Innovation & Trends

Soon Mixed Reality will change your company and your life drastically

Virtual Reality (VR) is big business. The entertainment and use potential of VR and its baby brother AR (Augmented Reality) is clear and increasingly popular. But the next big thing is likely to be Mixed Reality where the best parts of AR and VR merge to provide a total experience of reality mixed with the digital world.

 

Perhaps it’s best if we take a step back before plunging into Mixed Reality (MR). Is there any difference between VR and AR, and what does it mean? Well yes, there’s definitely a difference between them although the difference is slightly technical:

 

  • VR is digital surroundings placed onto or in front of our reality (using VR glasses). This way, we can go somewhere else and somewhere different which reminds us of reality. We may even forget that we’re at home on our couch while feeling that we’re on a beach in Bali.
  • AR places digital objects as a layer on top of our reality. Content in 2D and 3D on top of our real surroundings allows us to gather and experience extra information that are relevant to the situation that we’re in. This way, our physical world almost becomes a personal media.

Read more about AR’s effect on our businesses here

 

What is Mixed Reality?

Spatial Augmented Reality (SAR)

As if it wasn’t enough with MR, SAR is also right around the corner. This technology uses projectors that can chance physical objects’ appearance around us. This way, the fabric of a couch or the color of a chair can change without us wearing glasses or other kinds of ‘wearables’. This means we can wander “free” in a world that changes around us without having to control it ourselves. A physical world that changes virtually.

But VR and AR are about to evolve into something new and more advanced: MR. Here, our relationship with technology changes from being personal to be collaborative. Technological units goes from storing our personal content (like smartphones do) to being creative spaces mediated through technology.

The experience of Mixed Reality takes place through a display that is placed on the user’s head. The experience combines the best from the physical and the digital world where the user receives real-time images of real surroundings with a layer of intelligent virtual objects attached to it. This symbiosis enables us to make new interactions through gestures and voice with a sense of realism that is revolutionary.

 

The software behind MR is based on two core functions:

 

  • Image recognition: The technology instantly analyses an image and identify its content. It could be anything from walls to floors, tables and other objects that we interact with.
  • Simultaneous orientation and mapping: The technology identifies where the user is and maps the surroundings with precision – and at the same time. This requires a certain type of artificial intelligence (AI) where the computer learns and develop new information all the time. Virtual objects can interact with reality and with each other with a persuading degree of realism.

 

For instance, if we look at a manufacturing company, they may use AR as a pair of glasses that offers a constantly accessible manual for employees when using company machines. Genius! However, MR takes it a step further. Here, the same pair of glasses (or display) will be able to recognize the surroundings and the situation and automatically suggest relevant experts, systems or actions that are necessary to fulfil the task.

 

This is where Mixed Reality affects companies

Digitalization- and technology experts at Accenture Lab predicts that especially consumer products, energy and the welfare industry will be first to implement Mixed Reality. They have identified the following three areas in our jobs that are particularly worth keeping an eye on in the nearest future:

 

  • Functionalities that focus on needs. When companies introduced smartphones, tablets etc. to our workspaces employees were able to get faster and easier access to shared information. MR takes a step further and presents employees with information in a physical space. Information will be designed to fit surroundings and context and thus be as relevant and accessible to the user as possible.
  • Sharing real virtual workspaces. New collaboration options will emerge with MR because it’s possible to connect a team in a virtually shared world on top of the physical one. Here, the team is able to collaborate on the virtual objects that are attached to a shared reality.
  • Experts on the distance. With MR it gets easier for companies to address the need of support, coaching and guidance of employees. The technology can connect the employee with the expert in no time and with minimal cost. For instance, an employee on an oil platform can stream what he sees to an expert who is then able to process the information in 3D and return his instructions in real-time.

 

MR is likely to change our professional lives considerably. Both big and small tasks will get easier, faster and smarter. But what about the timeline, when can we expect business have to adjust to Mixed Reality?

 

The first MR products are right around the corner

Alex Kipman, who has been the main developer of more than 100 of Microsoft’s new patents the past 16 years, mentions in an interview with FastCompany that Microsoft sees MR as the key to the future.

 

Kipman points out that VR and AR technology has long been in a price range that has made it difficult to convince private consumers about the technology. For instance, smart glasses has been more of an impressive evidence of what we are able to develop than a product that will change our lives.

The same thing probably goes for MR; integrating the technology in our everyday lives may be a long process unless the hardware and the software is made affordable for private consumers.

 

That’s why, during 2018, Microsoft will launch their new Windows Mixed Reality Headsets that unites the experience of AR and VR within a price range of $300 to $500. With those, users are able to create a 3D space which they can personalize through media, apps, internet browser etc. It’s their own digital universe where they can interact with their own ideas directly.

 


The magazine The Next Web prophesizes that when MR is accessible as small units at a reasonable price, such as Microsoft’s Reality Headset, the technology will soon replace our current platforms. This goes for TV, laptop, tablets etc. whose content will be accessible on MR units. This development will especially be driven by the 5G network which is very close.

The technology will change our communication fundamentally because MR makes it possible to be different places and still feel like being next to each other at the same time. Teaching and learning will also be far more efficient and advanced since incredible amounts of information can be presented vividly, and the entertainment industry can accelerate almost limitlessly in their development of realistic user experience for games, movies and sports, for instance