How are AR and VR Changing Mobile Gaming?

by Tim | Jun 22, 2021

How are AR and VR Changing Mobile Gaming?

Whether you love to play online casino games such as online blackjack or online roulette, first-person shooting games like Halo or even casual titles such as Animal Crossing, new technology helps bring a unique twist to the gaming experience. Let’s find out how two types of technology, augmented and virtual reality, are changing the way people play mobile games.

What is augmented and virtual reality?

Before we dive into how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have changed mobile gaming, there might be some readers who are wondering what these technologies are.


What is AR?

Augmented reality is a technology that allows you to overlay information or images generated by a computing device onto a person’s real, live view of the world. This can be achieved with mobile phones and tablets by holding the phone in front of you, so you see the real world combined with digital imagery through the device’s screen. 

You can also experience augmented reality with wearable devices such as smart glasses, also known as AR glasses. These digitally enhanced spectacles display information and imagery on the inside of the lenses, creating a similar result to mobile phones and tablets on a much smaller scale.

While some of us may already be familiar with AR, thanks to mobile devices, the history of the technology goes back further than you might think. According to the Harvard Business Review article, “The mainstreaming of augmented reality: a brief history“, the first AR device (a head-mounted display system) was actually developed all the way back in 1968 by US computer scientist Ivan Sutherland. Since then, AR has been used in different ways by the military, research, and commercial industries long before the first app was made available for mobile devices in 2008.

What is VR?

A young woman wearing a VR headset stands in a hi-tech virtual location.

Some of us may be familiar with virtual reality thanks to movies such as Ready Player One and The Matrix, or through gaming, but for those who have yet to experience it, VR ditches the real world entirely for a completely digital experience. VR users put on a headset equipped with mini-monitors and sound to enter a completely new digital space, which they can move around in and interact with. 

While VR does offer 360 degrees of movement in three dimensions, you are still limited by your physical environment. Even for mobile VR units, which allow you to enjoy a completely untethered experience, in most VR experiences, you’ll still be moving around in the real world – so if you aren’t careful, it’s easy to bump into walls and other objects, or even people! Developers are working hard on a solution, but it may still be some time before devices (such as VR treadmills) truly make it into the mainstream.

VR as a concept may be more familiar to many of us than AR thanks to cinema, but did you know that the technology has actually been in existence since the 1950s? The first VR device was the Sensorama and was invented by cinematographer Morton Heilig. Since then, many researchers and developers have worked on trying to bring the VR experience to the consumer (for example, the Virtual Boy, which was released way back in 1995). 

However, it wasn’t until the Oculus Rift was launched in 2016 at a price of $599 (approximately £425, by today’s exchange rate) that VR truly entered the mainstream. Since then many technology companies, including Samsung, Microsoft, and HTC, have entered the VR space, bringing even more VR devices to the consumer marketplace, at even more affordable prices.   

How are these technologies changing mobile gaming?

Now that we fully understand what these technologies are, what has their impact on mobile gaming been? Let’s take a look at two major ways AR and VR have influenced gaming on the go.

1. VR gaming has liberated mobile gaming

When the Oculus Rift first came out, it was a given that you required a high-end gaming computer to run the device, as an incredible amount of graphics power was required to create a smooth experience that eliminated side effects such as motion sickness. 

However, since then, mobile gaming technology has improved leaps and bounds, allowing developers to create VR headsets that are completely untethered from any other device. This means the VR experience can go totally mobile!

The Oculus Quest 2 is one such device that offers a “completely wireless” experience (although you can still connect the device to a computer for even higher graphical fidelity). Part of this liberation from wires and cables is thanks to mobile technology developer Qualcomm and its Snapdragon XR2 chipset, which provides the graphical power necessary to run the device without a computer. 

However, one cannot forget that a wireless VR headset still needs electrical power, which is provided by a 3,640mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery – similar to the one that you would find in gaming smartphones and other mobile devices.  

Thanks to these developments, we can say that VR has truly arrived in mobile gaming – as you can put on your Oculus Quest 2 and use it anywhere you like (although we wouldn’t recommend that).

2. There are more AR-focused games

A young man smiles while playing an AR game.

When it comes to AR gaming and smartphones, it’s impossible not to mention the phenomenal success of Pokémon GO. This AR-enabled mobile game saw players navigating the real world as they searched for valuable Pokémon to capture and other players to battle; it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. 

This AR game broke numerous mobile gaming records, as described by the 2018 article from Forbes, “Why Pokémon GO is the world’s most important game.” This piece highlighted how the game had been downloaded more than 800 million times and generated almost $2 billion at the time (almost £1.5 billion), which is unsurprising to most people, as you often saw mobs of players descending upon specific areas in the hope of catching ultra-rare Pokémon!

While no AR game has quite reached the levels of popularity of Pokémon GO, there’s no doubt this technology has paved the way for a new type of game, with many developers hoping to capture the same spark that saw Pokemon GO make its mark in the history books. Today there are dozens of new AR games out there, including titles like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Jurassic World Alive, and Transformers: Heavy Metal (which will be released later in 2021).

As more AR-enabled devices become available, and as they become more powerful, we may see a time soon when AR glasses or other new mobile devices allow for a whole new generation of AR games that truly blend the real and the digital worlds. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

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