As the newest immersive technology, mixed reality (an expanded version of augmented reality where users can interact with virtual objects) might still be in testing phases for many organisations, but the current use cases give an idea of what might be possible in the not-too-distant future.
If you’ve experienced virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and were impressed, get ready for the best of both worlds in mixed reality (MR). Developers are still refining mixed-reality technology, so it’s not yet widely available or inexpensive enough for most consumers to enjoy. Since investment in augmented and mixed reality is expected to reach $4 billion by 2020, it’s likely a matter of sooner rather than later that most people will encounter mixed reality. Here are a few examples of how mixed reality could impact businesses and the world we live in.
What is mixed reality?
In a mixed-reality environment, the physical and the digital worlds are blended. What used to be plausible only in our imaginations regarding the interaction between imaginary (or digitally created) objects and reality is now possible thanks to the advances in graphical processing power, computer vision and other technology. A mixed-reality experience is enabled by wearable MR devices and can start in the real world or start in a fully virtual world. Unlike augmented reality, users can interact with virtual objects in mixed reality. Even though we’re still in the early days of mixed reality and it’s not available for mass consumer consumption, with the rate developers are creating mixed-reality apps it likely will be soon.
Examples of Mixed Reality
Holograms: Mixed reality startup 8i is responsible for creating a lifelike hologram of John Hamm for the Sundance Film Festival and a Buzz Aldrin hologram for SXSW. It’s expected that the company’s Holo app will find many more applications for musicians, brands and celebrities. You can even download the Holo app to your phone to create your own 3D animations.
Education: There are many mixed-reality applications conceivable in education to help students learn when they interact with virtual objects. Teachers can instruct students remotely by using 3D projections and simulations. The Microsoft HoloLens was used by Case Western Reserve University in Ohio to teach anatomy to medical students.
Training: Nearly every industry could use mixed-reality tools to help train employees or figure out better ways of doing things. Thanks to the very realistic experience created by mixed reality, training and evolving operations virtually can save valuable time and money. BAE Systems used a mixed-realty system to improve its battery-building process by 40%. The system projects a holographic template that helps factory workers visualise all the steps in the process.
Sports/entertainment: From concerts that have your favourite musicians interacting with digital props to watching the action of a football game appear to go down in your living room, developers are working on many mixed-reality apps that could create these and similar experiences. Several years ago, PGA Tour fans were able to use an app with a 3D rendering of golf courses. The Tour is also looking to use HoloLens for tournament set-up and golf course design while players can prepare their strategy using mixed reality well before hitting their first drive on the links.
Healthcare: Medical professionals could view and share patient records and data in a more interactive form with mixed reality than is possible with 2D charts. As mentioned, medical students could receive training via mixed-reality applications. What about the possibility of taking medical scans out of computers and into the real world where they can be moved around and manipulated to plan surgeries and treatment? The applications for mixed reality in healthcare are abundant.
Engineering/construction: Mixed-reality devices could give engineers the possibility of working remotely, do 3D modelling before any expense is spent on labour and materials and more. This technology not only speeds up the design and development process but would save money as well.
Remote working: Employees from any company can collaborate with clients or other colleagues even when they aren’t in the same location by using mixed reality. Language barriers could be seamlessly overcome by using translation applications that could translate language in real time. If you were impressed by video conferencing and Skype calls, mixed-reality meetings will be truly impressive. Japan Airlines uses a HoloLens to help train engineers without having to visit a hangar. NASA worked with Microsoft to create the OnSight software that helps scientists and engineers be virtually present on Mars while they are still very much on Earth.
Even though many of the uses cases for mixed reality are still in testing phases, they give an idea of what might be possible in the not-too-distant future. I help companies understand the potential impact of new technologies as well as the business opportunities they bring. I have a lot more articles on MR, VR and AR. For more on augmented, virtual and mixed reality check out this section of my website, or check out this page for the other major tech trends transforming businesses today.
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.