If you want to build the Metaverse, you don’t have to choose between VR or AR. The future includes both.
It’s 2022 and virtual reality is still being described by some CEOs as the antithesis of augmented reality.
The argument is old: augmented reality allows you to participate in the real world, while virtual reality excludes you from it. Augmented reality brings people together, virtual reality isolates them. Evil virtual reality.
Books should be rejected for the same reasons. After all, they assume people are immersing themselves in something that has nothing to do with their immediate surroundings.
Against the “VR dystopia”
I refer to the statements of two influential CEOs whose companies are active in the field of augmented reality.
The controversy began last year with Niantic boss John Hanke. The CEO hinted that Meta was aiming for a dystopian VR metaverse. Dystopian because it’s an escape from reality. As an alternative, it introduced an AR metaverse that grounded in reality is.
Hanke omitted two facts: that an AR metaverse can also be dystopian, and that the metaverse vision of Meta encompasses both virtual reality and augmented reality. Zuckerberg will be even more interested in augmented reality than virtual reality, and for good reason: you can make more money with AR in the long run. AR glasses might become as ubiquitous as smartphones, VR glasses will remain something for your own four walls.
AR and VR are not a dichotomy
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel takes a similar stance against Meta. The term metaverse, which Spiegel aptly describes as “ambiguous and ‘hypothetical’,” is never mentioned in the Snap offices.
“One of the great general concepts that people [vom Metaverse] have is that many of these tools are designed to replace reality. On our end, we try to expand the real world around us,” Spiegel recently told the Guardian.
It’s understandable that Niantic and Snap emphasize the strengths of augmented reality. Both companies develop AR products: Niantic landed a billion-dollar hit with the AR game Pokémon Go, and Snap made face filters a cultural phenomenon. But pitting AR against VR is unproductive for the industry and a bit hypocritical.
The future lies beyond virtual reality and augmented reality
Technologically, VR and AR are siblings. They have more similarities than differences.
At Milgram, VR and AR occupy different positions of the same mixed reality continuum. Apart from that, so-called virtual reality is not as virtual as commonly assumed and is rooted in its own way in physical reality (keyword: VR fitness). Technology is what you make of it.
In the future, hopefully, we won’t talk about VR and AR glasses anymore because the devices can do both. VR and AR will then only be modes of representation of the same global medium, each with its own strengths and applications, no worse than the other and free of stigma.
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