All three of these technologies have blasted open a whole new sphere of possibilities. They each bring to the table new tools, orientations and conceptions of how technology intersects with reality. Even more so, the potential of all three is yet to even be defined, nevermind even exhausted.
The question that has since emerged for entrepreneurs and investors outside of the deep tech community is what exactly do these new techs offer and how do I crack into it? To help answer this question, the team at Program-Ace — a software development and R&D company — has decided to share some of their expertise.
By offering 360° of visual and auditory content, VR devices can put users in completely new environments. This led outsiders to generally conceive of it as a primarily gaming platform. Undoubtedly, opportunities for VR games abound as the number of users is projected to rise dramatically over the next five years. The space for startups to find a niche within an already competitive gaming sphere, notwithstanding the success of several high-profile indie games, is challenging.
The greatest opportunity for VR-based market entry is in using VR-devices to solve the previously unresolvable issue of ‘distance’. It answers the question of “how do you be somewhere you’re not currently and experience the things there without actually going there?” We all know that going places costs money, time and effort. But VR can instantly remove these inhibitors by putting you there, virtually, immediately.
‘Digital showrooms’ are one iteration of this idea. The concept relies on the premise that stores as we know them — large, brick-and-mortar establishments — are increasingly being edged out by online retailers. There remain several spheres, such as furniture and cars, that have not completely been subsumed by such new retail methodologies. In large part, this is due to the fact that people want to get a sense of their dimensions, how they would complement other existing products, and the generally undefinable attribute of ‘feel’. Digital showrooms, on the other hand, solve this issue by giving users the experience of being in the store and appreciating scale from the comfort of their living room.
If virtual reality can remove the metric of distance, augmented reality begins to solve the question of “how do we bridge the gap between the virtual, digital world and the real, physical world?” As a technology, AR allows a user integrate these elements on the screen on a smartphone or tablet. This tech doesn’t operate as a simple, overlay but instead can coordinate with GPS-services or ‘markers’, which root a virtual element within a physical location.
Opportunities are available for start-ups that can use this coordination of virtual and real in the fields of construction, maintenance, and manufacturing. All of these industries rely on implementing digital designs, sketches, and blueprints into physical apparatuses. AR technology, however, is removing the separation of these two fundamentally intertwined processes, offering users greater efficiency, accuracy and safety.
A high-profile example of AR being used to this effect is in relation to construction and infrastructure. When building, it is imperative that workers are keenly aware of where existing pipelines and electrical wiring already is, even if it's hidden away underground. AR apps now allow workers to simply aim their phone at a batch of ground and instantly see where and what kind of piping/wiring is at that location. This sort of intuitive and useful innovation attests to the way integrating virtual and physical elements is far more than a mere Pikachu-inspired novelty.
Mixed reality has the potential to truly reshape how humans fundamentally engage with the work. It certainly sounds like typical, meaningless hyperbole but the vision MR presents is truly that powerful. Where the questions remain, however, is how far away are affordable, easy-to-wear and sufficiently powerful models. Broadly speaking, MR seeks to answer the same question as augmented reality (bridging the gap) but aims to do so in a far more radical fashion.
Whereas AR integrates components only on a screen, MR allows for the complete 360°, real-time coordination of the elements. The HoloLens, for example, uses spatial mapping to render the physical environment into a digital mesh in real-time. This means that virtual elements, such as a virtual bouncy ball, will interact with the physical components in a completely realistic manner. It will bounce on the floor and roll off sloped surfaces. For users, this offers a radically more immersive and dynamic experience.
As of now, Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap’s device are the two industry leaders, though both remain in development. Microsoft has, however, released development models for developers like Program-Ace to begin programming for.
For startups keen to crack into an emerging realm that lacks clear-cut dominating firms and is replete with opportunity, mixed reality represents a unique opportunity. Nearly everything industry, vertical, and person stands to benefit immensely from what it has to offer. All it needs are entrepreneurs and start-ups ready to change how we interact with reality.
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