V is for visionables

 This post is part of a series, “Digital: From A to Z,” that explores what it means to be digital. What’s in your A to Z of digital? Find me on Twitter @Max_Hemingway or leave a comment below.

Visionables (wearables that enhance or change our digital visual experiences) cover areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

These should be viewed as complementary technologies, each with their own use cases. As there are already good definitions of these technologies, I will reference some sources:

Virtual reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer technology that uses Virtual reality headsets, sometimes in combination with physical spaces or multi-projected environments, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. A person using virtual reality equipment is able to “look around” the artificial world, and with high quality VR move about in it and interact with virtual features or items. The effect is commonly created by VR headsets consisting of head-mounted goggles with a screen in front of the eyes, but can also through specially designed spaces with multiple large screens.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality

Augmented reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated or extracted real-world sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called computer-mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. Augmented reality enhances one’s current perception of reality, whereas in contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

Mixed reality

Mixed reality (MR), sometimes referred to as hybrid reality, is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Mixed reality not only takes place in the physical world or the virtual world, but is a mix of reality and virtual reality, encompassing both augmented reality and augmented virtuality via immersive technology.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_reality

These are experienced through the use of smart glasses or headsets that interface (connect) the user to a form of computing that powers the device and displays the visualisations.

Augmented Reality is probably the most widely used and known reality technology through applications such as Google Maps and Pokémon Go.

These technologies are developing at a rapid rate, with both hardware and software evolving. Some examples are:

  • Microsoft now demonstrating sharing HoloLens sessions through Teams, and Apple introducing AR/MR into their devices. Ikea have taken advantage of this by releasing a catalogue application in iTunes that allows you to view a virtual version of the catalogue item in your room to see how it looks before you order it.
  • Google Glass providing an Enterprise version for use with specific software vendors.
  • HP releasing a backpack computer allowing portability of virtual reality headsets powered on batteries, removing the chance of cable snagging as the operator moves around, enhancing the user’s experience.
  • Others delivering MR headsets, as there are a set of MR headsets coming onto the market with the release of Microsoft’s latest MR software.

As well as the reality-based technologies, there are also developments in traditional headset displays putting a small display in front of the eye to view content as if your sat in front of a monitor, navigating using voice commands such as the Realwear HMT.

Visionables will drive a change in working, replacing monitors with headsets initially in  specific use cases, then moving to a wider audience as the technology advances and becomes more mainstream and costs start to come down.

Further reading

Join me next time as I look at “W is for wearables” in my Digital A-Z series. See my last post, U is for usability.

This entry was originally posted in Max’s blog.


Max Hemingway — Senior Architect

Max is a senior architect for DXC in the United Kingdom. With more than 25 years of experience, he has a broad and deep range of technical knowledge and is able to translate business needs into IT-based solutions. Currently the chief architect of the BAE Systems account in the UK, Max has a proven track record acquired through continual client engagement and delivery of leading edge infrastructures, all of which have delivered positive results for end-clients, including IT cost reduction, expansion of service capability and increased revenues.

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