Thursday, 7 January 2010

2010: When Virtual and Augmented Worlds Collide?

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch has an interesting blog post comparing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, based primarily on a Google Trends plot of both search terms in Google.

His conclusions:

  • Augmented Reality has now over taken Virtual Reality, and
  • "You can take your virtual reality and get lost on Second Life. I'll take augmented reality any day. It's just more real."

As Mark Kingdon's New Year post says though virtual worlds such as Second Life are likely to become even more real (Second Life HD - SLHD Mark calls it), and anyway:

  • The current killer apps for virtual worlds and augmented reality are different - the VW strength is in training and learning, collaboration and whole building and data visualisation, AR is currently in navigation and interpretation
  • Increasingly the two will blur - we will have more AR with VW, and be able to our VW on as a AR overlay on real-life (see Halting State by Charles Stross)

So in most respects while the "tension" between AR and VW is interesting to me it is ultimately pointless as the future involves both.

But then I looked at Erick's graph again. He plotted virtual reality against AR - which apart from being a poetic balance is actually the wrong thing. All my (and most other people's talk) is about virtual worlds. VR is very much the 70s/80s term - no wonder its declining on his graph - and the VW "bubble" was in 2006 well after his graph shows VR declining.

So I did my own Google Trends - plotting AR against not only VR but also "virtual worlds" - having checked of course that my AR/VR graph was the same as his. The result:


That looks a truer picture. VW steading growing with something of a step change around 2006 and then growing steady til it was overhualed bythe AR hype of mid 2009, but then actually taking AR back over (just) at the end of 2009!.

As ever lies, damn lies and statistics!

As I said earlier this isn't to say that VW is better than AR or more important - they are both going to be important and vital to the future - all we need to know is which to use for which application, and how to get them to work together.

***Imported from old blog***