Augmented/Virtual/Mixed Reality Devices

As AVM devices, consumer friendly devices that enable augmented, virtual and mixed reality, become mainstream, we are starting to see a large amount of variations in products. Although the end result is relatively the same — an immersive experience — there are a few benefits and deficiencies with each model and user experience. But before we get into the variations, the thing to know is Head Mounted Display (HMD). All AVM devices are HMDs, which as the name implies is a display device, worn on the head or as part of a helmet, that has a small display optic in front of one (monocular HMD) or each eye (binocular HMD).

So all AVM devices are HMDs.

And that’s where the similarities end. But what are the different variations between them?

Here is a quick overview of the differing HMD’s available:

AVM Devices 101

All of these HMDs have their own unique pros, cons and use cases depending on what you want to achieve. A mobile HMD provides immediate usage and no additional equipment, a consumer can download a few VR apps, put their phone into a HMD and be off into their VR world. The original and most cost efficient, Google Cardboard has been the driving force behind most consumers first VR experience. Cardboard provided accessibility and scalability without the heavy investment, but it also ignited the fire in the world of VR. I vividly remember my first experience with Cardboard and being awestruck by standing in my living room and being able experience a divers perspective in an underwater ocean. It forever changed the way I felt about VR. This experience was shared by many who experienced VR for the first time with Cardboard and that will forever be Cardboards experience. However, with all that it has done, it does lack true VR capability in the sense that positional tracking and interactivity is limited, but we are starting to see higher impact phones such as the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy.

A standalone HMD provides the ultimate experience in VR as there are no external sensors or tethering but also provides true VR capability with positional tracking and inbuilt computer processing. Because standalone HMDs provide so much, there is the natural increase in cost, so this experience is limited to most consumers. This is a space that will see immense competition in the next few years because the consumer experience is the best and it provides the most useable functionality especially with Augmented Reality. While Virtual Reality immerses a user into a virtual world, Augmented Reality shares the virtual world with the real world. So it provides a natural experience where the technology is enhancing the world while also keeping us very much a part of it.

In the interim though, we have tethered HMDs, which provide a lot of true VR capability, albeit with a high price point, but also an amazing user experience. The natural partner for tethered HMDs have been the gaming industry, which needs to utilize a high powered computer for processing graphics along with positional tracking and room scale to get the most out of the gaming experience in VR. The pros have been rave reviews for tethered HMDs like he Sony Playstation VR, where the user experience has set the bar high, but to a limited audience.

As Palmer Luckey, founder of Oculus, put it “higher resolution, lighter weight, lower cost — those are just really obvious. Those are the types of things that are eventually going to turn virtual reality and augmented reality, into something that we actually use every day.” The greatness in all the HMDs out there is it provides an experience for multiple audiences at multiple price points. And this stage in the VR industry, that is the best thing that can happen to build consumer confidence while also providing interim solutions until true VR capability is scalable and cost effective for everyone. Touch, vision, and sound form the essential trinity of VR and the definition of a HMD will continue to change for each of those elements as the technology and use cases becoming more defined in the future. Imagine a contact lens that provides the capability of improved sight along with augmented reality updates that can be personalized to your life. This would neither be a HMD or OHMD, but would provide all the benefits without the hassle. Imagine ordinary glasses that can be transformed into an HMD with different lens material. Imagine a boardroom full of tethered HMDs where virtual meetings become more personal and productive.

As Ivan Sutherland, regarded as the “father of computer graphics” put it, “the ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.”