The promise of Mixed Reality

As a content platform, will it deliver?

There’s an entire world out there of artists using Virtual Reality to create beautiful works of art. One of them goes by the name Anna dream brush. Some of her works are simply amazing.

Creators like Anna have been using VR now for over three years with a degree of success. Then, there are individuals and companies who started to use Augmented Reality (AR) to give their content that tech edge. The Pokémon mobile game that sent almost the entire world into a tizzy trying to locate and capture those tiny virtual creatures is an example of this. Pokémon came online in 2016.

Sometimes technologies take a long time to make the transition from laboratory to marketplace. Both VR and AR are such instances. Hailed as the “next big thing” (as in the case of additive manufacturing [3D Printing]) VR was not really adopted by the masses.

A case can be made out for enterprise AR. Studies say its use is growing in health, medical and the education fields.

But there’s a third step in this evolution called Mixed Reality (MR), a cocktail of VR and AR that holds out the promise of adaptability and “adoptability” much more than its parents.

Here’s a primer for newbies:

Virtual Reality: is a fully immersive experience. You wear a head-mounted display set and enter a “virtual” world. Nothing is real here except the user; it’s all computer-generated. You have moved on from the real world to a digital one. You can, of course, move around objects and stuff, but they are all digital.

Augmented Reality: like the word says, here there’s an additional “layer” of the virtual world over the real one. Think of it as a supplement to the real world.

Mixed Reality: this is born out of the first two. MR uses both the technologies to create a world where physical and virtual objects co-exist in real time. And all these objects can be manipulated in virtual and real environments.

Here’s an example to further simplify this tech: you stand in a showroom that’s selling carpets, wear a headset, then walk on a carpet (or carpets) that physically don’t exist but are virtual objects. Nearby is a real vase. You can move a particular carpet to another spot in the room, even “touch it” with what’s called haptic technology. Or, better still, walk up to the (physical) vase and move it.

One of the better examples, and utilization of the MR tech is by Microsoft that has a product called HoloLens. And, btw, did you know that Microsoft also has MR as part of its Windows 10 OS, an early sign of this tech wanting to go mainstream?

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Mixed Reality Content

Unlike VR, MR content is developing at a rapid pace. From gaming (obvious) to education, medicine, retail, to even ‘live’ events. The pace of development holds out the hope that MR may succeed where VR and AR did not.

Take education, for example. Future doctors are already using MR to “hold” a human heart in their hands (the heart is virtual, don’t worry). Some museums have deployed this tech to allow visitors to “hold” (virtual) artifacts to get a feel of things.

In classrooms, students can “view” what they are studying. It’s like 3D. They can rotate the earth the way they want, or even walk through the corridors of a historic building.

Here’s a video on MR (courtesy for better understanding of the tech:

In addition to the fields mentioned above, retailers, fashion designers, marketers, advertisers; all have started getting into the MR game. In each of these disciplines, MR can be used quite effectively - to design, to attract, to market, to sell… It’s a new (and exciting) way to tell a story. The idea is to create not just content but an event.

No doubt, the creation of MR content is still in its nascent stage. There are endless opportunities and possibilities of what one can do with MR tech.

The techies are already backslapping one another for a job well-done. But the market has seen all of this before, and it’s like déjà vu.

Much of MR’s future will be decided by the development of the tech itself, followed by the vendors, the market and the content. Experience has shown that perhaps except for the smartphone and a fitness band here and there, devices, especially wearables, have not really taken off where mass consumption is concerned. Somehow, wearing a device like a head-mounted display unit or glasses seems to put off people (ask Google).

But while we await the final word on the success of MR, content developers have already jumped into it and started developing all kinds of content for this new tech.

MR will be seen in retail stores, in the world of fashion, in the military, in entertainment. Just imagine the length and breadth of content creation we are talking about.

For coders, it’s a whole new opportunity; for story-tellers, MR presents a challenge, for although it does provide this mind-blogging way to create personalized experiences, the task of creating an immersive experience that bridges the real and virtual worlds presents a daunting challenge.

Image by Ralph Nas from Pixabay
Video Credit: YouTube/Anna dream brush