What is Mixed Reality and Where Are We With It?


Computer scientists and technologists are constantly developing ways to improve human function and efficiency. The use of computer technology has already impacted positively on our lives in multiple ways. One of the focuses in the last few decades is on creating a mixed reality environment, as this is something that can have many applications for enterprise and in daily life. Here is an overview of what mixed reality is and where we are at with it now. Mixed reality is a merging of the real world with the virtual world that creates new environments and visualizations, says Wikipedia. Mixed reality also encompasses elements of augmented reality. This causes some people confusion, as they are not clear about the differences between virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The definition of virtual reality is a reality where the user is immersed in an artificial digital environment. On the other hand, augmented reality overlays virtual objects on the real-world environment. Mixed reality combines virtual and real objects by not just overlaying the virtual objects on the real world, but by anchoring them to allow interaction.

What You Need to Know

Microsoft describes how the combination of the real-world, virtual reality and augmented reality are combined to create mixed reality so that users can translate their movements through the physical world and translate it to the digital world. To create this technology, scientists and technologists have had to explore the relationship between humans and computer input. This discipline has become known as human-computer interaction (HCI). The advancements in sensors and processing have allowed for further advances in computer inputting and environmental input. In turn, this has allowed for the development of truly mixed reality experiences.

Back in 1992, a team from the U.S. Air Force demonstrated how using spatially registered virtual objects over a person’s view of their environment could amplify human performance. Since then, such technologies have advanced significantly, and mixed reality already has many useful applications. One application is for simulation-based learning, which is an interactive and experiential way of learning. Another application is interactive product content management (IPCM). This is a move away from static product catalogs and towards interactive 3D smart digital replicas. In industry, it is used to build mock-ups that combine both digital and physical elements. These mock-ups can interact with the physical world.

However, two of the most useful applications of mixed reality now are military training and remote working. The U.S. Army is already using mixed reality products, such as VirTra and Virtual Battlespace 3, to train soldiers. They use these technologies to put soldiers into a variety of situations so they can train them how to handle different situations. They are also developing their own mixed reality technology called the Synthetic Training Environment, which also uses various other technologies. Remote working is becoming increasingly popular as many employers have recognized that their workforce works better from home when the stresses and strains of commuting and a busy office environment are removed. However, remote working has posed some challenges in situations when people need to collaborate on a project. One solution to this is to use mixed reality technology that allows people to work together regardless of their location, There are also some applications of virtual reality that are still under development, such as medical uses and transferring human consciousness to digital form. For medical applications, the aim is to create technology that combines surgical processes with smart glasses. In terms of human consciousness, there are ideas that it is potentially possible to put human consciousness into digital form, and this concept is called Virternity.

The Leaders

One of the leaders in mixed reality is Microsoft, says Techradar. Microsoft developed a head-mounted display called HoloLen back in 2016s. These use integrated sensors to scan the surrounding environment. Windows 10 supports the use of the headsets, and each new version of Windows 10 has improved the experience. Although they have predominantly focused on developing a product with applications for enterprise, you can now download games for Windows Mixed Reality Support via Viewport or Google Chrome. Microsoft’s creations are already widely used in enterprise, and the use of their invention is set to grow. They have recently upgraded their headsets and HoloLens 2 is available in October 2019. However, they are available to preorder now. This product will improve the overall experience of using mixed reality. Although Microsoft is one of the leaders in this field, they are far from the only company that is developing products. Another product that is available is MagicLeap. However, the focus of this product is more for leisure and entertainment purposes.

According to Forbes, mixed reality has the potential to become a truly transformational technology by completely changing how we view and interact with the world. From reducing the need to commute to educating the next generation, the potential applications for this technology are almost endless. Forbes notes that it is predicted that 82 percent of businesses will use mixed reality smart glasses for their workforce within the next three years. This shows that people have recognized the benefits of this technology. To show how the technology is already used, the example of a French truck manufacturer is given. The company has been using HoloLens for several years to improve quality control processes at its engine assembly operations. The plan is for all their quality control workers to wear these devices in the future. The glasses can give them detailed instructions that will guide them through the most complex control operations.

Final Thoughts

Google Glass has also excelled in industrial settings. When Google released this technology back in 2014, it fell flat because of privacy issues. Since then, they have developed the Google Glass Enterprise Edition, which is a hands-free device intended for use by those who work with their hands. Via the glasses, they can receive instructions, watch training videos, and view annotated images. This will help them to complete a variety of tasks. Advancements in mixed reality technology are ongoing, so we can expect to see great things soon. The signs are that this technology will be used regularly and in a wide range of applications, from leisure to industrial purposes.

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