Several years ago, both augmented and virtual reality reached a high level of popularity through their own avenues of prowess. In 2016, Niantic's location-based Pokémon GO soared with record highs, paving the way not only for a reinvigorated Pokémon community but opening the floodgates of potentiality in AR technology. Later that same year, Sony released the early VR headset for its PlayStation 4 system, with nearly 50 games available by the end of 2016 and even a "cinematic mode" for the titles that weren't VR compatible.
Almost 3 years later, what have they amounted to, these highly sophisticated forms of advanced gaming technologies? Do they spell out the future, or are they already a thing of the past? According to reports, by March of this year, Sony has sold over 4 million headsets, while the grand total revenue acquired from Pokémon Go is around $3 billion (and counting). Some analysts are contending with the belief that the longstanding debate over which is better is an unnecessary debacle, for neither one or the other is the future; they both are in tandem. Called "mixed reality," their ultimate fusion will be the next step in the reality-averting world of VR and AR gaming.
AR vs VR: Augmented reality lets you see the world differently. Virtual reality lets you see a different world.— Sarah A. Downey (@SarahADowney) February 21, 2017
Where Is Virtual Reality Now?
The 2016-launched PSVR wasn't actually gaming's first take on the groundbreaking technology. In fact, most of what we now can do in VR is thanks to the first few steps taken in the 80s and 90s when even the graphics on ordinary games looked like Minecraft. Today, most of us scoff at the possibilities of VR, but back then the pioneering agents were places like NASA and Virtuality. Chasing the proper mechanics, operating system, and life-like graphics were like attempting to discover gold in Antarctica: wishful thinking at best. By the turn of the new century, with companies like HTC, Sony, Oculus, and Samsung all throwing their hats into the ring of past endeavors, that's when technology finally took a turn toward advancement.
Today VR is limping along, yet still seems to be of utmost importance to the industry. With future titles on the horizon, like Iron Man VR and Deemo Reborn, it's safe to say virtual reality isn't going anywhere for some time. The forthcoming Tokyo Game Show starting this Thursday will feature some very interesting VR games, as the headset-based PlayStation technology is one of Sony's main showcases. In addition to the fact that PS5 will only broaden VR capabilities, the next wave of console gaming may well be experienced in the matrix itself rather than from our couches.
AR's Curse Is That It's On Phones
Speaking of Minecraft, it too has turned to AR mobile gaming, much like Harry Potter and its Wizards Unite (which now even features dragons). Whether that's a testament to the tech itself or simply a move toward monetary gain is unknown, but these games have been praised for bending reality to our own liking. Pokémon have now seeped into our everyday lives. Although unseen to non-players, those imagined creatures truly exist to the fans, who hunt for them consistently and ensure to hit all the Pokéstops to and from work.
The only gripe with these AR mobile titles is their intense microtransactions, which sour fanbases far and wide. Continued support of heavy gambling, loot boxes, and greedy business practices of all kinds will surely spell the downfall of the mobile platform itself, though it's highly unlikely that will happen anytime soon. AR capabilities have paved the way for mobile gaming. The tech has come a long way, giving gamers completely new ways of examining the world around them, but is it all that AR can offer for the future?
After the immense success of Pokémon Go, mobile gaming itself took on a whole new form of reinvigoration. While AR technology itself can be game-changing, what with its implementation into a variety of different apps, from shipping purposes to Ikea furniture designs, AR has a wide berth of possibilities. Since the unsuccessful launch of the Google Glasses in 2015, many have shared concerns over the nature of AR and what it can do, but very few people realize the impact that both technological fronts can achieve whilst together...
Mixed Reality Is The Real Future
As VR remains the kingpin of immersion, AR tackles the warping of everyday reality itself. Put them both together and you have a recipe for some intense possibilities, which is exactly where mixed reality (MR) comes into play. Utilizing the techniques from AR to enhance reality around us while then taking into account the immersive properties of VR, mixed reality gives us a whole new perspective on narrative experience, amplified tenfold when applied to gaming.
So-called interactive mixed reality, the newfound form of media may very well one avenue the gaming industry should look into adopting. Though, the likelihood of a mixed reality video game is very slim, what with the many issues with interactivity and the simple fact that technology isn't there yet, there still could be loads of ways to implement the tech into the gaming sphere. As Google and Microsoft expand upon cloud-based mobile platforms and Nintendo sticks to handheld devices, one of the most interesting technological advancements to take notice of into the future are graphical-based. Immersion is key, after all.
It's hard to tell where the future will take us. While VR might not be in the best shape, due to the technology we're faced with, AR capabilities, in theory, can only be applied to mobile devices. I'm excited to see the possibilities, as a horror-survival game utilizing both AR and VR tech would be mind-bogglingly terrifying to behold. And the hyperrealistic shootouts of Call of Duty could feel almost too real, with your face feeling the soot and singing breath of a roaring flamethrower.
The possibilities for VR and AR are nearly limitless, and their ultimate fusion could be the next evolutionary step in interactive gaming. Whatever it looks like, it will surely shatter reality as we know it.