It’s hard to believe, but dreams are finally coming true for Star Trek fans who imagine themselves visiting a holodeck.

The incredible speed of technological invention within the last few years has led to the development of three realities: Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed. Confusing as these terms may initially seem, they simply describe the different natures of digital presentation to the end user. Like the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press or the development of the Internet, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Realities have many characteristics that will have a positive impact on globalization in the years to come; boosting international communication.

Augmented Reality (AR)

A form of mediated reality, AR is the addition of digital objects to the natural environment, viewing through mobile devices including smartphones and tablets. The user can manipulate these objects through real-time movement. VR01 375

It is an easily accessible cutting-edge technology that is approachable because it takes little to no cost to install an AR application on a mobile device for immediate usage. Overlaying content, including information and imagery on top of people’s everyday settings, is starting to become the daily norm. Snapchat recently introduced the ‘Lens’, which overlays new faces and filters over the original photo with a fun message. Pokémon GO™ unites a player’s current geographical location with gaming concepts and Pokémon characters, producing a personalized game conducted live through augmented reality. Apply AR to a marketing campaign, and increase the impact of an idea to deepen market penetration. The possibilities are endless.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality is Immersive Multimedia; a full engagement in a 3D computer simulated reality by wearing devices including the Oculus Rift™, Vive™, Google Cardboard™ headsets. The use of haptic technology incorporates tactile sensors, converting the user’s physical touch into digital imagery. The quickly emerging market of VR will soon guarantee many choices when picking a viewing device that fits within consumer’s price and feature parameters.

It is an easily conceived assumption to think that the destiny of VR is to improve the entertainment industry, particularly concerning movies and video games. But the innovative thinkers out there are applying VR to other industry sectors, including life sciences, education and retail. Imagine wearing a virtual headset to take an eye exam, sit in an interactive language lesson, or try on clothes in a changing room before purchasing them online. These experiences increase the connection with content in everyday life; increasing involvement by creating a digital world that enhances participation.

VR02 350Mixed Reality (MR)

Like VR Mixed Reality also uses haptic technology to convert the user’s touch into digital imagery, but creates a hybrid environment of virtual and real worlds. A new technology, MR is an item that is not yet available on the public market. There are two main products currently in development: Microsoft HoloLens™ and Magic Leap™.
Besides the challenge to make headsets for viewing and interacting with MR more affordable, the future looks promising because of the impressive capabilities that MR has to offer. Because actual and digital objects exist simultaneously in real time, engineers, architects, and manufacturers can save time and money when brainstorming and constructing initial prototypes. MR also has a purpose in people’s daily activities. Imagine using a Hololens™ to try out where a new piece of furniture will look in different areas of the house, thus sparing oneself from painstakingly having to move the new china cabinet to five different areas of the house.

Live Streaming Digital Reality

Digital realities harbor an infinity of practical applications, but will cease to reach their full potential of making a positive impact on the world unless there is a method of transporting content to the end user. Live streaming enables consumers to receive the maximum benefits of real-time content to augmented, virtual and mixed realities.
Using the newest technologies in video production is necessary to capture the entire environment in real time. The result is an authentic delivery of content streaming to the audience. Broadcast online courses to thousands of students from a small office studio enabling students to watch and participate with course content simultaneously. Gone are the days of required large lecture halls.

Another example is the recent coverage of the Manchester United vs. FC Barcelona soccer game that took place on July 25th 2016 and was virtually broadcasted around the world to soccer fans wearing virtual headset. Sports games are just the beginning – live-streamed virtual classrooms for education, board rooms for business, and concert for music lovers are soon to follow.

Robert Endo is the founder and Engagement Manager of Intrepid Data, LLC, a full-service software and hardware development provider that specializes in data analytics and the
Internet of Things.