The Future of Visual Computing is Hybrid Reality

Posted: By Ted Pollak 02.17.16

The future of face-mounted computing (sorry head; I choose to use face) will not be Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality; but a hybrid of both. To me, Virtual and Augmented Reality are not good names for hardware platforms. They are a way of experiencing computer-generated information.

For example. Take a person with Google Glass, to date the most recognized and mass-produced “Augmented Reality” eyewear. Put this person in a seat at a baseball stadium and launch the “MLB Overlay” program. This (imaginary) application adds real-time stats overlaid next to each player on the field, as well as pitch speed, and other scoreboard data wherever the user is looking. Now take a person wearing something like Samsung GearVR with pass-through camera(s). Put them in the same ballpark using the same application. The result is that BOTH people are experiencing “Augmented Reality” regardless of the hardware. But wait there is more! The person with the GearVR might have two (or more) cameras “looking through”; a wide-angle and a zoom. Is it possible that the person with the Virtual Reality headset could actually experience a superior “Augmented Reality” than the person using the Augmented Reality eyewear? Absolutely. Is it also possible the widest concurrent use of AR could first be experienced with pass-through cameras of VR headsets? There is a good chance.

Now for another face, errr head, explosion. Take someone playing a “Virtual Reality” video game of let’s say….medieval combat. They are using a premium VR headset. The headset has multiple “look through” cameras pointing down and forward. The cameras are constantly analyzing the user’s hands, arms, their whole body as one can see from the perspective of where the cameras (eyes) are. The computer takes the “real reality” of your body state and overlays armored gauntlets and chain mail onto them and into the game. “Real Reality” is being projected into “Virtual Reality”. Is the result not a hybrid of “Augmented Reality” and “Virtual Reality”? I argue that it is.

The final nail in the coffin of separating AR and VR as hardware platforms would be an advanced technology that allows one to experience a completely opaque (VR), transparent (AR), or hybrid computing environment using lightweight glasses, contact lenses, or neural implant. However, I think that perhaps the terms virtual reality and augmented reality will persist in the hybrid environment as a way to tell others of the user’s current state of computing. For example “Sorry I was in VR” or “Ok everyone, let’s go augmented”. But from a hardware platform perspective, the “Real Reality” of it all would simply be the advancement of visual computing.