You may have seen and may have even been wowed by the most recent demonstration of HoloLens last week. But as awesome and spectacular Microsoft‘s take on augmented or mixed reality may be, like all of its kind, it is still primarily a solitary activity that only the wearer can experience fully. Everyone else, in the end, is simply a spectator. Microsoft, however, might not content with simply accepting that restriction. Researchers at the lab of Jarod Lanier, a VR and AR pioneer in th 80s, are working on what could be the world’s first multi-person mixed reality system.
No, that doesn’t mean AR with schizophrenia. this multi-person scenario means that users in the same space, physical or otherwise, with their VR or AR eyepieces can all experience the same mixed reality together and interact with one another. And it isn’t just about viewing the same event separately but about being really “there” and interacting with objects and people as you would in the real world.
This research could substantially make virtual reality and augmented reality a more interesting and more profitable market. Right now, multiple users can indeed experience the same event but it is akin just having your own personal screen glued to your eyes. You are barely aware of other VR/AR users in the same space as you and their actions don’t have any impact on your view of the world. With multi-user mixed reality, there is an even stronger sense of real virtual space, an oxymoron if there ever was one.
And since this is mixed reality, you can also throw in real-world objects into the equation. For example, real world objects can be represented by virtual objects so that changes in the former are immediately reflected in the latter. People without VR or AR headsets can easily manipulate real world objects and those with headsets will be able to see the effects. It is truly and literally mixed reality.
Sadly, this research isn’t exactly oriented towards a commercial end, a HoloLens 2.0 of sorts. It is still, for now, purely research. That could, of course, come later, should Microsoft decide to reap the fruits of the labor.
SOURCE: MIT Technology Review