Mixed Reality: The Next Big Mobile Trend

Mixed Reality

Reality Today

What do people today think of as reality? Reality is defined as the quality or state of being actual or true, or that which exists objectively and in fact. In today’s world, we have virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. So, what’s the difference between them?

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a digital environment without the real world. It is able to bring the user someplace else with the use of goggles or a closed visor. The room is closed off to the user and their presence is elsewhere.

Virtual reality allows the user to do things like:

  • Ride a roller-coaster
  • Play video games
  • Fly a plane
  • Hang with friends in a virtual world

Virtual reality is related to mixed reality in that it is a gateway for more advanced technology that will be used in mixed reality.

Augmented Reality

An artificial environment created through the combination of real-world and computer-generated data is Augmented Reality.

Augmented reality works by adding 2D and 3D layered content (virtual world) on top of the physical world you see around you, turning it into digital media. Some things you can do with augmented reality are:

  • Connect to websites
  • Watch videos
  • Listen to music
  • Play games

Most augmented reality is currently used on mobile devices and integrated into apps. An example of this is Ingress a location-based, augmented reality mobile game developed by Niantic, a company spun off from Google. Mixed reality, also a form of augmented reality, has a higher degree of complexity and is much more realistic.

Mixed Reality—the next big shift

A hybrid of both virtual reality and augmented reality, mixed reality(MR) is where virtual objects are integrated into the real world. There are two kinds of mixed reality:

  1. Heads up Display (HUD):

This kind of MR places computer generated words into your field of view without attaching them to a physical object. Examples of this are things like Google glasses, fighter jet displays, and next generation car displays.

  1. Object or Surface Aware AR:

Any MR where text or computer generated objects appear to attach or interact with physical objects. Examples of this are Sphero’s BB8 robot smartphone app (see video), Magic Leap, and HoloLens.

Courtesy of YouTube

How it Works

Mixed reality scans your physical environment and creates a 3D map of your surroundings so the device will know exactly where and how to place the digital content into that space realistically while allowing you to interact with it using gestures.

What can Mixed Reality Do?

With a whole new canvas to play, learn and interact on, there will be a new world of games, interaction apps, and experiences. Mixed reality can and will be used for many things such as:

Communication:

Holoportation will allow people to communicate anywhere in the world in real time 3D with remote participants.

Education:

Pearson is developing and piloting mixed reality content for use in K-12 and higher education. Partnering with Microsoft using the HoloLens they envision online tutoring and coaching, nursing education, engineering education, and construction education.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and San Diego State University have been piloting Pearson’s mixed reality content for nursing education. Check out the link for more information.

Photo by MICROSOFT
CWRU medical student Satyam Ghodasara wears the HoloLens to examine multiple bodies.

Entertainment:

Everyone enjoys entertainment on one level or another whether it is games, television, music, movies, or sports. Microsoft HoloLens is taking the next step with their product and talking with the NFL to change the way fans interact with the players and the real-time game experience. There will be a new toy for game day for sure!

Ditching your tablets for the HoloLens means big business for brands as well. Users will expect mixed reality in the brands. Products and objects will become next-gen websites filled with 3D content that users can touch, hold, speak to, and learn from. This will give brands the ability to learn from consumers like never before. This will impact sales and brand loyalties at rates never seen before. Everything can now become a media channel and any creative concept can become a “reality.”

 

What’s Affordable?

The HoloLens is quite pricey at $3000 and no word yet on the Magic Leap. Are there more affordable products out there for the average Joe? Well there happen to be two options at this moment and they are:

Zapbox $30

Zapper is an augmented reality company that has created a cardboard mixed reality headset inspired by Google cardboard called ZapBox. This headset gives you the options to play mini golf, visit Mars, or paint in 3D.

The Bridge—Headset by Occipital (IOS only) $399

Occipital designed the Bridge headset specifically for IOS and is a hybrid mixed reality/virtual reality. It has a “structure sensor” that allows augmented objects to appear anchored to the real world.

Google and Apple will Rule

Thinking for the everyday user is why Google and Apple will rule the mixed reality world. HoloLens, while it is fabulous, is bulky and expensive and more of a military or university use, not a casual product.

Google has developed Tango 3D and since has developed a tango capable phone (Lenovo Phab 2 Pro $499) with supporting apps. This phone can be used to measure distances, navigate indoors, or learn about objects within view. You can also play AR games by superimposing images on real-world backgrounds. BMW is also using Tango to sell cars and MIT researchers are using Tango to create VR spaces based on real life spaces.

Apple’s entry into mixed reality will come soon with its 10th anniversary of the iPhone. In September 2017 Apple is prepped to launch the iPhone 8 with an expected price of $1199 to $1599. It is a little pricey but still in a decent range for mixed reality content.

Robert Scoble was first on record about the new iPhone 8. The transparent phone with next-generation OLED display and 3D sensor will also connect with a headset.  Will this be another year for Apple to leap ahead of the competition yet again? We can only watch and see.

 

Closing Thoughts

In the world we live in, we rely heavily on our devices for everything we do. With mixed reality, we will have a new set of eyes that are more connected to the world around us, experiencing and sharing the world in a whole new way.

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