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:
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:
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.
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:
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?
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