Virtual reality or augmented reality?

Virtual reality or augmented reality?

Battle for virtual reality (or augmented reality) business is coming: while Oculus Rift, recently bought by Facebook for 2 billion dollars, wants to build a virtual reality Mmo community of a million players that would be the greatest of history, SocialRadar bets on Google Glass to ramp up its mobile “find your friends” app so far only available for iOS, i.e. for iPhone and iPad.

Two announcements that have brought the field of virtual reality and/or augmented reality at the center of media attention, which had not happened since the days of Second Life media hype.

Announcements regarding virtual and augmented reality

Brendan Iribe Oculus RiftThe most ambitious project, at least as numbers, is that of Oculus Rift: last May 5 speaking at Disrupt New York 2014 organized by TechCrunch, Oculus co-founder and Ceo, Brendan Iribe, “veteran” (born in 1979) of the game industry as he has been in the Firaxis development team which worked on the user interface of Civilitation IV, then has been co-founder and Ceo of Scaleform (the leading global provider of technological interfaces for video games, acquired by Autodesk in 2011) and at last Chief product officer of Gaikai (another success company, bought by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2012), announced that Oculus and Facebook will create a massive multi-player virtual online community (Mmo) by a billion players.

So far in the time of the peak of active users in 2010, World of Warcraft, the Activision Blizzard‘s Mmo, had reached 12 million users, while Second Life, Linden Lab‘s virtual world, exceeded 37.6 million registered users and (in June 2013) claimed to have 1 million active users on a monthly basis. Facebook claimed at the end of March 1.28 billion registered users (of which 802 million active users on a monthly basis).

So far the number are much smaller

How will Oculus Rift be able to see its device adopted from all FB active users over the next few years if so far not been able to sell more than 85 thousand (and if Sony itself since the start in November 2013 sold “just” 7,4 million Play Station 4 consoles, though the best selling console of all time, the PS2, has reached 840 millions) is not clear, but what is clear is that the prospect of a “super” Second Life strengthened and made “virtually real” devices such as those of many Oculus Rift scares many.

This is also why the path followed by Google with its Glasses is different, based not on immersive virtual worlds but on augmented reality, enabling people not so much to visit distant places and fantastic live lives without leaving your room, butby extending their capabilities a bit as mobile phones or tablets did.

A different approach by SocialRadar

So an app developer for tablets and smartphones as SocialRadar, Us startup founded and lead by Michael Chasen (ex Kpmg consultant, past founder and Ceo of Blackboard, sold in 2011 to Providence Equity Partner for 1.64 billion dollars) and Kevin Alansky (a manager who led the Social Marketing team of Blackboard after several previous marketing experiences) which collected 12.75 million dollars in June 2013, after launching at the end of January, its mobile app for iOS has granted a replay announcing the Google Glasses release.

But what does SocialRadar do? If you are Second Life users it will seem like a very natural thing: it uses a stream of data taken from the main social networks (like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin and Foursquare) to provide a real-time update of the geolocation of people close to those who are wearing the Google Glasses.

How to say before going into an office (or a club) you already know how many people are present and who: if colleagues, friends or strangers, with their generality or an onymously, because of course there is the possibility that users will not agree to disclose their informations to the app in whole or in part.

The difference compared to other apps is that everything will be done in real time and will be visible on the lenses of your glasses, provided that users agree to access to their informations and that the business is standing, because so far even though we are talking about 19 ​​million of “weareble” devices which will be sold in the Us this year (but according to estimates sales would have expected to rise to nearly 112 million units per year by 2018).

Google Glasses, btw, are not exactly a “fashionable” accessory: estimates speak of sales for now lower than 10 thousand items per month, more than the Oculus Rift viewers but still a smaller niche of the “old” Second Life (that still records 10-12 thousand new registered users per day, or over 400,000 new registered users per month, despite repeated statements of “presumed death” from the media).

But what do you think: will it be more interesting a immersive virtual reality available for a billion people from home, a little like the anime Sword Art Online broadcast in recent weeks in Italy by Rai4, or an augmented reality in which instead of the cell phone we can send and receive informations at a glance, as it promises SocialRadar?

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