Back to reality: The rise of the immersive experience
February 4, 2022 - Following Meta’s shock market slump, it is perhaps clearer now why the Facebook owner wants to lead the charge on the Metaverse – a hypothetical 3D virtual Internet accessed by way of virtual and mixed reality devices.
Immersive experiences became accessible to everyday consumers a few years ago in the form of headsets like the Oculus Rift and the now defunct Google Glass. Then the hype died down.
Now, chatter is picking up again in the wake of Facebook’s rebranding as Meta, and its popular Oculus Quest 2 all-in-one VR gaming headset. In fact, given Facebook’s surprise news that it has lost daily active users for the first time in its 18-year history and its disastrous stock market slump, its investment in the Metaverse is more important than ever (the Metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection – a hypothetical virtual Internet, if you will. Access to it will come by way of virtual and augmented reality headsets and devices).
Apple, too, is rumoured to be releasing a headset of some kind at the end of the year, and Sony has announced its new PlayStation VR2 headset will ship in 2023.
“The challenge with any new technology is that it’s easy for everyone to get excited about its potential, but that excitement can turn to scepticism because they fail to understand that the timeline to realise that potential isn’t measured in months, but years,” says Tommy Palm, founder and CEO of VR studio Resolution Games.
Seemingly those years are coming to pass and immersive experiences are moving out of the hands of hobbyists and into the lives of general consumers, allowing the market to move out of the hype phase and into an era of stability.
But with all this talk of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, and even Augmented Virtuality, Mixed Reality and Extended Reality, it’s easy to become bamboozled by the jargon and fail to understand what is being developed and what it does.
A BETTER UNDERSTANDING
Think of immersive reality as a scale, with reality at one end and virtual reality at the other. This is known as the “reality–virtuality continuum”, and this is how it works:
1) Reality – Our perceived view of real world around us.
2) Augmented Reality (AR) (comes under the umbrella of Mixed Reality (MR) also known as Extended Reality (XR)) – Computer-generated virtual elements combine with real world ones.
EXAMPLE: Graphic overlays during televised football match to highlight key moments.
SEE ALSO: Microsoft HoloLens 2 – Holographic device that projects 3D computer-generated images over real world objects via stereoscopic headset (allows wearer to see real world around them and virtual overlays at the same time).
3) Augmented Virtuality (AV) (also comes under the umbrella of MR/XR) – As with AR, computer-generated virtual elements combine with real world ones, but crucially, allow the user to manipulate them.
EXAMPLE: IKEA app allows people to place virtual furniture into their own home using tablet computer’s camera and screen.
4) Virtual Reality (VR) – Stereoscopic headset that makes wearer believe they occupy a fully rendered 3D computer-generated space (user is unable see reality at all).
EXAMPLE: Oculus Quest 2 gaming headset.