Part Four: Virtual, Augmented or Mixed? Which Reality Will You Choose?

by Camille Blanchard, VP, Head of Innovation, West Cary Group

In this fourth installment in our series examining alternative realities, we turn our attention to Mixed Reality (MR) and the strengths and weaknesses associated with the experience. 

Mixed Reality: The Best of Both Worlds?

Mixed reality (MR) is also referred to as “hybrid reality.” It allows viewers to see the real world while also perceiving believable virtual objects. These digital renderings are anchored to a real point in space and exist with physical objects in real time.

The positives of MR are numerous. Users are not simply floating around in the ether or disconnected from their natural environment. They can interact with and manipulate 3-D images. The experience is appealing because it is digitally authentic while being rooted in reality – in essence creating a completely new category of human awareness.

Microsoft Makes Moves in MR

Perhaps that’s why Microsoft is investing in MR and, in so doing, making the strongest case for its advancement. According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, “What matters most is the mobility of your experience, not the mobility of a single device.”

At the end of March, Microsoft released the HoloLens to developers. This innovation in wearable tech is the first fully untethered holographic computer (no wires, phones or PC connection required) that will render digital images in order to “bring ideas to life” and “unlock all-new ways to connect, create, collaborate and explore.”

The technology that powers it is moving quickly: By May, Microsoft was already making improvements. Updates have included:

  1. Ability to run multiple flat apps
  2.  Bluetooth mouse support
  3. New voice commands
  4.  Increased recording time for MR videos

A Promising Startup

This year, MR startup Magic Leap is inviting 10 outside developers to come on board and work on projects related to its developments in MR technology. CEO Rony Abovitz described it as an opportunity to take a peek behind inside one of the most secretive startups around, see how Magic Leap is running its show and participate in building something that makes the firm’s lightfield chip into a virtual warhorse.  

Since its launch in 2010, Magic Leap has garnered consistent buzz and turned cynics into converts. Google, Alibaba and Qualcomm Ventures (among others) have contributed to the startup’s funding, raising $1.38B so far. All of this in spite of the company having yet to release a single product.

Impending Shift

West Cary Group (WCG) is confident that the inherent utility of MR will cause it to be a rapidly growing platform that will forever shift communications, collaboration and creativity. The possible applications of MR are numerous:

  • Imagine assembling an outfit from a variety of websites in order to match them with shoes in your closet – without ever leaving your bedroom
  • Picture previewing how a new backsplash and refrigerator will look while you’re standing in your kitchen
  • Envision bringing a holographic representation of a distant loved one into your home so that you can reconnect

What do all of these scenarios have in common? The facilitation of richer, deeper experiences.

Calibrated Steps

Of course, innovation takes time. While we strongly believe MR offers a perfect blend of augmented and virtual reality, we must also note that the same issues that prove problematic for those emerging techs (save for processing power) also affect MR. Everything from bulky equipment to cost (the HoloLens Development edition costs $3,000), broadband access and realistic renderings could prove inhibiting.

That’s why WCG is closely monitoring MR advancements and forging partnerships in the space. We can help your organization think through and test its way into MR so that when the technology is simmering to a boil, you’ll be ready with use cases and insights that can bring a winning strategy to life.

Do you want your business to be one of the first movers in this space? Contact WCGi today to talk. When MR assumes its role as a powerful channel for communications, we don’t want your company to be left behind. 

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