Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are two of the biggest technology trends shaking up industries around the world. While it is easy to write these off as gimmicks, people are already using basic forms of the technology in their daily lives – from smart filters on their favourite social media apps to virtual backgrounds in WFR video calls.
Some of the most impressive use cases of AR and VR have actually been in the latest translation tools, particularly some interesting augmented reality translation apps that turn your phone into a portable translation device. However, both of these technologies are still in their infancy and there is a huge amount of space for AR and VR to mature.
What’s the difference between AR & VR?
Before we look at specific examples of AR & VR translation tools, let’s quickly clarify the difference between these two technologies, as they are closely related and very similar – albeit with important differences.
- Augmented reality (AR) adds digital elements to a view of the real world through screens and one of the most famous examples of this would be the Pokemon Go mobile game.
- Virtual reality (VR) removes the visual world around you and immerses you in an entirely different environment that you can engage with – more along the lines of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Google Cardboard.
So, really, the key difference is that AR adds things to the real world around us, whereas VR takes us to an entirely virtual environment – and this applies to translation tools built around the two technologies, as well.
Examples of AR translation tools
The most famous examples of AR translation is probably a Google Translate feature that translates text for you through the camera of your phone. However, Google isn’t the only player in town and rivals such as Translate Now not only translate real-world text, but also real-world objects – all you have to do is tap on the screen.
Of course, these apps don’t always work as smoothly as the promo videos suggest but they give you a good idea of the things already made possible by AR translation. As for virtual reality translation tools, well, there are not so many working examples of true VR translation apps, but we might not have to wait much longer.
The future of VR translation
Since Facebook bought Oculus in 2014, the social giant has had a key stake in the development of this technology. Now, Facebook is pushing the VR social experience with an entirely new platform called Horizon that could allow people from all over the world to engage in a virtual reality setting.
Whether Facebook Horizon takes off or not, these are the kind of environments where VR translation will come into play. How long it takes for true VR worlds to catch on remains to be seen, but the coronavirus outbreak could give the technology a serious push towards wider adoption.
For example, casinos around the world have had to shut their doors at times this year and the most sustainable solution for the industry could be creating VR experiences that are translated for audiences around the world, allowing people from different language backgrounds to interact in a similar way to real-world casinos.
A similar solution could allow international students to take courses at overseas universities in a digital, translated environment without travelling halfway around the world. At the same time, we have seen theatres and music event organisers turn to AR as a means of enriching online experiences while mass gatherings at live performances remain unviable.
Hopefully, the pandemic is not going to be an issue for long enough to be a major driving force behind AR and VR translation, but there are plenty of other reasons to push the technologies – namely the environmental impact of travelling when it is not absolutely necessary.
Covid-19 has proven that we already have the tools to conduct things like international business meetings online and AR or VR translation experiences will only enhance such events even further. While theatres and other physical locations that normally rely on full houses may find economic stability through translated experiences they can broadcast around the world.