Quick Rundown of the 2017 AR/MR/VR Landscape
Why VR will surpass AR/MR!
Just last weekend, I was sitting in my studio apartment in Chicago staring up at the ceiling from my cot on the floor. I remember wondering what my family in Atlanta was up to, as it was my sister’s birthday weekend. I thought how great it would be to escape my apartment cell and to be reunited with my family. All the while, I was comforted by the fact that I work in an industry that would bridge this gap. In the near future, I could be in my apartment in Chicago, but never miss another exciting moment with my family and friends in far away regions.
We are in a time where artificial realities are no longer a dream for the future. As advances in augmented, mixed, and virtual reality leap exponentially, we draw closer and closer to a day where artificial realities will soon become reality.
In the meantime, where are we today, and what does the immediate future look like?
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is any kind of system that overlays content/data on top of your current worldview. One of the most notable examples of AR was the app that took the world by storm in the middle of 2016, Pokemon Go. A seemingly antiquated idea like Pokemon, made a resurgence as 90’s kids had the opportunity to live out their childhood dreams of being a Pokemon Trainer.
Tech giants such as Google and Apple have entered the game introducing platforms like ARCore (Google) and ARKit (Apple) which help developers build AR apps on Android and iOS devices, respectively. These powerful platforms are not only useful for gaming, but they have the ability to add yet another dimension of usefulness to our already invaluable mobile devices. Whether it be panning your phone camera around your environment to find a great lunch spot, or measuring the size of your house for home renovations, the uses for this AR technology is endless.
Apple AR Headset
Just this week Bloomberg Technology writer Mark Gurman wrote about an new Apple AR headset set to be announced in 2019 and released in 2020. Details about this headset are not readily available, but rumors have it that this technology will be the successor of the iPhone. In the words of Tim Cook,
“Put simply, we believe AR is going to change the way we use technology forever.”
Apple has already started to assemble a large team to develop their AR platform. With advances in ARKit and new updates to these platforms being released, AR will stretch the imagination further than ever before.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Mixed Reality? How’s that different from Augmented Reality?
Mixed Reality (MR) is effectively the marrying of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (more info on VR below). Just as in AR, MR devices super-impose virtual objects into your real world space, but it takes it a step further. Calculating your movement in space, MR locks those objects in place, so that these objects seamlessly integrate into your real world space, bringing the virtual into reality. In this sense, MR allows the real world to interact with the virtually-projected object. As squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares, MR is AR, but not all AR is MR (Square : Rectangle :: MR : AR).
HoloLens is a MR platform that boasts its ability to bring the virtual into reality. Microsoft states, “HoloLens is the first fully self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to interact with high‑definition holograms in your world.”
In Microsoft’s gameplay demo, we can see virtual objects understanding and interacting with our world space as if they were a part of our natural environment. The potential of this headset is huge, but it comes with an extreme sticker shock with price tag of $3,000 for the developer kit and $5,000 dollars for the enterprise edition.
Finally in this group of mixed reality headsets, we have Magic Leap. A company founded in Plantation, FL, they are rumored to be working on mixed reality glasses that makes the virtual object integrate and work seamlessly with your environment, even to the point of tricking the senses as stated by Rachael Metz of MIT Tech Review.
“I extend my hand to give him [Virtual Monster] a base to walk on, and I swear I feel a tingling in my palm in expectation of his little feet pressing into it. When, a split second later, my brain remembers that this is just an impressively convincing 3-D image displayed in the real space in front of me, all I can do is grin.”
Windows Mixed Reality
Companies like ASUS, Acer, Dell, HP, and Samsung have entered the mixed reality headset scene by partnering with Microsoft to build MR headsets ranging in price from $349.99 to $499.99. These headsets can be a little deceiving as many people consider these as VR headsets, but they aim to be more than a VR platform. They will rendering your physical world into VR, meaning anything you see in your physical space, will be brought into VR.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR differs from AR/MR in the fact that it replaces your entire physical world with a simulated world. There are essentially two methods of delivery for VR: Stationary VR, and Mobile/Standalone VR.
Playstation VR (PSVR)
PSVR is a gaming VR solution that allow a PS4 owner to play their existing games in VR. Although the PSVR platform works fairly well for 1080p gaming, it is running on a comparably lower powered hardware than the PC’s capable of hosting the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive; therefore, the PSVR is limited in its capabilities.
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
The most popular platforms are the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. Currently these platforms provide the most comprehensive and high quality VR experiences, but require high-powered gaming Windows PCs with custom graphics cards.
While these headsets are tethered to your desktop PC, they’re synchronized with sensors that are screwed into the corners of the room to detect movement for 6 degrees of freedom (6-DOF) tracking, controllers to interact with the virtual environment, and with wires everywhere. These headsets are not portable and are meant to be installed in a single space, cleared of all obstacles.
Oculus’ Project Santa Cruz
To try to provide a high-quality experience, without the hassle, Oculus is also working on another headset named Project Santa Cruz. The Oculus team states that Santa Cruz will have a full-blown mobile computer built into the headset with 6-DOF which will deliver PC VR experiences on an untethered standalone device.
From Google Cardboard’s inception in 2014, Google has delivered over 10 million headsets to excited users all over the world making Google Cardboard the most accessible VR experience.
Google has also developed the Daydream for those phones that meet higher standards. These strenuous standards in hardware allow developers to build more more robust applications that will render beautifully in VR.
Samsung Gear VR
On the other side of mobile VR, we have another VR powerhouse, Samsung. Samsung and Oculus have teamed to create a platform called Gear VR. Gear VR transforms your regular Samsung mobile device into a highly powerful mobile VR platform.
Mobile Standalone Headsets:
What separates standalone devices from the mobile platforms that we have talked about before are not at all tethered, and they do not need require a mobile phone. Everything you need to have a high quality VR experience is built into this robust headset.
Oculus announced its standalone headset coming out early 2018. The Oculus Go boasts a high-res LCD screen that has superb visual clarity with lenses that offer a wide Field of View (FOV). The built in speakers have spacial audio, so users can experience 360 degree spatial audio.
Lenovo Daydream Standalone
Lenovo and Google have teamed up to work on a Daydream-powered standalone device as confirmed by Clay Bavor VP of VR at Google and Lenovo. “WorldSense” technology will be incorporated into Lenovo’s standalone headset, allowing it to support 6-DOF, but pricing information has yet to be announced. Although they have not set a tentative date, Lenovo has hinted at a winter 2017 release. More information on this standalone device can be found on their website.
That which endures ‘til the end will be victorious!
One of the most important concerns when it comes to the AR/MR/VR world is adoption. When will these technologies become ubiquitous enough to be effective? As AR/MR is on a trajectory to surpass VR adoption soon (even to the point where it makes mobile devices obsolete), many are led to believe that AR/MR will win in the long-run, but many forget an extremely important factor in this realm of innovation: AR/MR is still bound to the laws of physics of the real-world; whereas, VR is only bound by what the mind can imagine.
The landscape will drastically change as time passes. One thing we do know, however, is that laptops and mobile devices have already transformed our world forever, and with the number of mobile devices almost surpassing the number of humans on earth, Immersed has a unique opportunity to reach the masses with Mobile VR (from now until AR/MR take over mobile devices). We’re taking Mobile VR past the assumed use-cases of gaming/entertainment, and bringing it to the professional world in a practical way.
Immersed’s software will remain modular to provide our users the best experience on the most adopted platforms (whether it be Mobile VR today, or Magic Leap’s MR glasses in 5 years), until we all meet in the Metaverse (Ready Player One)!
Have questions, comments, concerns? Let us know below!