Immersive experiences are starting to become available to an ever-increasing audience. From art fans and gamers to doctors, architects and engineers – only to name a few, more and more people are seeing the opportunities in the incredible experiences created by VR , AR and MR.
The power that these technologies hold in emulating physical worlds and building completely new ones inspired first of all the creative and digital fields. Apparently the other industries are not so eager to adopt them, in spite of the seemingly far-fetched forecasts that indicate a $160 billion market attainable by the end of 2021.
According to experts, the slow adoption rate in utility cases is due to the persistent lack of convenience and control. “Businesses already experiment with VR but hesitate to fully commit. Customers are fascinated by the new entertainment possibilities, but do not want to invest in head-mounted displays (HMDs) as long as the offering is so small,” says principal researcher analyst at Gartner Tuong Huy Nguyen.
Be that as it may, plenty of statistics report that immersive technologies will actually be serving utility in a growing number of industries. Considering it’s not a question of if, but a question of when, here is a series of long-due improvements that will most probably contribute to a faster rate of adoption in 2019.
Better user experience
When we put on a head-mounted display, we expect not only to enter a whole new reality, but also to live a hassle-free experience at the level of gestures, movements and body reactions. Although progress has been made on all levels, there’s still room for improvement in various areas.
#1 Body reactions
The out-of-body experience of moving in virtual reality while staying motionless in the real world still leaves us experiencing motion sickness, nausea, eye strain and sound disorientation. Immersive technology designers need to further fine-tune the user interface so that our body responds less abruptly when we “decouple”.
#2 Battery life
When we connect our mobile phone to a VR/AR headset, the phone is burning hot and battery dries out rather quickly, cutting short our state of immersion. In spite of scattered attempts to improve this shortcoming, battery life continues to be an issue.
#3 Cordless headsets
Even though the number of standalone head-mounted displays is visibly increasing, the larger part of VR/AR HDMs are tethered and need to be connected by cable to a PC, which interferes with our mobility.
Most standalone HMDs offer increased mobility, but can only facilitate 3DoF (three degrees of freedom), whereas the majority of tethered headsets let us experience 6DoF (six degrees of freedom), yet keep us stuck to a PC through cords and cables.
#4 Accessible tools
Fortunately, if we want to create an AR or VR experience, we no longer need to download so many technologies because they come pre-installed on many devices. Thanks to Apple’s ARKit or Google’s VR platform Daydream, the number of developers creating immersive experiences is growing.
Obviously, we’re dealing with various degrees of improvement, but we’re still a long way from living unhindered, easy to handle (both physically and mentally) immersive experiences. The benefits that we find in one immersive technology are lacking in the other and vice versa. This explains why the experts are advancing the idea that immersive tech needs about 5 to 10 years to reach maturity.
Extended high-quality content
In a recent interview that you can watch below, digital innovator Jeff Jaffers emphasizes that in the absence of high-quality content all these user experience upgrades will remain redundant.
According to Jeff, who co-created amazing immersive experiences with his team at Luscious, current advances in the VR, AR and MR technologies are changing the language of storytelling, which is forcing creators to change the grammar of the film.
For example, with 3DoF (three degrees of freedom), you can only see the camera perspective, whereas 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) lets you move dimensionally through space, just like Google Maps. Only a few months ago, RED and Facebook launched Manifold – a new VR camera for shooting 3D and 360° imagery.
Manifold is the first studio-ready camera system for immersive 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) storytelling. It’s powerful enough to capture immersive Hollywood-caliber movies. This means that, instead of sitting in a set watching a 2D movie, people will be able to watch the movie from inside the story.
On the other hand, multisensory interactions between auditory and haptic object processing generate an extra-ordinary experience, where we’re not only seeing things – we’re also feeling them. All these impressive upgrades in terms of seeing, feeling and touching realities are getting us closer to a ‘Google-on-steroids’ experience.
Immersive experiences require that massive amounts of data are available on various devices. Hence, the quality of the experience depends to a great extent on the level of connectivity.
Earlier this year, Ericsson teamed up with researchers from King’s College in London to design futuristic applications for 5G. One of their use cases is remote surgery, which is not necessarily something new. However, according to their study, the 5G speed promises to eliminate all the current delays and lags. The surgeon uses VR equipment and haptic gloves, which sense motion and pressure, to operate on a patient on the other side of the world via a robot. 5G enables the surgeon to get instant feedback via the gloves.
5G is supposed to provide us with lightning-quick connectivity and spare us from the latency that we’re currently dealing with. With 5G and cordless headsets, immersive experiences will improve exponentially.
AR, VR and MR are at a very interesting point right now. They’ve become more pervasive and they’re starting to serve both utility and entertainment. With 3DoF and 6DoF, they’re changing the way we tell and experience stories. So, even from these perspectives only, we have a lot to look forward to in the following year.