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AR is Going to Change Everything for Creativity

We have had good and reliable Virtual Reality equipment for some years now and each iteration has gone not only progressively technically better, but also relatively cheaper as the hardware and components become more commonplace. However, there is a growing interest in VR’s cousin – Augmented Reality (AR) – which has recently been boosted by the release of the Apple Vision Pro headset.

Regarded as a different standpoint of virtual reality, augmented reality is an interactive experience that mixes the real world with computer-generated content rather than simulating a completely artificial environment. The content may encompass a wide variety of sensory modalities, such as the visual, the aural, the haptic, the somatosensory, and the olfactory. The information that is superimposed on top of the natural environment might be beneficial by adding new aspects to the natural environment, or it can be detrimental by hiding elements of the natural environment.  This experience is so expertly integrated into the fabric of the real world that it gives the impression of being an immersive component of the setting in which it is taking place. In this sense, augmented reality modifies one’s continuing view of an environment that exists in the real world, whereas virtual reality totally replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one.  

So, while VR replaces the world of the user, AR enhances it, and in this sense, it is seen as being far more important when it comes to creative exercises. The sheer fact that AR is able to be overlaid on the real world leads to the potential for users to push their creativity far beyond what they may be able to achieve under normal circumstances. Imagine being able to play the piano or a guitar because the headset is showing you exactly where to place your fingers, or follow a background to create exquisite works of painted or drawn art. AR has the potential to let you do both of those, and much more besides. The fact that AR is able to overlay anything imaginable becomes a huge bonus. While virtual reality can expose us to unfamiliar environments and circumstances that we wouldn’t typically encounter in real life, augmented reality has the distinct advantage of bridging real-world experiences with digital ones while also encouraging users to use their imagination and creativity. It is simpler to lead the user to new levels of creativity because the user can see their hands through the superimposed content. This fact alone makes AR far more usable as an instructive instrument than VR ever can.

And now we have the potential for a commercially-available AR headset that will live up to the promise too. Apple’s Vision Pro equipment is of a sufficiently high specification to make the AR dream a reality. We are used to being able to carry out AR functions on our mobile phones, but this is always a somewhat stunted experience since, generally, we are unable to use our hands while viewing through the phone screen (since it usually becomes necessary to hold the phone at the same time) so phone driven AR usually comprises figures and content superimposed on the real world, but much less interaction with that content.

However, once AR is placed inside a wearable headset, the user has their hands free and things can really get interesting. With free hands and AR content placed on real features, suddenly it becomes easy to highlight which combination of piano keys need to be pressed at which point in a Bach Fugue, or where to place fingers to get the right note on a guitar fretboard. Everyone is suddenly an expert player.

And there are a growing number of AR-orientated devices available on the market. Of course, there is the new Apple Vision Pro, but there is also the Google Glass Enterprise 2, the Lenovo ThinkReality A3, and the Microsoft HoloLens. Admittedly, all of these are currently aimed at commercial users and have a price tag to match, but they are technology provers and are likely to form the basis of more commercially viable products.  

By superimposing computer-generated content onto the real world, augmented reality can produce fully convincing illusions of presence. Students will be able to better understand complex concepts and have more fun learning as they manipulate 3D models and take part in immersive simulations. Students will be able to keep their feet firmly planted in the actual world while simultaneously becoming fully immersed in augmented reality. Being able to switch back and forth between our regular world and an enhanced one, where we can study and practice until our hearts’ content.

Although there are currently seemingly insurmountable obstacles to bringing AR to the masses, it looks like it will all be worthwhile in the end. There is little doubt that the size and cost of this technology will decrease with time, and that these digital tools will eventually become indispensable additions to not only our creative capacities but also our regular lives. In the not-too-distant future, everyone will have unparalleled freedom to learn and create, and they will be able to share their vision and personal experiences with others in a way that is impossible now. 

Keep checking back as we bring you all of the latest news with AR, VR, and everything in between.