Experiencing Spock beam in, seeing virtual data like the coordinates of an incoming threat overlaid in the real world or being a blue character inside a virtual world were all just dreamy concepts teased to us through Hollywood blockbusters like Star Trek, Iron Man, Avatar and many more…until very recently.
What’s spurred the monumental evolution in the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) space is an inflection point of graphics compute power, high-pixel density but small displays, low power/portability, and dropping costs but most importantly, the overwhelming declaration from gamers, designers and engineers to break out of 2D worlds.
So let’s back up a bit since this sudden shift has been just that…sudden, and give users a simple lay of the land. First of all, what are all these acronyms that end with “R” and why do they matter? Virtual Reality (VR) is a technique which immerses the user into a fully virtual world (like being a video game character). Augmented Reality (AR) is a technique that overlays virtual content into the real world (made famous by Pokémon GO but hardly a reflection of its true capabilities).
Both techniques share the same basic set of technical requirements but can differ in terms of how they are experienced and on which devices. Think of them as two sides of the same coin. VR requires Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), such as HTC Vive, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung GearVR, Google Daydream and StarVR. AR is a bit more flexible and can generate functional experiences on mobile phones, tablets or HMDs, such as Microsoft HoloLens, MetaVision Meta2, ODG R7-R9, Google Glass. The importance of these techniques and the delivery system of the experiences is what they can do for the users. By taking advantage of these cutting-edge and rapidly emerging solutions, you can truly consume and create content in a whole new way that breaks the limits of 2D screens and interfaces. Thus the user can now feel content.
You might be asking, “but I use SOLIDWORKS….how do I export my file, clean it up, make it lighter, retain the materials and animation and other valuable features, get it into a viewer and show my boss my amazing new design on my Google Cardboard I got for free at a tradeshow?” or “how can I use these solutions to improve my designs?” SOLIDWORKS World 2017 was an impactful milestone for everybody, for the partners and even for SOLIDWORKS because it helped answer some of these questions about AR and VR.