Immersive Experience Technology: The Future of VR?
Immersive Experience Technology
Immersive experience technology is one of the most promising and interesting of emerging techs. While the idea of virtual reality is often attached to video games, the technology has much broader applications. Yes, immersive experience technology is used in the adult industry, in art, and in entertainment. But, this tech is also being used in medicine, in education, and in the military and could drastically change our society.
While we often think of virtual reality when we think of immersive experiences, there are actually several kinds.
Virtual reality means a fully digital environment. Currently virtual reality is mostly restricted to the audiovisual. However companies like Qualcomm are working to add or improve technologies for the other senses as well. Haptic technology, which adds the ability to feel is making it into the mainstream. Companies are also working on machine olfaction (smell) and artificial gustation (taste).
The whole idea between immersion is the perception of being physically present in a virtual world. You are immersed.
The idea first became popular in its current form in the 1930s. As always, science fiction authors led the way. It wasn’t until the digital age began in full in the 1980s and beyond that technology in this field began to advance.
And as the potential grows, companies are trying to ensure that they continue innovating in the field.
There are three main categories of virtual reality immersion. Tactical immersion allows users to feel what they’re doing and improve their skills through repetition. Strategic immersion allows more mental that physical challenges, like chess. And narrative immersion is becoming investing a story, like you would with a book, TV show, or movie. These are also known as sensory-motoric immersion, cognitive immersion, and emotional immersion, respectively.
The long term goal of virtual reality is to create an environment as full and real as that of the Holodeck in Star Trek: The New Generation. Of all of the immersive experience techs, it captures the collective imagination the most.
While virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one, augmented reality changes our perception of the real world. Augmented reality works by bringing digital elements into the real world. When a computer displays height elevations over a map in real time, this is a type of augmented reality.
The potential applications are significant. Using this “overlay” method, L’Oreal and Sephora have created mirrors that allow you to try on products virtually. Users flip through lipstick shades or eye shadow colors that are then digitally rendered.
Snapchat uses this tech: this is the technical term for the “snap filters” you use. The filters are able to recognize elements of the real environment, your face, and add elements to them, puppy ears. The same tech enabled Pokemon Go to simulate pokemon walking down the street or hanging out in the park.
While it may sound whimsical in those lights, the military also uses augmented reality. Being able to display battlefield data onto a soldier’s goggles in real time is a significant advantage.
This is sort of the inverse of virtual reality. Rater than being a digital world, the digital is brought into the real world. That may sound like augmented reality, but it is distinct. Strictly speaking, mixed reality is anything that is not purely real or purely virtual. This means it is a catch-all term for most current types of immersive experience technology.
But, it has also come to mean systems built to be both digital and real in a way that is unlike augmented reality. The virtual and real elements of the system coexist as a single environment.
Essentially, this tech displays digital elements in the real world. You would even be able to interact with it. This is also known as augmented virtuality.
Downsides of Immersive Technologies
Most of the downsides of immersive experience technology are outlandish at this point in time. There’s a danger that humans could become happier with their virtual reality than their real one. But compared to the potential dangers of AI or fusion energy this seems far-fetched. That being said, the addictive capacity of such a system is certainly worth thinking about.
One topic of ongoing debate though is so-called “virtual crime.” The question here is whether people should be barred from doing things in the virtual world that are illegal in the real one. Can you rob a virtual bank? Could you commit a virtual murder? Even if we allow these things to be legal, ethical questions will remain.
Other Types of Immersive Experience Technology
Two of the more interesting emerging techs in this field are telepresence and digitals twins. Both will significantly change the way we do business.
Telepresence technology allows you to feel you are somewhere you aren’t. Imagine sending a robot version of yourself to a party while you’re at home. You feel what the robot does, but you aren’t actually there. The 2009 Bruce Willis movie Surrogates is a prime example of this type of tech.
Digital twins are something quite different. A digital twin is an extremely precise visualization of a real thing. Often digital twins are “live” so that what’s happening in the real thing can be seen in the digital copy in real time. This tech is similar to what Tony Stark uses in Iron Man as he’s building his suit. Digitals twins have wide implications for business. Being able to see a car engine visualized in real time could give engineers significant insights.
The Future of Immersive Experience Technology
Audiovisual elements of AR and VR are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated. Almost all major tech companies now have AR and VR departments. That includes Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, and more. Video game console sets like the HTC VIVE and PlayStation VR are reaching useable points.
The most significant development needed is in haptic, or touch, interface. We can not yet easily run, grab, dance, or swim in a virtual world. As the more than 200 companies working in VR improve, we will likely see this advance. Imagine being able to swim with dolphins without every leaving your living room! If major companies can crack the haptic code, immersive experience tech is likely to explode in popularity.
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