Untangling the Complexities of Mixed Reality.

I recall my first Vive experience vividly. Years ago at CES, I managed a site with a tight budget and the most on-the-ground experience, so I went solo. With an intense drive to write 100 stories over five days and explore every nook of the show floor – even those filled with knockoffs from consumer electronics trends – it was truly unforgettable.

After the demo, I was loath to take off the headset and rejoin reality. That’s how I know virtual reality is amazing – it can make me feel so peaceful! Despite paying a hefty price for 3D Avatar with all its special features, it was still worth every penny; the fight scenes were exciting but what really touched my heart were those wise space whales and angsty Na’vi learning to swim.

VR demos are the closest tech has come to offering a shortcut to the peace of meditation. I’ve tried out several planet simulators that gave me those serene, fleeting moments, and since then my practice has become more disciplined.

VR says far more about me than I do: people are drawn to different experiences. At the show, I chatted with Shen Ye, Global Head of Product at HTG+, and mentioned another work-related VR demo involving an Olympics-style game package. One attendee asked if they had Office Simulator; he liked using it as a reference point for headset testing.

I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of using costly, advanced tech for everyday tasks. Ye argued that it’s a form of freedom to do something we’d rarely attempt in reality – like Grand Theft Auto where you can intentionally knock over a cup filled with pencils. Whatever brings people joy is up to them!

The bag is snatched from your head. You’re in a canoe with two others and just freed from jail to help on a mission. Taking the time to appreciate the robotic wildlife, you start paddling slowly but are quickly spotted by hostile creatures. Blacking out, you wake submerged and ready for action!

The downside to VR is that its imperfect virtual people are on display since the entire game occupies your field of view. Yet, the scenery is beautiful! After climbing a cliff during the demo, you’re reminded to take it all in with a tap on your shoulder. When you finally remove the headset, you find yourself among onlookers who’ve watched your 30 minutes of flailing around.

Magic Leap has had financial difficulties, so they sold a majority share to Saudi Arabia and refocused on enterprise. Their headsets are too expensive for most consumers, but corporations have the funds to make it worthwhile.

Pricing remains a challenge; it’s hard to find the perfect balance between expensive enough for quality and affordable enough for everyone. Nonetheless, Magic Leap has demonstrated innovative capabilities at CES, like 3D scans of brains with potential medical applications and virtual mountains with wildfire scenes featuring tiny helicopters in the sky above. It’s clear that their product is not inferior – it just needs to become more accessible!

Mixed reality (MR) immerses you in a way that VR does not; it clicks quickly. It’s easy to get lost in and feels like the future, but its efficacy is another matter. The Microsoft HoloLens military contract failed due to potential light bleed on soldier’s faces which could be seen by enemies.

Magic Leap was the clear winner among the three MR headsets I tried. However, much work remains to be done for these systems to reach their full potential in business. Although pricier than its competitors, Magic Leap’s features make it well worth it.

In our talk, you referred to the competitive nature of pricing as a “race to the bottom.” I’m in agreement that bad AR/VR/MR systems are likely a hindrance for progress in this sector – although Google Cardboard may be accessible, is it better to have an unsatisfactory experience than none at all when it comes to advancing the industry?

Ye comments that giants are in a race to the bottom, making cheap headsets at a loss. She states, “What’s the cost of your personal data? We’re not relying on ads for revenue, so it’s something we don’t do – we want to build good hardware.”

Is it worth giving up your personal data for access to services? Depending on the person, this may be a trade-off many are willing to make – as evidenced by the amount of people who have given away much more for less in social media.

All parties agree that Apple entering the space, if successful, would be beneficial. It would validate a technology that has long been seen as potentially revolutionary. But will there be enough opportunity for everyone?

Read more about CES 2023 on TechCrunch
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Dylan Williams

Dylan Williams is a multimedia storyteller with a background in video production and graphic design. He has a knack for finding and sharing unique and visually striking stories from around the world.

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