Who hasn’t heard of Pokémon GO? Since its launch in 2016, the mobile augmented reality (AR) game has exploded in popularity worldwide. More importantly, it has been attributed to being the single global social phenomenon that catapulted the concept of AR and virtual reality (VR) into mainstream attention. Recent strides in semiconductor technology has brought amazing processing horsepower into our lives and has been one of the most instrumental contributors toward delivering unique multi-sensory gaming experiences.
But are AR and VR only good for gaming? What we see so far is just the tip of the iceberg. These up and coming technologies hold much promise in improving the way we live, especially in a region as culturally, geographically, and economically diverse as Asia Pacific. Here, we take a look at three application areas that can greatly benefit from AR and VR.
Asia Pacific has some of the world’s most diverse and rugged physical landscapes, from rainforests and mountain ranges to steppes and archipelagos. This can pose a challenge for rescue agencies when conducting emergency, disaster recovery, and search and rescue missions. Here is where AR can provide the added dimension that makes the difference.
AR applications are being developed that provide map overlays of prominent landmarks and topographic reliefs – improving geographic awareness and enabling rescue teams to better navigate difficult terrains. VR is also growing in popularity for rescue training, thanks to its ability to simulate specific situations. This empowers rescue agencies to sharpen their skills and helps them save more lives.
The Asia Pacific region is not just diverse physically, but also culturally and linguistically. In fact, the area has exploded to become the world’s largest regional travel market, boasting an estimated 200 million outbound trips in 2016. We can only imagine how the Japanese tourist struggles to find his or her way around the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur.
One solution comes from Google, which tapped its Google Translate features and came up with an AR app that instantly translates printed text in 27 languages and can be used to help order food in restaurants and explore the city like a local. But overcoming the language barrier is only the beginning. We are seeing more and more tools appearing like AR tourism apps that offer an interactive, real-time guide to enhance the travel experience. Who knows – the next time we visit Angkor Wat, we might be able to use AR technology to visualize the cities hidden beneath the jungle.
It is heartening to see the quality of education in Asia Pacific improving by leaps and bounds, and countries such as Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan have been leading education rankings. It is no coincidence that these nations have been aggressively integrating technology into classrooms.
Thanks to VR, primary school students in Singapore are able to embark on virtual field trips. For example, these can let them explore the ways farmers are using high-tech machines in offshore fish farms and better understand the local agriculture sector, despite the high urban population and limited land at home. We can also expect VR to be utilized in medical schools in Asia Pacific the way some U.S. universities have. One such project – UCLA’s VR Motion Capture laboratory – is being used by neuroscientists to understand how the brain encodes and retrieves memories in new environments.
None of these futuristic applications would be possible without continuous innovation in the “brains” of every smart device—the microprocessor, built on semiconductors. Developments are always ongoing to make these as small as possible without compromising performance, especially as smart devices become more ubiquitous. As we look ahead to the next innovations in AR and VR, it’s worth keeping in mind that sometimes the smallest things can power the biggest changes.
Editorial Note: The use of any company, product, or trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by Lam Research Corp. or its subsidiaries.