In doing research for another (not quite as interesting) course this fall, I had to spend some time on the Intel.com homepage. Intel, as most everyone probably knows, is famous for making the semiconductor chips and microprocessors. They were founded by Gordon Moore, known for his particularly famous “Moore’s Law” which his company has relentlessly pursued since it’s inception (Gordon Moore is also worth a cool $7 billion, but who’s counting?).
Semiconductors and microprocessors are not exactly the sexiest topics, which is why I was pretty surprised to hear a giant promo on their homepage for merged reality. Looking for any kind of distraction from my financial record research, I jumped in and watched a really cool video of the future of VR. Now, pause here. Take a minute to watch the video. I promise it’s worth a minute or two of your time and captures your imagination. Now, I didn’t know what was really happening, but now with some research want to enlighten all of us. What Intel is working on are a number of technologies (outlined below and described further in my post) to make it possible to have a VR experience where the real world doesn’t get in the way.
Virtual reality is a really cool concept that most of us have probably heard of and even experienced in some way. What virtual reality lacks however is a connection to the real world. Once you put the headset, controller, etc. on, you are interacting within the VR world and not with what is going on in the physical world. Merged reality allows users to mix these physical and VR interactions and world through “a suite of next generation sensing and digitizing technologies.” This can make virtual reality feel even more natural and make experiences that you couldn’t possible have in the real world achievable to the masses. This will allow you to walk around the pyramids in Egypt without fear of injury from physical objects. You will have the freedom to explore without worrying about running into the coffee table or accidentally swinging at a loved one with goggles over your face. All of this hinges on technology advancements that while not there, are just on the horizon per the article:
- 6 Degrees of Mobility: Sensors that allow you to interact with virtual worlds without colliding to physical things in the real world.
- Integrated Tracking: Reduces cost for building virtual reality into physical spaces by cutting down on costs for sensors.
- More Natural Manipulation: No more controllers – use your own hands!
- Go Untethered: Cut those cords so your not limited to a small range of motion.
- Digitized Real World Content: New content capture technologies allow programmers to digitize real world events such as sports, concerts, etc. This is one are where Intel is at the forefront.
These technologies have a number of business applications across different business sectors. One main industry that this could disrupt is professional and college athletics. There is already a rise in people opting to watch from the comfort of their own homes rather than deal with all the difficulties (and expenses) of going to a game in person. Imagine now that they had the option to sit wherever they want and move around whenever they want, all from the comfort of their own home. The same goes for concerts. Do I want to sit in the nosebleeds or stand on the stage next to my favorite artist? This could be a huge win for these companies, or it could dilute these special moments and drive down interest (and ticket values).
In addition, it could be a great brand extension to build brand loyalty in the real world. Brands from Starbucks to Red Bull are in the content creation game already as a way to create content that is valuable to the consumer and something they want to spend their time with. VR could offer brands a very unique way to experience a brand. Instead of Red Bull showing you the best athletes in the world conquering some of the most amazing extreme sports moment, they could give you the chance to do it yourself from your living room without the risk of injury or death.
While this really authentic merged reality technology is exciting, it’s also a little terrifying. No one wants all of their experiences to come in front of a screen versus out there in the real world. It will be interesting to see how long this takes to develop and what the adoption is like. If it’s anything like driver-less cars, it could be hear before we all know it.