Over the last few weeks we've touched on both AR and VR experiences. Today we finally take a look at the convergence point. On one hand we have the real world augmented with virtual elements, and on the other we have completely immersive digital worlds. Where they converge - we have the best of both.
Microsoft HoloLens is an example of this type of convergence. The hardware is untethered, meaning it is much llike a mobile phone; a self contained unit capable of operating on it's own. This is similar to the way Augmented Reality functions on most mobile devices, providing about as clean of an experience as possible. This differs from most Virtual Reality setups which require multiple components.. a mobile device + a headset, or a headset + a computer. Many times these pieces require physical wires connecting them, limiting the amount of movement and the locations you are able to use them.
The experience this hybrid technology provides is very much a blend of both AR & VR. Much like exisiting AR experiences you are looking through the device at the world in front of you, and it is being augmented by digital elements. However the additions in this type of tech are much more like VR, complete 3D creations that just happened to be placed in sight for you to interact with.
Where this blend gets really fun is how the tech is able to track what you're looking at and place the digital elements in real space according to what real world objects are in front of you. If you're in front of a table, the virtual item might appear on the table. If you're looking at a couch, it might appear on or next to the couch. This type of tracking also allows users the ability to move an object while standing in one location, and more interestingly allows users to physically move around a virtual object to see other angles of it.
The possibilties for use of this technology are amazing. The entertainment value alone is worth the price of admission, but this technology extends far beyond that. This blend will likely will become an invaluable tool for commercial use that includes product design, architecture, spatial planning, all the way through to educational and research assistance.
As this technology shrinks in size, this will become a much more natural extension of the real world. Pair this with something like Google's virtual retina display concept and the line between organic and robotics really begins to meld.