Augmented Reality, or AR, is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

Virtual Reality, or VR, is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a
real environment.

AR and VR both came into their own last year. The likes of HTC and Oculus have been working on consumer VR products for several years, but it was Sony that pushed the envelope when they introduced the PlayStation VR, a companion product for their PlayStation 4 line of gaming consoles. On the AR front, it was the phenomenal success of Pokémon Go that put the technology on everyone’s lips.

While beyond prototype phase both these technologies are still in the early days of becoming household staples, much like the Television and the Computer before them.

Why it matters
AR and VR represent a next step, or evolution, in the way we interact with others and the world around us. Mobile phones allowed us to have always-on communications, and smartphones brought us the internet in the palm of our hands. AR will change the way we shop for anything from food to furniture, even how we consume information in the real world, while VR will allow us to immerse ourselves in a virtual world so realistic in its presentation that we might not have to, or even want to, leave our homes.

Sony already launched their PlayStation VR product and has proven that VR can be a commercial success. As the technology matures we can expect better looking, more immersive VR experiences while enjoying lower costs.

Microsoft has developed an AR platform called HoloLens which is set to launch to consumers this year through their hardware partners. It offers an AR or mixed reality environment where information is displayed as an overlay in your field of view without the complete immersion of VR.

Apple introduced ARKit, their AR framework with IOS 11. Considering that last year there were 1-billion IOS devices in active use this has the potential to put AR in the palm of most people. This is important because it removes the need for specific apps to experience AR.

Jaguar Land Rover
Jaguar Land Rover is experimenting with AR technology that would see the entire windscreen of your car display information. From pedestrian and hazard detection to navigation data, this would allow drivers to keep their eyes on the road by eliminating the need to look at various data sources throughout the cabin.