Written by Craig Beddis

2 min read

How mixed reality and virtual reality tech will help us to stay human

  • Aether Engine
  • Gaming

For years now we’ve heard about the rapid advances in VR and MR technology, but I don’t think we’ve really stopped to realise the massive benefits this tech could have for the human race. It goes further than experiencing a space remotely and preventing accidents or understanding the risk of dangerous environments - which of course would be incredible and could improve the safety of industries like construction and mining.

There are countless industry applications for mixed reality headsets, such as the construction company Trimble’s hard hat solution that uses Microsoft’s Hololens to plan for remodelling and work in the physical environment. This technology can help us to visualise things in the real world, rather than sitting behind a desk and staring at a screen - it actually encourages us to spend more time in the real world.

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We can also use immersive experiences to help us stay physically active - and as a parent this is something that’s massively important to me. I want my children and my grandchildren to be engaged with the world and active - taking part in it and exploring it every day. This technology can bridge the gap that currently exists between being outside playing a game of tennis and sitting inside playing World of Warcraft. Not only can we layer data on top of a tennis lesson to improve the way we play and the accuracy of a serve, but we can use augmented and virtual reality technology to play a game of tennis in the garden without all the equipment.

Rather than parents worrying that their kids are going to sit on the sofa all day, we can totally transform screen time and bring the digital and physical together. Mixed reality could actually bring parents and children together too; they can play outside using this technology, stay physically active and learn about the environment they live in all by layering over the real environment.

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The next 10 years have the potential to revolutionise the way we learn and the way we keep fit, and this technology can help us to get out of the cycle of childhood obesity and reconnect with the real world. We can use it to tackle real world problems like obesity, caring for the elderly, and mental health problems.

On the one hand day to day tasks can be made far safer: head up displays can be used for pilots, surgeons, mechanics and across a whole host of professions to display crucial data when delicate procedures and repairs are being made. On the other we can create 3D avatars that can express empathy and emotions: these could help us care for the elderly, stay connected with loved ones from afar, and rebuild a sense of community that many people are worried is disappearing from the world. Both these applications put our emotions, wellbeing, and safety at the heart of this technology.

One other interesting use case is around empathy. Stanford has been looking into how VR can help us to feel empathy for others with their VR experience Becoming Homeless that puts you in the shoeless of a homeless person. We have access to these incredible technologies that can explain problems and encourage us to engage with societal problems. Far from shutting off and escaping into mixed reality worlds, they can put us at the centre of human conflicts and help us reconnect to one another.

With thousands of people feeling disconnected from the world, layering audio, graphics and data on top of the real world may just be the trick to getting us to re-engage with it.