You have perhaps already noticed this, but after a few false starts, virtual reality is finally here to make a difference. And of course this time, it’s in a big obvious way. Market has a wide variety of headsets ranging from smartphone powered devices like the super-cheap, assemble-it-yourself, Google cardboard to the “free if you buy a Galaxy phone,” Samsung Gear VR to more powerful, more immersive systems that connect to a desktop PC like the Oculus Rifts or even the HTC Vive.
Now what all these have in common is that by putting an opaque display in front of you that presents stereoscopic 3D, they create illusion of putting you inside a world. All 360 degrees of it. Look up, you see up. Look behind you, you see behind you. But, more and more, some people are convinced that VR is an only part of the puzzle, and may not even the most impressive one.
That’s why augmented reality and it cousin mixed reality come in.
Where VR puts us inside an artificial environment, AR and MR bring artifice to your natural surroundings. Augmented reality can be as simple as having a visual overlay on your world. A speedometer that displays on your windshield, say, or even Snapchat’s Face Swap. But when that overlay becomes a virtual object, one that you can interact with, then that become mixed reality. And mixed reality is what Microsoft’s HoloLens, and the ultra-secretive Mango Leap have been working on. It can let you interact with fictional characters in your live room, follow the progress of a loved one or just turn your environment into the greatest work station imaginable.
Now, affordable and easy mixed reality is still a few years away. It’s a much more complex and data intensive endeavor than VR, necessitating a truly insane amount of processing. But it promises to bring about the convergence of VR and AR. And that blend of reality and illusion could well be what your world will ultimately look like.