In case you haven’t heard, living in the real world is so 2018. Extended reality experiences are here to stay—and they’re more accessible to the everyday consumer than ever before. So what’s on the horizon for 2019?
Since we’re going to be throwing around some acronyms here, let’s get a few terms straight.
Here are two we’ll be mentioning a lot:
Virtual reality (VR) is a totally immersive three-dimensional computer-generated experience that excludes the outside world. Slip on a VR headset like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive and you’re transported to a simulated environment you can interact with and explore.
Augmented reality (AR) adds computer-generated images to a user’s view of the real world. You don’t need a headset to use augmented reality—just your smartphone! If you’ve used Snapchat lenses or played Pokémon Go, you’re already an AR user.
Plus, some other terms you might hear:
Mixed reality (MR) combines elements of VR and AR. In mixed reality, real-world and digital objects react to each other in real time. Microsoft HoloLens, a self-contained holographic computer contained within a pair of smart glasses, is a great example.
Extended reality (XR) doesn’t refer to any specific technology. Rather, it’s a sort of general catch-all term for all the realities we’re talking about.
XR Gets Smart(er)
Extended reality experiences are already pretty convincing, and you have artificial intelligence (AI) to thank for that. When you use a Snapchat lens that overlays dog ears or sunglasses on your selfies, you’re relying on a combination of augmented reality and computer vision, an AI technology that allows a computer to understand and identify what it “sees” through a camera or the lens of your smartphone.
In 2019, you can expect AR to get even smarter, with developers incorporating increasingly sophisticated cognitive functionality into their apps. And it’s not all Snapchat lenses and Pokémon Go. Google is currently testing an AR microscope that uses machine learning to highlight cancer cells in images of human tissue as a pathologist looks through the microscope’s viewfinder.
Train Smarter, Not Harder
When it comes to exciting new technologies like VR, sometimes the market gets ahead of itself. There’s this boost in the beginning where there’s all this anticipation, then there’s a lull when things don’t meet expectations or are too expensive. Then after that, there’s a slower, steadier build.
The strongest growth opportunity for VR is among enterprise markets, where organizations have the capital to spring for top-quality, premium-priced products. He says businesses and even the military are starting to sit up and take notice of how VR and AR can be used for training purposes. Walmart recently announced it would use 17,000 Oculus Go VR headsets to train employees in topics from management to customer service. Meanwhile, Microsoft has secured a $480 million contract with the US Army to supply as many as 100,000 of their HoloLens augmented reality headsets for training and combat applications.
VR Entertainment Goes Mainstream
VR headsets made a splash in the gaming world when they were introduced a few years ago, but there were a few factors holding them back from truly going mainstream. Mainly, the hardware got ahead of the software. More advanced VR headsets required the user to be connected to an expensive computer that powered the virtual experience. Lower-tech headsets eliminated this problem, but at the expense of graphics quality.
This year, get ready to see more powerful, sophisticated stand-alone VR headsets hitting the shelves, such as Oculus Quest, Magic Leap One and VIVE Focus. The new generation of headsets offers high-powered displays unencumbered by cables, plus six degrees of freedom of movement (that’s 6DoF, if you want to speak the lingo) and advanced features like eyeball tracking.
VR headsets, especially the more advanced ones, are still fairly cost-prohibitive to the average consumer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience VR for yourself. Virtual reality “theme parks” are starting to crop up around the world, bringing extended reality to consumers who might not be familiar with the technology. I’m particularly excited about The VOID, a franchise of mixed reality entertainment attractions with locations across the United States.
AR Hits the Road
Road trips are about to get even better as AR shakes up the automobile industry in 2019. Technologies like Nvidia’s DriveAR platform enhance the driving experience with a dashboard-mounted display that overlays graphics on camera footage. Driving by a historic landmark? Hazard up ahead? AR and AI work together to point it out. Big names like Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Toyota and Volvo have already signed up to work with Nvidia DriveAR.
Another technology, from Alibaba-backed startup WayRay, projects AR data directly onto the windshield, giving you important navigation and safety information without you ever having to take your eyes off the roads.
Extended reality is here—and it’s becoming more accessible by the minute. What has you the most excited about this trend? Tweet it to us at @DixonSchwabl or drop us a note on Facebook.
Ian is in the running for best job title at the agency. Speaking of best, he’s our premier maker, drone pilot and defensive back in intramural soccer.