In the past five years, reality technology has taken a huge leap forward with rapid developments in virtual reality and augmented reality. While VR creates an immersive simulated environment for the user, AR overlays basic digital content over the physical real world. Both VR and AR, though promising, have their own limitations when it comes to the amount of fluidity in interactions that they allow. Now all of those limitations are set to disappear with the advent of mixed reality (MR). The most advanced concept so far in reality technology, mixed reality is a unique hybrid of AR and VR that allows realistic interactions with virtual objects. MR technology basically maps the user’s real world environment to position digital content like holograms. This dissolves the barriers between the physical and virtual world to allow realistic & seamless interaction with holographic simulations using glances and gestures. Still in a nascent, evolutionary stage, MR technology is likely to get a boost in the coming years and open the doorway to pioneering applications in various fields.
MR Platforms and devices
As with all technologies, the future of MR applications is largely dependent on tech support, platforms and devices. At the heart of all MR development is a massive shift in conventional user interfaces. MR technology would replace static displays and inputs with a more natural, intuitive interface based on real-world actions like gestures.
So far, Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality has been the major platform for developing MR based applications. In 2016, Microsoft came out with the Hololens, a standalone, wearable device that uses high-definition lenses and spatial sound technology to let users interact with virtual holograms in real world environments. One of the biggest barriers to the development of MR applications has been the prohibitive cost of the Hololens. Unlike VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift which are peripheral devices that can be plugged into computers, the Hololens is actually a holographic computer by itself. This naturally increases the cost of the device. However, that hurdle is likely to be transcended soon – Microsoft is in the process of developing a range of Windows Mixed Reality headsets that can be tethered to PCs. MR devices for Acer and HP are slated to make their debut this year. Also on the cards for 2017 are affordable headsets for Dell and Lenovo. We might also see an Asus MR device in 2018.
If these releases go as planned, they are likely to fuel widespread adoption of MR technology, paving the way for ground-breaking applications across various sectors.
Trends and future applications in mixed reality
As an emerging technology, mixed reality opens up a realm of possibilities for usage. The current scenario reveals a number of potential applications for MR, some of them consumer-based, such as theme parks and entertainment applications. However, future mixed reality solutions are likely to be focussed on enterprise-centric applications across various sectors.
Engineering and construction
MR-based applications in the engineering, infrastructure and construction would allow multi-national teams to effectively coordinate on projects no matter where they are. Design teams will be able to view and manipulate design prototypes as well as evaluate structural and mechanical issues. Architects, realtors and allied consultants will able to visit construction sites at any time and collaborate on projects.
Marketing, advertising and customer service
Mixed reality can potentially bring a whole new spin to marketing and advertising. Holograms could become the new trend in product packaging, allowing businesses to engage with their target consumers with customized digital content. Holographic visuals will replace 2 dimensional marketing aids to attract new customers like never before. MR technology could allow consumers to share space and interact with holographic product representatives, bringing a new level of efficiency to customer service.
Medicine and Healthcare
One of the areas that could see huge breakthroughs using MR technology is the field of medicine. Holographic representations of vital organs can pave the way for safe and precise surgeries. Medical students can also benefit from realistic training scenarios and learn to evaluate potential symptoms and even perform complex medical routines.
With its limitless potential for applications, mixed reality is poised to fundamentally change the way we interact with the world.
A Bangalore-based company with extensive experience working with the latest in reality technologies, Juego Studios has developed a number of VR and AR applications for industries across various sectors.