What are Augmented and Mixed Reality?
You have likely heard of virtual and augmented reality but I bet a lot of you are not too familiar with their cousin, mixed reality, also called hybrid reality. It is considered a subset of augmented reality. The difference? Mixed reality gives its users the ability to interact with digitally generated objects. Let me explain. The excitement and potential for augmented reality applications has seen an unwavering amount of support, often more than VR amongst enterprises. Augmented reality does not transport a user to a different reality but rather leverages the reality that we currently see and interact with. In its most simplistic terms, I cannot see my own hands in VR but I can in AR. Today, AR exists in our everyday lives, even if we do not recognize it as AR. The rise of Pokémon Go is an extreme example of user adoption to AR, leveraging the mobile age we currently live in. You can see just how crazy people were about Pokemon Go in this prank video.
Apps like Snapchat and Google now also offer free AR experiences. Snapchat allows its users to select through a set of “filters” that can change the features of one’s own face, body and surrounding so much so that their reality can be unrecognizable to the one truly around them. Google, through its translation app, allows its users to translate street signs into their native language, a great use of AR.
The caveat of mixed reality is that the user can actually touch and interact with the augmented objects. Words do not do MR justice, so here is a clip from a new MR product that Microsoft is launching, the Hololens, that also highlights the business applications of this technology.
Computer-generated imagery also popularly known as CGI, is the technology behind making these augmented objects look more real; it is the technology used in most special effects and video games. As CGI improves, the differences between mixed reality and true reality will begin to fade. Imagine Thanksgiving dinner in 2030, fifty of your closest relatives sit around the table laughing and swapping stories while they are all at their own homes, in different countries and states, eating their own food. Determining who is really at that table next to you and who is half way across the world may be too hard to tell from sight alone. Now imagine that scenario for other interactions. The possibilities are endless: a doctor could provide real-time analysis and advice for practitioners in the field in developing countries, military and police training could become so real that we could actually reduce racial tensions as officers would be more comfortable reacting to a situation they have seen play out in MR, or a start-up could buy MR devices that replace their employees’ need for laptops, phones and other devices, cutting cost in a competitive global workforce.
Why will your kids laugh at you?
Just as we laughed at our parents for watching black and white TV, their pagers, and ridiculously large cell phones, our kids too will laugh at us for ever having a laptop, smartphone and TV. MR replaces the need to have any physical hardware other than the device that produces MR, like a sleek headset. Mixed reality offers a bridge between our own reality and the one we often envision. Here’s what a day in the office might actually look like in just a few years from now.
People are always asking, what is the next biggest invention, as big as the internet or the smartphone? This is it. Get involved because it is coming whether you like or not. The best part about MR is that it is not industry specific, it can truly be applied to anything from fashion to the military. I can only imagine what social media will look like on MR. Imagine if the MR Snapchat I sent to you was as if you were looking through my own eyes, you could see the world that I see.
It’s clear that this technology geeks me out, so I am interested to see if any of you feel the same. Let me know what you think about mixed reality and how the future I have mapped out above sounds to you!