Digital Reality: A look into the world of Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality
Reality, what does it mean? Is it what we see, comprehend and perceive? When we wake up every morning, the world is largely as what it was before we went off to sleep. We are still us and normally the room we wake up in is still the same one in which we went off to sleep. The world has not been modified. History is unaltered and the future is still unknown. In other words, we wake up to ‘reality’. But is this reality? The more we try to understand it and define it, the more difficult it becomes.
Let’s take the help of Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino who in their 1994 paper “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays.” introduced the concept of the virtuality continuum and focused on how the categorization of taxonomy applied to displays.
Reality–virtuality continuum – The virtuality continuum is a continuous scale ranging between the completely virtual, a virtuality, and the completely real, reality. The reality–virtuality continuum therefore encompasses all possible variations and compositions of real and virtual objects. It has been described as a concept in new media and computer science, but in fact it could be considered a matter of anthropology.
Imagine you can play Iron man in Avengers or a Jedi in Star Wars in an environment mimicking the world in which these characters exist. That’s Virtual Reality. Now, imagine Iron Man or Yoda as an image and set that image in the room you’re in right now. That’s Augmented Reality.
Now, imagine another scenario: You are on a flight to Hawaii and dreaming about sitting on a beach chair in Hawaii, sand at feet with a Mai Tai in hand. Using Mixed Reality, you could experience that scenario even before you land on the beaches of Hawaii. Mixed Reality could emulate a creaky beach chair when you move in your economy-class seating, receiving the Mai Tai from a real flight attendant and touching sand on the floor to create a beach-like experience. A flight to Hawaii that feels like Hawaii is an example of Mixed Reality.
The definition of virtual reality comes from the definitions for both ‘virtual’ and ‘reality’. The definition of ‘virtual’ is near and reality is what we experience as human beings. So, the term ‘virtual reality’ basically means ‘near-reality’. This could, of course, mean anything but it usually refers to a specific type of reality emulation. Answering “what is virtual reality” in technical terms is straight-forward. Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
An enhanced version of reality where direct or indirect views of physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real-world, thus enhancing one’s current perception of reality. In most augmented reality applications, a user will see both synthetic and natural light. This is done by overlaying projected images on top of a pair of see-through goggles or glasses, which allow the images and interactive virtual objects to layer on top of the user’s view of the real world. Types of Augmented Reality –
- Marker based AR
- Markerless AR
- Projection based AR
- Superimposition based AR
Mixed reality (MR) is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Mixed reality takes place in a mix of reality and virtual reality, encompassing both augmented reality and augmented virtuality via immersive technology. The first immersive mixed reality system, providing enveloping sight, sound, and touch was the Virtual Fixtures platform developed at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratories in the early 1990s. Now, the combination of all three – computer processing, human input, and environmental input – sets the opportunity to create true mixed reality experiences. Movement through the physical world can translate to movement in the digital world. Boundaries in the physical world can influence application experiences, such as game play, in the digital world. Without environmental input, experiences cannot blend between the physical and digital realities.
Just like any other major technology integration with mainstream society, Digital Reality needs to clear a few hurdles before it can be widely accepted and used. A few challenges being faced by Digital reality are:
- Lack of content: Until more promising and appealing content is available in the education, entertainment, automobile, healthcare, and other industries, the AR/VR/MR market cannot take off. The cost of creating content for VR does not come cheap.
- Better User Experience: At the moment for VR and MR headsets, the resolution is too low on top of the fact that it’s not fully immersive and it makes people nauseous.
- Fragmentation in Standards/Formats and Content: A lot of fragmentation, mostly because different platforms have their formats and specifications, exists in the VR marketplace. Headsets, for example, are made by different manufacturers and have features that run on specific platforms instead of being able to run on multiple platforms.
- Cost vs Quality: The key to mass adoption is making reality devices, like headsets and motion controllers, to be more affordable for the cost-conscious consumer who is also looking for bang for the buck.
- Frames per second: Virtual reality requires processing of 90 frames per second. That’s because lower frame rates reveal lags in movement detectable to the human eye. That can make some people nauseous. Nvidia is actively making GPUs that would enable rendering that’s faster than the human eye can perceive.
- Latency: DR latency is the time span between initiating a movement and a computer-represented visual response. Experts say latency rates should be 20 milliseconds or less for DR.
- Field of view: In VR, it’s essential to create a sense of presence. Field of view is the angle of view available from a particular VR headset. For example, the Oculus Rift headset offers a 110-degree viewing angle.
- Positional tracking: To enable a sense of presence and to deliver a good VR experience, headsets need to be tracked in space within under 1 millimeter of accuracy. This minimum is required in order to present images at any point in time and space.
- Vergence accommodation conflict: This is a viewing problem for VR headsets today. Here’s the problem: The pupils move with “vergence,” meaning looking toward or away from one another when focusing. But at the same time the lenses of the eyes focus on an object, or accommodation. The display of 3D images in VR goggles creates conflicts between vergence and accommodation that are unnatural to the eye, which can cause visual fatigue and discomfort.
- Eye-tracking tech: VR head-mounted displays to date haven’t been adequate at tracking the user’s eyes for computing systems to react relative to where a person’s eyes are focused in a session. Increasing resolution where the eyes are moving to will help deliver better visuals.
- Connected remote workers — for monitoring workers without being present in the same location.
- Warehouse and Logistics — Smart glasses that guide workers to take shorter efficient routes.
- Manufacturing — for complex assembly and reducing error rates in the manufacturing process.
- Education — Training individuals for challenging jobs, like for firefighters or Air Force Pilots, or for use in the classroom.
- Healthcare — Computer generated anatomy helps surgeons determine ways to locate tumors, practice surgical procedures.
- Tourism — To transport consumers to a virtual location as a marketing tool.
- Live Events — Users can get transported to concerts, sporting events, museums and the likes.
- Gaming — Immersive gaming experiences include those played on PCs, consoles, and mobile and those that transport gamers to soccer stadiums or fighting robots in a futuristic arena
- Movies — VR headsets for movie experiences where viewers are in charge of what they see and even how the story unfolds
- Recording Videos — VR cameras that allow users to record their VR home movies
So, what does this mean for Enova? How does Digital Reality tie up with a FinTech company? The answer is that it is the next area of User Experience. One of the key ways FinTech companies differentiate from their traditional financial services competition is by focusing on enhancing customer engagement and user experience (UX). To achieve this pioneering FinTech companies are looking to incorporate Digital Reality. Financial Service providers have digitized every process and have already started experimenting with technology like Virtual Reality. It has opened a new opportunity to blend extraordinary interfaces with the ability to provide an immersive experience for the customer. VR with its data visualization products is helping the financial companies to analyze the huge bunch of data. Financial leaders are able to comprehend complex concepts using VR and are able to recognize new model visually. Also, customers can ingress a wide picture with virtual reality headsets into extreme areas and act personally with a Customer Care Executive. The limitation to Digital Reality’s implementation, is imagination.