Mixed Reality: the next normal

By Sarvesh Joshi

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Last week, while watching Prime Time News on a popular news channel, a News Flash came and left me with a deep line of thought. It went something like, “Reliance JIO announces JIO Glass in its Annual meeting”. Obviously, there were interesting visuals about the product that captivated my attention, but one terminology that intrigued me the most was Mixed Reality. Today’s, blog post gives an idea about Mixed Reality technology, the gen-next technology behind JIO Glass.

Image 1. Courtesy- JIO official website

So to begin with, let me give an example of Iron Man (Yes, Avengers fan forever). You see in his movies, Iron Man doing a lot of amazing stunts, using Augmented Reality (AR) technology. Yes, all of you are familiar with it.
If you navigate it further, it’s basically a tech that connects both worlds – Physical and Digital. Anyone with a penchant for Gaming, more specifically Virtual Online Gaming can relate to it. Imagine yourself at home, with your Boss just in front of you. I know it sounds quite scary, but on a lighter vein, you can have all the fun with animation and characters of a movie, appear right in front of you. The experience is literally going to be amazing.

Image2. Courtesy – Marvel Studios

A lot of people have asked me, what exactly is “mixed” in Mixed Reality Technology. So, it is basically an enhanced version of Augmented Reality (AR) by blending it with Virtual Reality(VR). A good analogy to understand and distinguish between the two would be: that with VR Tech, you can swim with Michael Phelps, but with AR tech you can see Michael Phelps pop out of your visiting card.

Image 3. Courtsesy-https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/mixed-reality/mixed-reality

Image 3 exhibits the concept of Mixed Reality through a Venn Diagram. Human interaction with virtual world when comes closer to you, gives rise to Mixed Reality. One of the most unique things about this awesome technology is that it is usually associated with the term “Experience”, rightly called “Mixed Reality Experience”.
A typical Mixed Reality device looks like the one shown in Image 4.

Image 4. Courtesy-https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens

The image, shows a person wearing Microsoft’s HoloLens. Basically in the image 4, he is looking at a hologram with the HoloLens and the image appears enhanced and real to him. This is a Sweet and short application of the Mixed Reality (MR) device.

As per Microsoft’s official website, their Mixed Reality (MR) Product, “Microsoft HoloLens 2” is an untethered holographic computer. If we dig deeper, we find that it’s a device that is simulating the holographic image and maximizing its size.  A typical Mixed Reality device would include a headset with a high-resolution display and some sensors, headband to adjust the headset, brightness, and Volume buttons.

Image 5. Source- Samsung’s Official Website

A short story on Mixed-Reality to keep you engaged

Naresh is an aspiring politician. He needs to connect with people and do a lot of aggressive political campaigning. He is contesting against a politician, who is well connected to the people and has a solid-reach out base in that area. Suddenly, there is a massive outbreak of flu (similar to COVID-19), in that area. With the new restrictions imposed on large gatherings, he is now left toothless. He turns to his consultant who advises him to use Mixed Reality Technology, to reach out to people virtually and in real-time. Nonetheless, the touch is humane despite being virtual. Reluctantly he does that, and organizes his political campaigning series. He starts with informing the size of his address by collating the residents’ information database and their socio-economic status. Mapping the physical amenities status of that constituency with the aspirations of the residents, he targets certain pointers and connects to people virtually using the Mixed Reality Technology. In those virtual rallies the attendees not only see the proposed changes by Naresh virtually, but are taken to believe that such transformational governance changes can happen. As expected, magic happens in voter choices and Naresh trounces the established politician in the elections by capturing absolute majority. This might be a fictional story but might become a reality in days to come. Just imagine!

COVID-19 pandemic and similar outbreaks of diseases or other physiological conditions have shown us a true mirror. In this era of social distancing, people are virtually connecting. The new normal is going to be more Virtual. Mixed Reality will be the next normal. If you carefully assess the JIO Glass and specifications related to it, you will be simply blown away by its awesomeness. One application would be that you can simply Video call your relatives and they will appear right in from of you. You can enlarge their sizes too or make them small.

A more real time application in daily processes can be in fields of education & healthcare. For instance, during this pandemic, one of the challenges faced was by the school teachers; in terms of adapting to technology interface and onboarding all students to attend virtual classes. We all know, that virtually connecting teachers and students is an arduous task. Even though we have virtual systems like Video Calls in place, the Mixed Reality technology simulates the teaching experience like no other- offering greater number of options for customization. The classroom can virtually or rather be created at a place. In fact, we will move from e-learning to s-learning(simulated-learning) very soon.

In the field of medicine, we always need the sanitization of doctors. Mixed reality will help in information exchange between doctors, so fewer people will be required during the surgical operation. This tech will provide the much-needed social-distancing for the doctors, leading to greater efficiency and safety of the doctors as well as the patients.

Another significant application would be enhanced remote-work culture in organizations. This year, we have witnessed the importance of remote-work culture. Mixed Reality Technology will create enhanced workplace like scenario and work-from-home can become a seamless experience for the employees.

A lot of companies are already investing in this upcoming technology. Multi-billion MNCs like Intel, Microsoft, Alibaba, Alphabet Inc has dedicated teams for this booming technology. We
already have Facebook Occulus, Samsung’s Gear, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR in place. In the era of technological advancements, this tech is one of the pillars of Industrial Revolution 4.0.

Let’s see what our immediate future is going to unfold like! After all, “Virtual reality is a technology that could actually allow you to connect on a real human level, soul-to-soul, regardless of where you are in the world.” (Chris Milk)

The author is an Analytics Professional, presently associated with a Middle-East E-Commerce firm

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