What might your experience of living with mixed reality? How will mixed reality affect our future?
This hyper-textual essay will put forward a view of mixed reality (MR) as a rapidly-developing interactive technology, which not only is a key of Internet transformation but also brings new opportunities and challenges in the future.
In this essay, it first describes a brief history of MR and gives a critical account of its genesis. Meanwhile, it explains how MR become a part of historical trends in communications media. Then, analysis from political economic and social sense, indicates who benefits from its transformation effective and who does not. Next, it outlines the influence and problems of mixed reality in an individual’s learning experience. Lastly, it concludes how MR disrupts almost everything in original Internet users’ life and brings new opportunities.
A brief history of Mixed Reality
As a term, “Mixed reality” is often used to describe a connection between physical and digital worlds, and to create new environments for visualization (Speicher, Hall, & Nebelig, 2019). It unlocks the link among human, computer, and interactive environment (Carter & Egliston, 2020). This internet innovation is primarily based on improvements in PC vision, graphical processing capability, display technology, and input system (Groeber, 2015). In a certain sense, MR is the development of augmented reality (AR) and interactive media technology. It usually has three main characteristics, respectively are real-time interaction, combines virtual and real world, and exists in a virtual three-dimensional (3D) space (Groeber, 2015).
Figure 1. Mixed Reality is the result of blending the physical world with the digital world by Microsoft, 2020, CC BY 2.0.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Steve Mann, as the “father of wearable computing”, designed the original wearable computer (Ohta & Tamura, 1999). It can be regarded as a tentative exploration of MR technology. Over the past few years, mixed reality products released by the world’s top computer technology companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, which have triggered widespread expectations for this technology. More recently, this technology has become a development trend of Internet innovation. There are many kinds of smart devices are gradually invented, for example, Google Glass, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens and so on.
Figure 2. The original wearable computer by Steve Mann, CC BY 2.0.
Nowadays, MR is a relatively new technology in the information society, which has a strong potential for development. The combination of the virtual and real-world made MR become a new trend in communications media. In recent years, MR has application in the field of health care, industry, intelligence-assisted learning system, and so on. With the rapid development of internet technology, the use of MR technology in enterprises is an essential requirement in the future.
Video 1: https://youtu.be/uVAVSMyjWRg (This is Why Mixed Reality or MR is a Big Deal)
Who will truly benefit from Mixed Reality and who does not?
MR technology has created a huge economic impact, and investors benefit a lot from it. During the PC revolution, Apple sold its 33% shares to Mike Markkula for 250,000 US dollars, and now, these shares are worth 280 billion US dollars (Voss, 1998). Similarly, the same explosive growth situation happened in MR technology. IDTechEx predicts that by 2030, the scale of the MR market will exceed 30 billion US dollars (IDTechEx Research, 2019).
Figure 3: The Market Size, AR and MR Products Revenue by IDTechEx Research, CC BY 2.0.
As a matter of fact, the current development trend of MR products is in line with the forecast, and even exceeded it. In late 2017, there are several Fortune 500 companies have invested in this innovative internet technology. For example, Apple and Google released mixed reality developing tools (ARKit and ARCore), which suitable for IOS and Android system respectively. And then, Amazon developed Sumerian, a mixed reality creation tool based on web.
In addition to launching products, these Fortune 500 companies have also invested MR technology. In 2019, the global mixed reality market valued at 382.6 million US dollars. Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that this growth-assets have created huge profits for investors. It follows from this that MR technology has become a trend of today’s internet development, and expected increase further.
In the development of mixed reality, the real economy of traditional enterprises had taken a hit. For instance, traditional offline education institutions have been affected. During the period of coronavirus epidemic, most of the education institutions no longer conduct offline teaching and translate to online, the gathering learning activities were stopped. Although, this situation has been given a great boost to the spread of mixed reality, and make MR technology has been popularized. Many traditional offline education institutions were facing collapse.
How has Mixed Reality affected my study? What is the problem?
As an individual, MR technology changes the traditional teaching form and provides learners with a real sensory experience. In virtue of smart glasses, high-definition displays and 3D audio, I can communicate with other virtual objects, thereby realizing interaction with instructors in different spaces and real-time. This form of online learning not only increase my participation in the learning process, but also improve my collaborative ability. Even more, the report of Immersive Experience in Education shows that when immersive technology and 3D technology are used in learning, the increase rate of students’ test score is 22% (“Report: Immersive Experiences in Education”, 2019). Therefore, when animations, sound and even smells, integrated into the MR learning environment, which will provide individuals with a full range of sensory experience, and effectively stimulate an individual’s interest in learning.
Video 2: https://youtu.be/wMJXuQyL_nY (Microsoft HoloLens: Evolving Education with Lifeliqe)
Nevertheless, MR technology is not mature enough, and its application in the field of education is still at the preliminary exploration stage. Despite researchers have developed many applications to support MR teaching, there are still a lot of challenges to realize the popularization of MR technology. First and foremost, MR technology lack of sociality. Nowadays, a large number of current MR technology do not involve in social relationships, therefore, I will feel lonely when using this technology. Besides, MR technology is based on the use of 5G networks. However, in today’s world of media communication, 5G networks are not universal, and the problem of network delay is common. It brings inconvenience to my study. Last but not least, the cost of MR equipment is high, therefore, a large number of ordinary schools cannot purchase the equipment for all students. Even though, with the support of MR technology, online virtual learning can bring high-quality courses to remote areas’ students. As MR technology drive to maturity stage, the manufacture costs are falling. However, in a short period, the cost problem is still restricting the promotion of MR technology.
To sum up, mixed reality sets up an interactive information loop among human, the virtual and real worlds. It also promotes communication between human and the world. During the development of MR technology, investors will get the maximum benefit from it. At the same time, the political economic and social scene of MR technology cannot be ignored. It can be said that. Mixed reality is a revolution in the traditional way of life. Compared with VR and AR, mixed reality has been significantly improved in terms of immersion, interaction, and visual display technologies. It will provide students with real-time interaction, and the one-way communication relationship between students and learning resources will be improved. Although, MR still has many challenges in terms of cost, technology, and popularity. In the future, MR technology will be more and more widely used in people’s lives, changing the way people work, communicate, learn and entertain.
Carter, M., & Egliston, B. (2020). Ethical Implications of Emerging Mixed Reality Technologies.
Groeber, J. (2015). Mixed Reality. Design : Retail, 27(4), 22.
IDTechEx Research: The AR, VR and MR Market is Estimated to Be Over $30Bn by 2030. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/idtechex-research-the-ar-vr-and-mr-market-is-estimated-to-be-over-30bn-by-2030-300979638.html#:~:text=All%20Products-,IDTechEx%20Research%3A%20The%20AR%2C%20VR%20and%20MR%20Market%20is%20Estimated,the%20past%2C%20present%20and%20future
Ohta, Y., & Tamura, H. (1999). Mixed reality : merging real and virtual worlds (1st ed.). Tokyo: Ohmsha; Berlin: Springer.
Report: Immersive Experiences in Education. (2019, August). Immersive Learning News. Retrieved from https://www.immersivelearning.news/2019/08/15/report-immersive-experiences-in-education/
Speicher, M., Hall, B. D., & Nebelig, M. (2019). What is Mixed Reality?. Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing System, CHI 2019, 537, 1-15. doi: 10.1145/3290605.3300767
Voss, B. (1998). Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunder. The Journal of Business Strategy, 19(3), 51–52.