[POLYV Insight] Virtual Reality or Mixed Reality?

2016 is the year of Virtual Reality – with headset devices like Oculus, HTC Vive or Sony PlaySatation VR, and VR resources like Resident Evil 7, Rick And Morty VR and Google Earth VR, and even some interactive VR commercials, the technology of VR is rapidly changing the way we feel the world – you can now concentrate to the context of the story, and make yourself more involved into it.

YouTube gamer Sean McLoughlin (a.k.a. Jacksepticeye) demonstrating VR game

YouTube gamer Sean McLoughlin (a.k.a. Jacksepticeye) demonstrating VR game

The issues? You have to wear a heavy headset connected with cables to your computers, and interact in the game with some specially-designed controllers; your vision is “limited within the headset”, and not able to see the surroundings or environment, which causes you to knock things, other people or even yourself down.

Then, some researchers and developers begin to build what we know as “Mixed Reality” (MR).

The users don’t need to isolate themselves from the reality – instead, what they see is the combination of reality and the computer-generated graphics that are projected in the environment. The users can react to or interact with both reality and the CG graphics in real time, without them interfering each other.

Currently the most-mentioned solution of MR is the HoloLens by Microsoft. It seems to be similar with the project of Google Glass, but with stronger computing to generate holograms and other CG graphics, making it able to use in practical needs and demands, such as architecture design, clinical research, product demonstration & experience, K-12 education and more.

Microsoft HoloLens in various productive scenarios

Microsoft HoloLens in various productive scenarios

And for France-based THEORIZ, it has a different perspective for MR.

Their solution doesn’t require user to wear a headset or use controllers. It uses multiple projectors to simulate a virtual environment within a specific space like a room or a hall, and cameras or sensors to locate the user and capture his motions or movements. When the user interacts with the virtual environment, the system simultaneously generates graphic that respond the user’s behavior.

The solution makes it simple and intuitive for user to understand and start interacting with the virtual environment, and is very ideal for solo or even group interaction in some specific scenarios like trying on clothes, psychological experiments and zoology study simulations. And with this breakthrough, THEORIZ rises fast and gains much attention around the world.

Demonstration of THEORIZ MR solution (screenshot from Vimeo)

Demonstration of THEORIZ MR solution (screenshot from Vimeo)

The development of MR shares a lot of things in common with VR, but has higher criteria and needs more work on the environment buildup and motion capture. Therefore many MR solutions are still in small test currently and not yet ready for public test.

And there’re chances for VR to evolve while MR is not widely ready – Intel has announced that a technology of fast wireless transmission, specifically designed for VR devices, is under development. It helps the VR devices go wireless, making users can move and interact freely without the restriction of cables and wires between the devices and the computer. Besides, Oculus, HTC and Sony are improving their VR devices based on the feedback and advice from the users, and upgrade devices will be ready in months.

To draw the conclusion, the fight between VR and MR is still on. It’s hard to tell which is better for now, but we can see that both are changing the way we sense, interact and learn about the world.