simple concept. It's using computers to replace human activity--whether it's cognitive, physical or even emotional. Yes, that's right--there is AI research in the field of psychology!

AI has become so abundant in its uses today that it's not even considered "artificial intelligence" anymore. Common uses include search engines, Siri, and facial recognition software. Have you ever shopped for an item online, and then had similar ads pop up, over and over again while you browse other sites? That's another form of AI.

AI has also become physical, powering drones and self-driving cars. Robot technology has gotten more sophisticated in the last decade, and it's due to rapid advances in AI. In the next few years, you may have your own robot maid ? la Rosie from the Jetsons.

The future is here--and it can be overwhelming to stay on top of the ever-changing world of technology. Now that you've grasped these concepts, keep an eye out for more examples of virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence in your everyday life!