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Looking beyond the screen. X Reality

Look back for a moment. The past 30 years have been incredible. The next 5 years are going to be twice as revolutionary.

The rise of Personal Computing, Internet as well as Smartphones have completely redefined the way we interact with our world as well as each other. Today, 99.9% of the world’s data is stored digitally and more than
3 Billion people are a part of the internet, a figure which is expected to reach closer 6 Billion by 2020. Every day we’ve been growing more reliant on modern technology as we collectively craft a separate digital universe of information byte by byte — a universe we use to manage everything in our lives from money to our closest social circles. Technology defines us already.

Funnily though, the digital world bears very little resemblance to the physical one. The Digital world is bounded. Bounded by X-Y pixel grids, that are everywhere. The way we interact with the digital world is through these portals called displays or screens. Companies have used their mastery of design to make interactions with the digital realm feel more natural through features such as slick user interfaces and touchscreen interaction, but there’s only so much that can be done in a rectangle. Currently, we interface with the digital world at a distance, looking through the windows of the devices we own, but never daring to step any further. The digital world is a world of information, while our physical reality is one of experiences — and because of that distinction those two realities have always remained separate, only connecting to each other through tangents.

Everything we do. It’s really just inside that screen. What if that can change?

That entire structure is about to change. With the rise of Virtual and Augmented reality, we now have the ability to place information all around us inspiring a new wave of interaction design and experiential software that enjoys a true sense of presence in digital worlds. Now, a new form of computing stands on the horizon, creating a plane of reality that intersects the physical and virtual world that’s both exceptional and familiar. It is the result of the convergence of several advanced fields of technology that when put together will spur a new age of contextual computing, where digital information seamlessly blends into our physical reality as active parts of our environment — a world where computers can understand our surroundings and where technology feels unbound from the human experience.

This is Mixed Reality — it’s real, it’s here, and it’s one of the biggest technological races since the rise of personal computing.

Let’s get to the basics

While Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality technologies are all similar in many aspects, they have some fundamental differences.

  1. Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive completely replace your current reality with a new one, putting you in a 3D generated world with little concern for your immediate surroundings. It invites you into its world, and it’s isolationist by design, which is one of its main strengths (fully immersive) as well as weaknesses (disconnect from your context)
  2. Augmented reality, however, overlays digital information on top of your real world, the most notable example being the popular game Pokemon Go. And while it can make for some interesting applications, more like a digital overlay — it doesn’t truly understand your space, which stops you from making applications that truly use your world as a canvas.
  3. Mixed Reality, is sort of the convergence point for these technologies — MR devices are scan your room and gather a 3D understanding of your surroundings, using that information to seamlessly place digital information within your space and interact with it, all of which can be viewed through transparent displays as you naturally interact with the result using your hands. Hence, Mixed reality draws elements from Virtual and Augmented reality to provide for a combed experience of sorts. As tempting as this might seem, technologically we seem to be farthest from this one, just yet.

The race is certainly on in all these 3 overlapping technologies already. All major tech companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, Intel and others have been advocating resources, each with their own distinct vision of the future. And while most of the hardware projects conducted by these companies are currently secret, each of these verticals have already provided a quick glimpse of what it might look like once these technologies take off.

With all cases, interest in Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality seem to go hand-in-hand, as both are the hottest new immersive experience mediums in the industry. Google has been spending considerable amounts of money in their Virtual Reality department and is also reportedly developing a Mixed Reality device of their own. Apple has several patents for Mixed and Virtual Reality headsets, both of which should see the light of day sometime in 2017/2019. Additionally, Facebook and Samsung have created entirely new departments with hundreds of employees dedicated to VR and related technologies, spending billions of dollars in the process. Amazon announced tools to make the process of making content easier. Even SnapChat could be tiptoeing their way into MR as well, with a steady stream of cash going into computer vision (which currently powers their popular Snapchat filters) and a new pair of glasses with 115-degree cameras (The Snapchat’s Spectacles), which could very well be a way to test out the market’s reception to wearables of this kind.

So why are all of these companies paying this much attention to VR/AR/MR — after all, these are technologies that could eventually replace all of our laptops, smartphones and computers simultaneously — causing disruption on a mass scale for all of the companies involved.

From Personal Devices To Personal Universes

X-Reality is a moniker that ties VR/AR/MR together. I am a huge believer that these technologies are inevitably going to converge in the near future. If/when this frontier of technology does become popularized, everything we know is bound to change — the eventual replacement of today’s computers and smartphones devices with technology of this type means that all digital interfaces that we know today will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. Overall, XR is expected to cause disruption on a vast scale, completely revolutionizing enterprise applications, education, social media and the $2 trillion dollar entertainment market — all while opening a door to a new way of being alive.

And this is important: Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality isn’t just a new type of technology — it’s an entirely new plane of existence. It’ll spur new ways of creating and consuming content, sure, but when you begin to speculate how MR will converge with other emerging technologies such as Ultra High Speed Internet and the Internet of Things, the possibilities become even more expansive. Users will be able to access all the information they need only when and where they’re needed, always presented perfectly on top of their real world instead of diverting you away from it. I tend to think that technology is only truly mature when it’s invisible to the user — in this case, MR is what technologically-mature computers look like, blending seamlessly into the human experience instead of detracting you from it.

“Mixed Reality devices are what technologically mature computers look like — invisible to the user, fitting seamlessly into the human experience”

Within the next 5 years, we are bound to witness the beginning of a new reality and the rise of what may be a new paradigm. This is not just the future of computers — this is the future of human perception.

Stoked about the future? We at Scapic are too. That’s why we’re building ways for you to get started with XR in a matter of minutes. Check it out.
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Sai Krishna V. K

I write about possibilities in the Metaverse & productivity in the Meatverse ♦︎ Founder, Scapic (acquired by Flipkart)