The Future Of Mixed Reality Technologies.
Illustration by Jeff Boortz, Creative Design.
Home offices, home education, and virtual meetings—in the span of a few weeks, this has become the new norm for many people around the globe. Companies, once hesitant to allow workers to telecommute, have been forced to allow their employees to work from home and meet virtually. Teachers and students meet over video chat while parents manage their kids’ school days. Friends hold parties over apps on their phones. The coronavirus has dramatically changed how we live, work and socialize and, with no end in sight, we are probably all wondering if things will ever go back to the way they were before.
I think the answer is at once both simple and complex. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more we’ll get used to a “new norm.” We will continue to look for alternate ways to live, and that presents a massive opportunity for both augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR). When the pandemic ends, we will have far more options on how to engage with others. Technologies, including Mixed Reality Glasses, will deliver AR/VR content and provide such an immersive experience we may choose a virtual concert, meeting, or classroom over reality anyway.
Mixed Reality Glasses has long been a “futuristic” technology. Even after Google released its Google Glasses, they were something for the “tech geeks” and later, the gamers. That’s all about to change. In the next few years, Mixed Reality Glasses will become as ubiquitous as the smartphone, and it will change the way we live and do business.
Today, most of the big technology players are investing in Mixed Reality Glasses. Facebook is fast pursuing Oculus. Google is on the third generation of Google Glasses. Microsoft is targeting the business world with its HoloLens. Apple is rumored to have hundreds of employees secretly working on augmented and virtual reality products. Samsung excited the fans with the release of its HMD Odessy +, and Sony has a leadership position with its PSVR. These companies have all seen the writing on the wall and have been pursuing what will arguably be the most game-changing technology of this decade for years.
As I tried to make sense of the viability of these products in this pandemic time, I reached out to a friend, Drew Perkins, CEO of Mojo Vision. He is one of the most hands-on visionaries in our technology circles. Not only does he come up with big and revolutionary solutions to common problems, he knows how to build viable companies around these ideas to deliver new products and services to users.
These days, Perkins is pursuing the development of smart contact lenses that will offer both vision correction and AR capabilities. He believes AR will be the most consequential technology of the 2020s and draws parallels between the emergence of AR and the release of the PC or smartphone. If Perkins is successful, his contact lenses will upend the already revolutionary Mixed Reality Glasses industry.
Perkins explained how his contacts would work. Not only will the lenses correct the wearer’s nearsighted or farsighted, they will also be capable of displaying text, images, and video content, as well as AR/VR content right from the contact lenses. Content viewed through the contacts could be requested by the user (such as text, email, or video) or it could be delivered based on a trigger in the real environment (a review about that nearby coffee shop, or indoor GPS to find an item on a store shelf).
Perkin’s has a strong scientific research team working to bring the smart lens to the market and believes that his smart lens will be first used by people struggling with vision impairment. The Mojo Lens will augment Mixed Reality Glasses, and people will be able to use either or both as needed. Perkins explained his concept as: “Invisible Computing where you get the information you want when you want it, but it stays out of your way when you don’t.”
Facebook, Apple, Google, and startups like Mojo, are on the cusp of releasing significant and commercially viable products. We are still in the early stages of this new technology curve, and I expect it will take years to deliver the ultimate vision, but everyone is rushing to shape the virtual market. The coronavirus is adding pressure to the need to offer new applications for social distancing, telecommuting, and tele-education —especially since no one knows how long the pandemic will last and how the world will look when it ends.
For entrepreneurs thinking about getting into the market, I believe there are three main segments for Mixed Reality Technologies—healthcare, enterprise, and consumer.
In healthcare, Mixed Reality Technologies (Glasses or Lenses) will present a different experience for telemedicine. A patient can have a virtual presence with a doctor who might be in a remote location. Surgeons in the OR can see content related to the surgery through AR or consult with another doctor remotely. Doctors will be able to support patients through telemedicine all over the world at a significant cost reduction. Hospitals will be able to increase productivity by delivering healthcare information in real-time, and disabled patients will be able to participate in the workforce through the aid of Mixed Reality Technologies.
The enterprise will benefit from the use of Mixed Reality Technologies to optimize work and support a new level of teleworking. Imagine in this new world how your smart glasses or lenses and your IoT computing systems will work together seamlessly to provide you with on-demand content to do your job, whether you are at the office, on the road, or working from home. For example, an architect designing a new building could access content related to the design and perform a feasibility study in real-time while working in his office or at home. No matter the location, the access to information, and the ability to be productive would be the same.
Consumers, especially in the gaming world, are primed for Mixed Reality Technologies. Teachers will be able to aid students in a personal way, even if teaching in a remote location. All of us will enjoy the freedom of holding a phone and will have access to information at the flick of an eye.
The applications for Mixed Reality Technologies are extensive, and the need for technologies like this has never been so apparent. When the global coronavirus pandemic finally ends, there will be some things we will never be able to return to as a society, and regularly working from an office may be one of those things. The silver lining may be that our lives will improve for the better because of it. Fewer people will sit for hours in traffic, the air will be cleaner from fewer cars being on the road, and families will find more time to spend with each other instead of in the car alone. Telemedicine, telework, and tele-education are here to stay, and innovators like Perkin are ahead of the curve to deliver game-changing solutions.