Are we heading into an age of mobile virtual reality?
27th April 2017
The idea of a virtual world that blends seamlessly with reality has long been the dream of science fiction fans. From dodgy B-movie flicks in the ‘80s to The Matrix or Inception, people have fantasised about a digital world that overlays our own, and in 2017, there’s some truly innovative tech that, on many levels, actually creates that.
Smartphones have been toying with augmented reality (AR) – where your phone overlays digital information on a real location through its camera – and virtual reality (VR) for as long as they’ve been able to power a steady internet connection. And the last few years have seen some headline-grabbing apps and applications for the technology. Pokémon Go, anyone?
Away from developments in mobile tech, the gaming world has been toying with motion control and voice activation for a while. Think of the Playstation Move, the Nintendo Wii, or the Xbox Kinect. All of them enhance a gamer’s experience by blending the real world with what’s happening on screen. Remember the holographic Tupac performance at Coachella? The engineers behind it were bringing the digital world into the real one. And then there’s Siri and Alexa. Voice controlled digital assistants are now delivering information into our reality through an AI interface.
In a lot of ways, the blending of reality and virtual reality has been happening for quite some time, even if we might not have fully realised it. And year-by-year, the smartphone is getting more and more on-board.
So where are we at?
VR has been making steady progress in the mobile world, and creating a massive buzz on social media. Google’s Daydream View VR headset, for example, allows you to pop your phone in, strap it on, and instantly access VR video on demand, games that are interactive with your surroundings and so much more, right in front of your eyes. Plus it comes with a handy controller that works as a VR magic wand. Truly innovative stuff.
Another big-hitter in the mobile tech – Samsung – has been working on equally impressive projects, namely Gear VR. Designed with the Samsung Galaxy user in mind, it works seamlessly with their range of smartphones, and offers its own bespoke app store.
Where could things go next?
That’s the big question. In the short term, we’ll see updates and innovations with VR headsets, and as the number of apps and uses for them grows, new tech will inevitably evolve.
But will we ever truly be able to blend the real world and the virtual one in our daily lives? One top-secret project might be working on the answer.
The Magic Leap project is probably the world’s most secretive start-up. The Florida-based mixed reality company has attracted more than £1 billion of investment from the likes of Google and Alibaba, and from what we’ve seen so far, could have a huge influence on the future of mobile.
Projecting holographic, augmented, and inconceivably realistic imagery onto the actual world around us via a wearable lens, Magic Leap (seems to) fully incorporate all sorts of digital apps – everything from your email, to apps, to games, to maps – all into your direct vision.
So will we be scrolling through our phone books and checking WhatsApp messages holographically in the not-too-distance future – using motion sensors and voice recognition to navigate our devices? We couldn’t say just yet, but we can’t wait to see what Apple, Samsung, Google and co. have up their sleeves.
It's exciting times ahead – and by building a data network capable of handling all the new tech that’s coming, we'll be doing our bit to help underpin it all.
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