Driving Immersive Experiences
From a tech perspective, most of the focus around AR and VR has been on the visual experience, and rightly so. After all, with virtual reality products, an entirely new digital world is created that completely encompasses your field of view. Whether playing a game, watching a 360˚ movie, walking through a 3D model of a building, travelling through the universe, or any number of other immersive experiences, VR headsets and related products are designed to create the illusion that you’re in an utterly new world.
On the augmented reality side, the idea is to overlay digital information and other content onto a real-world camera view. Popular mobile gaming apps were the first experience that many people had with AR, but the technology continues to evolve and improve and products that overlay space battles and first-person combat hint at the shape of things to come.
Higher Resolution for VR/AR Digital Display
As critical as the visual components and technologies that enable VR and AR may be, however, there’s an equally critical role for storage and computing to make these experiences possible. For starters, to create realistic 3D visual experiences with VR and AR you need to produce a pair of extremely high-resolution image streams (one for each eye) at a very rapid rate. Because the displays for many VR and AR products are so close to our eyes, people are much more sensitive to things like the “screen door” effect, where you can see individual pixels. People are also more cognizant of image quality and any potential glitches in the video or 3D-rendered display stream used in various VR and AR applications. As a result, for both dedicated devices and even those that use a smartphone, there are demands for optimal display resolutions and capabilities that go far beyond what’s necessary when viewing a smartphone at a normal distance.
Faster Speeds for Real Time VR/AR Experiences
In order to produce these types of complex images, and the millions of pixels that make them up, at the necessary frame rates, you need extremely powerful computing elements and a very fast and reliable storage architecture. Many VR and AR applications use sophisticated 3D models, stream 4K-quality video and make very dynamic changes to the displays in real time, all at levels of detail and complexity that have never been required before by mainstream applications. That’s a big part of what makes VR and AR so exciting, and so challenging, from a technical perspective. These visual processing demands require things like fast graphic processors (GPUs), in addition to fast regular processors (CPUs), and fast memory and storage components that can keep up with the taxing compute requirements for VR and AR. A key part of this is flash storage, which is the only kind of storage architecture that can offer the speed and physical size necessary for these devices.
Compute and Storage to Power Reality Experiences
In fact, with VR and AR the technical requirements go well beyond just being a nice feature to have. Because of the immersive nature of these experiences, if you don’t have enough computing and storage horsepower to drive a high-quality experience, people can actually start to feel ill when using these products. As you’ve undoubtedly seen (or even experienced), many early VR and AR products made some people feel queasy after using them. The reason? The technology in those products simply wasn’t fast enough to meet the extremely high requirements that a good VR or AR experience demands—especially when you incorporate the need to react to how you move around in real time. Thankfully, as the technology has improved—across display resolutions, computing architectures and storage speed—these issues have started to go away, but they dramatically highlight how important the right technology can be in delivering a high-quality experience (or not!).