Robotic boots, AR contact lenses and haptic suits are some of the key advances in XR tech that are just around the corner.
Author and “futurist” Bernard Marr, writing for Forbes, looks at the tech advances coming our way in VR and AR and what these might mean for everyday life in the future.
LiDAR Will Bring More Realistic AR Creations To Our Phones
The iPhone 12 and iPad Pro already come equipped with LiDAR technology, and it’s reasonable to expect other devices will follow suit. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is essentially used to create a 3D map of surroundings, which can seriously boost a device’s AR capabilities.
“It can provide a sense of depth to AR creations — instead of them looking like a flat graphic. It also allows for occlusion, which is where any real physical object located in front of the AR object should, obviously, block the view of it — for example, people’s legs blocking out a Pokémon GO character on the street.”
This, Marr says, is vital for making AR creations appear more rooted in the real world and avoiding clunky AR experiences.
VR with Hand Detection and Eye Tracking
Marr thinks sensors for these functions will be built-into the next-gen of VR headsets. Because hand detection allows VR users to control movements without clunky controllers, he says, users can be more expressive in VR and connect with their game or VR experience on a deeper level.
“Eye-tracking allows the system to focus the best resolution and image quality only on the parts of the image that the user is looking at (exactly how the human eye does). This taxes the system less, reduces lag and reduces the risk of nausea.”
The XR Experience Will Be Accessorized
Marr gives the example of wearable robotic boots developed by Startup Ekto VR. “These provide the sensation of walking, to match your movement in the headset, even though you’re actually standing still. In future, accessories like this may be considered a normal part of the VR experience.”
Full-Body Haptic Suits
We already have haptic gloves, which simulate the feeling of touch through vibrations. But what about full body suits? The Teslasuit from British headquartered company VR Electronics is one example you can buy today. “But they aren’t exactly affordable for everyday VR users,” writes Marr who suggests that such gear will be cheaper and more effective in time.
Merging the Human Body with XR
The logical extension of an XR wearable is to internalize the device. This may end up with chip implants but before then we’ll get AR contact lenses, themselves the natural successor to AR goggles. California-based startup Mojo Vision is working on AR contact lenses with micro-LED displays that place information inside the wearer’s eyes.
Marr imagines the uses for the tech over and above helping those with poor vision.
“When demonstrating the prototype to journalists, the lenses displayed pre-loaded information like text messages and the weather report, indicating that AR lenses could help us consume content in new ways. It could also help us enhance our sight in low light conditions or even serve as a teleprompter for speaking events.”
AR lenses could potentially be used to augment the world around us. “If you hate the garish paint job your neighbors have done on the exterior of their home. In the future, your lenses could change it for you, and you’ll see whatever color house you choose,” Marr says.
It’s perhaps a trivial example, but is not far-fetched and will call further blur the boundaries between the real world and the virtual one.
Marr seems pretty open minded about the technology and aware too of the ethical and data privacy pitfalls that need navigating. On balance he believes the potential benefits of XR far outweigh the challenges.
“At the end of the day, XR is about turning information into experiences, and this can make so many aspects of our lives richer and more fulfilling,” he says. “Certainly for business, XR offers huge scope to drive success, whether that’s creating immersive training solutions, streamlining business processes such as manufacturing, or generally offering customers innovative solutions to their problems.”
We shall see.