Over the past few years, virtual reality and augmented reality have gone mainstream. Yet with most VR and AR technologies available today, it’s challenging to merge physical, real-life movement and environments with simulated virtual objects, environments and actions. When it comes down to it, today’s virtual reality isn’t really that virtual. You often need a complex set of consoles, multiple sensors and cameras, and hand controllers.
That is — until now.
Welcome to merged reality — a new way of experiencing physical and virtual interactions and environments through a suite of next-generation sensing and digitizing technologies.
Merged reality delivers virtual-world experiences more dynamically and naturally than ever before — and makes experiences impossible in the real world now possible.
Pick up your real-world tennis racket in your living room and step virtually onto the court at Wimbledon. In doing so, forgo the cost — and creep factor — of installing high-end sensors in every corner of your living room normally needed to scan your environment. Instead just lean fully into practicing your back swing — bringing both your hand and your racket into the virtual field of play. Surge backward or forward, reach up or down, sway to the left or right — enjoy fully 6 degrees of total freedom in your movement. And take that virtual swing, without hitting that very real-world, and very expensive, table lamp several feet away from you.
Be the ultimate concert master — fully unplugged. Cut the cord and choose your own amazing musical experience. Play a virtual piano with one hand and a cello with your other hand. That’s right: play two instruments at the same time — an impossible real-world feat by even the most talented musicians. Reinvent the world around you. Go from where you aren’t to where you could never be. Do so without cumbersome controllers, but with your own two hands in the field of your virtual vision.
Plan your virtual visit to the Sistine Chapel while never leaving the office. Get up from your desk confidentially immersing yourself in the digitized splendor of Michelangelo — looking upward to get a better view — without walking into that real-world, and potentially painful, conference table right in front of you. In other words, zone out in virtual spaces, without stumbling in the real world.
Experience a sporting event, a concert or a film scene from any point of view — and from any position. Walk onto the field and right into the goalie box, or join the huddle, looking over the quarterback’s shoulder to see the calls before they’re played. Stand on the stage with your favorite band and feel the love of the fans from their point of view. Choose your experience and navigate it. It’s all up to you. The virtual world doesn’t need to be virtual; it can be real.
All of this — and even more — is possible with merged reality. And here’s why: Merged reality hinges on five technological advances soon to be available to developers, makers and inventors.
6 Degrees of Mobility. Merged reality dramatically increases freedom in movement in 3-D virtual spaces with real-world awareness. Said another way: It’s about sensing technologies to help make sure that while you’re experiencing your virtual world, you’re not colliding into real-world stuff.
Integrated Tracking. Merged reality reduces the need for elaborate and costly sets of external sensors that translate real-world environments into digital representations. It does so by attaching sensing technologies, such as Intel RealSense cameras, to your headset and other smart and connected devices. The result will be even greater proliferation, availability and portability of VR and AR experiences.
More Natural Manipulation. Merged reality is about more natural ways of interacting with and manipulating virtual environments — by liberating you from the controllers and the nun chucks of today’s VR systems by immersing your hands — your real-life hands — into your simulated experiences thanks to readily available new sensing technologies.
Go Untethered. Merged reality “cuts the VR cord,” allowing you to go fully untethered from consoles and controllers. Sure, the most aggressive, high-end gamers who value the low latency of tethered systems will continue to enjoy those systems, and their systems will continue to advance and improve. But for the rest of us, we now have the choice to experience our virtual worlds across larger spaces without pesky cords. No more being jolted out of your VR experience because you have reached the end of your cord.
Digitized Real-World Content. Merged reality goes beyond computer-generated content. It’s about bringing the real physical world into the digital world real time — and reimagining it with computing power. Rather than a single point of view, advancements like Intel’s Replay 360-degree technologies use encoded video and advanced composition algorithms captured from an array of cameras to digitize whole playing fields and venues — from any position, from any point of view, and with an enhanced ability to interact. This is a game changer for the entire category of virtual and augmented reality. You choose the experience, and you get to navigate real-world content in new ways.
To deliver tomorrow’s truly immersive compute experiences today, developers, makers and inventors need these more advanced hardware and software technologies of merged reality. That’s why Intel is partnering with other leading technology companies to share technologies such as Intel’s RealSense, Replay, and the first of its kind Project Alloy Head-Mounted Device (HMD). When it comes down to it, why would you choose to limit your reality — when the new reality is that you can have it all? With increased mobility, integrated tracking and highly sensing human motion capabilities, merged reality will profoundly impact the way we work, how we are entertained and how we communicate.
So you see, regardless of whether you’re seeking to experience augmented reality or virtual reality, your freedom in the world of your choice depends on how you merge your realities and the technologies that enable you to cross over from the physical to the virtual, and the virtual to the physical. We’re rapidly moving toward a world where the boundary between the digital and the physical is eroding, and merging in new exciting ways.
It’s truly the best of all worlds — and there’s only more to come.