Ninety years ago, a writer by the name of Stanley G. Weinbaum imagined a pair of goggles that let the wearer experience a fictional world through holograms and touch. His vision was surprisingly close to the Mixed Reality Glasses (MRG) technology hitting the market today. Though MRG is still in its infancy, millions of units are shipping every year. This year alone, some six-million MRG units are expected to ship—up two-million from 2018. By 2023 it is expected that this number will reach 17-million.
MRG has the potential to be one of the most disruptive technologies to come out of the 2020’s. Powered by the 5G network, MRG will enable hands-free, instantaneous communication, as well as augmented and virtual reality services (AR/VR). It could be paired with wearables (sensors inside clothes), attachables (digital devices attached to the skin) and implantables (sensor technology implanted inside the body). It will revolutionize how we all communicate and will replace the smartphone as we know it today.
Though its capabilities might seem futuristic, MRG is real today. All major technology companies including Google, Microsoft, and Facebook’s Oculus are rushing to get a piece of the action.
Google launched its first Google Glasses in 2013 and Facebook soon jumped into the MRG game with the announcement of its acquisition of Oculus in 2014. Other major companies, including Sony and HTC, also joined the market and, as of 2018, Sony was the top company in the VR device market.
Facebook has been the most active in developing new technologies by enhancing Oculus and developing game-changing applications for the consumer and healthcare markets. For example, Oculus is developing a 3D avatar which could have major impact in both healthcare and social events.
Startups are jumping in to innovate in the field as well. Surgical Theatre offers a VR system that combines a patient’s MRIs, CT scans, and angiograms to reconstruct; a 3D model of his or her brain. This allows neurosurgeons to explore their patient’s brain and even practice the upcoming surgery before performing it on the patient.
Jaunt VR provides immersive experiences of movies, concerts and even travel destinations with the assistance with a headset. At the touch of a button, consumers can hike through Redwood National Park or enjoy an award-winning documentary and feel like they are really there.
Still this is just the beginning. Every major technology company wants a cut of this new economy and, as such, is developing solutions to the world’s problems through MRG. Consider these examples:
In the very near future, doctors will use MRG to assist with surgery and even teach other doctors as they navigate difficult procedures. A surgeon could even consult with other surgeons during a procedure locally or remotely. MRG will also help doctors in remote locations to better detect illnesses and provide treatments to their patients.
On the patient front, disabled individuals will be able to use MRG to interact with others, access the internet and participate in the workforce. Currently, Domino’s is involved in a Supreme Court case about whether ADA compliance is applicable to the web. While Domino’s argues that ADA compliance online may prove too cumbersome for many businesses, MRG technology may eventually ease the challenges of making web and app experiences more friendly for disabled individuals—a win for both the companies and consumers.
2) Digital Manufacturing
For years there has been fear of robots replacing workers, but MRG may actually enable the future workforce to do more. By using MRG and AR/VR, the manufacturing workers of the future could design, build or service complicated products. They could even participate remotely in a consulting role or to educate workers at a different location.
The U.S. Army recently announced that nearly everyone in the force will be trained to operate drones. This means the MRG could be used to get the information from the drones and act accordingly.
AR and VR are already a growing part of the gaming sectors. Gamers want the most immersive experience possible and, as such, this massive market is looking for new ways to enhance games and provide added value. MRG is a key to create and expand for this demand.
The new economy for MRG is huge. Advertising/marketing, tourism and education are just a few examples. Both Microsoft and Amazon are eying MRG market as a way to drive new sales. For example, Amazon’s Sumerian product is designed to help developers create new applications for AR, VR and 4D without requiring them to fully understand the complicated technologies behind it.
According to Dave Beck, managing partner of Foundry 45, an Atlanta-based company that develops VR-based learning experiences for other companies, the killer application for MRG is training. It’s experiential learning so you get hands on training which is much better than just reading about it or watching a lecture. One of the most valuable benefits, though, is the ability to train employees in dangerous situations (electrical safety, around heavy machinery or modes of transportation, etc.) without actually putting them in harm’s way.
The future is one that will be immersive and enhanced through AI, robotics, augmented and virtual realities, the Internet of Things and the 5G Network—and all of this will be enhanced through MRG. Smartphones, as we know them today, will completely disappear with wearables, attachables, implantables and MRG. As a result, the decade of the 20’s will see an incredible shift in how we communicate and experience the world around us.
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