Shyam Rao is the Senior Director - Digital Business Services, at Infosys BPM and Sooraj Divakaran is the Lead Digital Marketing, at Infosys BPM.
Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ imagines a world where humanity escapes the desolation of the real world by spending its time on Oasis, a virtual universe. A scene from the movie sees the character Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, wearing a heat-sensitive haptic suit which allows him to experience pressure when an object or other people in the Oasis touch his avatar.
What intrigues you about this virtual world is that it is so seamlessly immersive that there are no physical barriers between the user, object and environment. As a practitioner, you are fully aware that a complete immersion is really difficult to achieve in real life using the existing virtual reality (VR) technology. What if this wasn’t just science-fiction and was something that could be possible in the near future?
What is Mixed Reality all about? Professor Paul Milgram from the University of Toronto was the first to point out that Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are actually related, in his groundbreaking research on the subject. In simple terms, VR is when a user is completely immersed in a synthetic world, which is not bound by physics, time or even fiction for that matter. The synthetic world may mimic the real world or a fictional world, which makes the experience that much more intriguing.
The reality-virtuality (RV) continuum- is when the real-world environment and the virtual environment are viewed as opposite ends of a continuum rather than being regarded as antitheses.
Mixed reality is the coalescence of the physical and the virtual worlds. The first mixed reality system was developed by US Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratories in the early 1990s. Last few years have seen several companies working on Mixed Reality (MR) technology. Microsoft released mixed reality sunglasses ‘HoloLens’ in 2016 to allow developers to test and build applications using its platform. Magic Leap, the super secretive start-up has also released its mixed reality headsets this year.
Mixed reality business applications
Mixed reality has found its way into many applications, however, the current use cases are mostly inclined towards arts and entertainment applications. Mixed reality also has applications for business and manufacturing.
Interactive product catalogs
Manufacturers and device manufacturers can move from static catalogs to interactive catalogs. For example, a large component manufacturer can create 3D smart digital replicas of its components which could be then showcased on its digital warehouse which can be accessed from any location without any geographical constraints. Similarly, online retailers can create mixed reality “trial rooms” to enable consumers to understand how retail products will look and feel similar to visiting a brick and motor store.
A recent study of 1,100 workers found that remote workers feel shunned and left out. Lack of close contact inhibits the formation of trust, connection, and mutual purpose which are all ingredients of a healthy social system. Mixed Reality could help remote teams in the future to work together in a more collaborative and immersive virtual environment.
Simulations can be used to assess prototypes and procedures. For example, surgical and ultrasound simulations can be used to train healthcare professionals.
Health and safety
A challenge in industries where work happens in hazardous conditions such as mining, oil & gas or chemical industries, mixed reality can be used to mimic actual environments and perform work in a safe and controlled manner.
Mixed reality: The way forward
Turns out the heat-sensitive suit from ready player one could be real soon. The most exciting version of this tech is the Teaslasuit. The company behind the technology promises to deliver haptic feedback, climate control, motion capture and smart biometrics in AR/VR/MR environments.
Mixed Reality technology today represents an oasis for businesses seeking to transform the end-user experience. Like any other technology, it is not perfect but needs to be carefully studied to tap new opportunities.
The article is authored by Shyam Rao Senior Director - Digital Business Services, Infosys BPM and Sooraj Divakaran- Lead Digital Marketing, Infosys BPM