Augmented Reality: The Good and the Bad

Author: Brianna Hang

Editors: Shannon Tan and Liane Xu

Artist: Doris Tan

Caught in the whirlwind of technological advancements, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality are just two of many new ways that allow us to experience a whole new world of possibilities! AR creates an interactive experience by enhancing reality with perceptual computer-generated sensors that include visual, auditory, and touch. On the other hand, virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation that mimics the experience of reality often through the use of headsets for a full immersion. Taking a closer look at AR, scientists are looking at the advantages and disadvantages of an enhanced reality, that will bring a change towards education, medicine, and tourism.

AR increases the user’s knowledge and experience of a situation without having to undergo that situation firsthand. For example, medical students can recreate a surgery in a controlled environment as they can see the patient’s health stats during the procedure. X-rays and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans in a 2-dimensional format can be on display for students to refer to. Simple blood extractions for testing can be transformed with AR with a scanner called AccuVein. When the scanner is held above the skin, hemoglobin absorbs infrared light and veins appear more clearly for the doctor to collect the blood sample or insert an IV tube. In addition to improving education, students can interact with their curriculum by scanning their textbooks, flashcards, and notes and uploading them into an app where they can explore a simulation or event. AR apps can provide a realistic experience in an instant at the comfort of one’s home, which is of especially great benefit to students not able to access necessary resources. An example of an AR app is the “IKEA Place” where users can drag-and-drop IKEA products into their homes for viewing purposes by turning on the camera and swiping their fingers. This is beneficial for consumers who can’t decide what piece of furniture or paintings would look nice in their living rooms, as well as for those who are deciding to move into a new home. Additionally, AR can enhance exploration and tourism through navigation systems such as GPS or Google Maps that allow the user to see the directions on display with an arrow that tracks the device or automobile without having to look at a physical map. People can view notifications and extra information about significant landmarks and sites through a virtual tour that piques their interest, so more people are willing to experience new adventures in the future as well as learn about new cultures. But what are the downsides of AR?

The disadvantages of AR include the expensive costs, addiction, and security concerns. The cost of building an AR app can range from $500 to $2000, depending on the complexity of the program and the hourly rate of the development team. Not everyone has accessibility, especially small businesses that want to advertise and market their products to consumers. Also, the usage of AR apps can cause accidents because people who use them become less vigilant about their surrounding environment when their eyes are glued to their screens. Pokemon GO is an AR game that allows players to capture virtual creatures by aiming the camera feature to a specific site and swiping up to collect them. According to the National Institute of Health, around 31.5% of people reported that they were likely or very likely to pay more attention to Pokemon GO than their surroundings while walking, and 43.4% reported that they were likely to play the game while riding a bicycle, hoverboard, etc. Too much immersion could lead to more injuries because the computer-generated simulations can create a sense of dissociation from the real world. It provides escapism from problems and stress; however, the lack of human connections can drive an individual into isolation where one sees the blurred lines between virtual and reality. Considering the security concerns, AR requires analyzing data and collecting personal information that can impact the user’s privacy. Information can be shared with third-party companies such as statistics on a user’s geographic location, schedule, and interactions with the system. Most of this is used as a marketing tool, but like any other technology, it can be susceptible to malicious malware or exploitation of private information. It is less likely to happen considering most AR apps already establish effective security installments, but AR can still be improved upon for the future.

Overall, AR creates a hybrid reality in which dreams may come true. Despite setbacks, people are still able to enjoy the opportunities and experiences that AR provides through a simple swipe of a finger. As the world continues to lean toward technology, researchers are making progress in enhancing our daily lives through simulations that stimulate our senses and perception of the environment around us. A magical illusion that creates a wonderland ready to be explored through the looking glass of our mobiles and innovations!

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