When we are getting into shorter and colder days, it could be nice to take a look back at what has happened in the area of Virtual and Augmented Reality during 2019. And maybe what could be in stock for 2020. Even if we at ContentMap not yet have taken the step, we discuss using the tools for manipulating our aggregated information to content in our maps. Possibly with hands gesture recognition and our maps in VR 3D. We will see what the future holds.
Here is what’s up...
Undoubtedly experiences feel more “real” when they engage several of our senses. Most of us are already familiar with the concept of haptics from playing video games, where for example vibration is used to create a connection with the action on the screen.
Use of more senses
Haptics means that we stimulate the senses of touch and motion, especially the sensations that would be felt by working with physical objects. Yet XR designers recognize that they need to think beyond visuals and incorporate spatial audio, touch, and even things such as taste and smell to their immersive experiences. The multi-sensory massage experiences, created for example by the Esqapes Immersive Relaxation Center in Los Angeles have proved the commercial appeal of such concepts, and it's the sort of thing that probably gets people like Jeff Bezos rather excited.
As researchers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and companies like Microsoft prototype new haptic devices, we can probably look forward to a near-future where the virtual world will not only look realistic but also feel real to all our senses.
In Healthcare we can see an ocean of potential. The advances in haptic technology mentioned above have, for example, enabled much better training applications to be developed for dentists and surgeons, and this type of experiential learning could have a significantly positive impact on patient safety.
On the other hand, some also highlight that even as we discover new ways in which immersive technologies can be used to great effect in medical diagnosis and treatment – from detecting the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease to easing childbirth pain – we should also bear in mind that the data collection involved will unearth new privacy protection issues which should start being addressed by the industry now. See our blog here on GDPR compliance.
Education and training
Some of the most interesting and compelling use cases have emerged from the education space. Research shows that experiential learning through education in an environment that completely surrounds you, gives a higher level of engagement and better results in terms of knowledge and skills transfer. We have therefore seen many companies developing products that leverage Virtual and Augmented Reality as teaching tools.
Chris Milk’s company Within recently brought out the latest episode in its Wonderscope series which leverages storytelling to teach kids about our solar system, literally bringing it to life in their living rooms. Yet it is in workplace L&D that we see the amazing scope of these technologies unfolding: From train operators to roofing contractors, Navy personnel to police officers, XR has been used by companies from Walmart to Lockheed Martin to prepare people for all manner of scenarios, from stressful job interviews to nuclear warfare.
Culture & Art
Another thing is that museums and galleries have been embracing technology as a way to engage new and existing audiences. The Louvre, for example, has been using AR as early as 2015. Yet some of the most exciting possibilities that such tech offers artists is the ability to place their works and reach audiences outside those traditional spaces as well. This is the idea that Apple piloted in its AR[T] walks, where digital works of art were placed around cities such as Tokyo, San Francisco and New York. More than just placing digital objects on random locations like so many Pokemon, there is an opportunity to contextualize the cultural significance of place and content.
There’s no getting away from the fact that developing good hardware is a huge challenge. Stuff that goes on your head has to be comfortable, and preferably should look cool as well as stay cool enough so it doesn’t feel like it’s burning your face off. It can’t be too heavy, but must house enough processing power and battery life to deliver the experiences we’ve come to expect. Are we there yet? maybe not. Still, we have seen significant improvements with for example HTC bringing out its new generation headset to replace the original VIVE , Facebook scoring a big with the Oculus Quest and collaborating with Ray-Ban to develop AR smartglasses, and a number of companies, from independent start-ups to the big boys, bringing their own Augmented Reality glasses into the mix.
As XR hardware and software continue to advance, the inevitable trend is for the interfaces we use to link the physical and digital worlds to virtually disappear. Companies such as Facebook are investigating ways of making that happen through the development of what is broadly known as Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI). Where now we associate these experiences with bulky headsets, in future we can hope such technology will be embedded in our environment, in lightweight wearables. Devices currently on the market already can track our gestures, facial expressions, and eye movement.
We think that establishing common practices and protocols so that developers can make content that works across different headsets and platforms is what is going to enable the mass adoption of XR. This is why we’ve seen companies like Facebook and Microsoft get onboard with the Open XR initiative launched by the Kronos Group earlier this year.
The elephant in the...
Finally, about Apple… It’s not a question of whether or not Apple brings out some form of AR wearable, but when. What seems clear is that they refuse to be rushed into releasing something that will not deliver the magic. The company has made no secret of the fact that it believes Augmented Reality is going to be important in its future, and it has released a suite of tools to support developers in creating AR content. Apple distinguishes between Computer Generated Reality (CGR) environments such as VR, AR, and AV (augmented virtuality) that may be supported in a future Apple headset. But as usual for the notoriously secretive company, official details on its roadmap are few, and rumors based on information such as patents filed are plenty. The future will be interesting.
Here we write some short summaries on technologies and businesses that we think are interesting around our area. You are most welcome to comment or suggest changes. Many thanks, ContentMap team.