Brief History of The Future of Mixed Reality
The tech industry has been growing in exponential rates since its beginning somewhere around the 18th century. Computation went from being a lab experimentation into a handheld super computing device in the pockets of everyone, everywhere.
As the industry evolves, new technologies emerge. These technologies usually deprecate one or several previous technologies used at its time. For instance, mobile phones single-handedly replaced landline phones, GPS devices, answering machines, camcorders, alarm clocks, scanners and many, many other technologies that were completely sunset with one single innovation.
But that’s the beauty about the industry. It doesn’t respect tradition, popularity, or even social status. It only respects innovation. A teenager with a computer and an internet access in a garage anywhere around the world could put an entire enterprise out of business so easily within few days with a simple new innovative idea — like Google!
From my own personal observations, there has been some consistent patterns in how technology evolves. In my opinion, a technology that directly contributes to the survival, evolution or fulfillment of mankind becomes easier to adapt and simpler to understand. No matter how long it takes to fight through corporations with monopolies in the market, somehow a good innovation makes it through and becomes mainstream.
Take seat belts for instance, as a new innovation designed to contribute directly towards the safety and survival of motorists — it faced a massive opposition in the early 80s from both individuals and organizations. Auto makers continued to fight for nearly a decade bringing up every excuse you can imagine blocking passing a federal regulation for the new technology.
Eventually the innovation won, and the greedy corporations lost. Nils Bohlin’s innovation continues to be used till this day since it was first introduced in 1959 for Volvo.
In this day and age, we come again across a new innovation like Mixed Reality. A new technology that has been introduced first in 1994 as a concept by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino. They introduced the idea of exploring the concept of a virtuality continuum and the taxonomy of visual displays.
Several companies took that idea and started applying it to several fields such as education, entertainment, military training, remote working and so many other fields. The adaptation of the technology still continues to pull slow traction — but the heartbeat is still there.
Under the Microscope
How does Mixed Reality contribute to our survival, evolution, or fulfillment?
Just like seatbelts, if we go back on the street — you can easily spot the number one cause of road crashes everywhere. Distracted drivers. That’s over 1.3 million fatalities worldwide every single year. The very mobile devices that were supposed to evolutionize our lives are also one of the main reasons we lost our sense of reality.
It has become quite clear that cellphones as they get more and more involved in our lives are also becoming obsolete — they can’t withstand our continuous need to leverage technology on the road. Walking down the street or in any other situation where focus is of utmost importance.
Auto makers continue to evolve technology supporting mechanisms in modern cars such as better head displays and bigger monitors, but the number of fatalities doesn’t really change significantly.
Mixed Reality as a technology becomes extremely supreme and much more effective in managing focus and applying an intelligent layer on top of reality for the safety of motorists. It goes even beyond that, to ensure humanity continues to observe the reality around us, instead of being head tilted to a mobile device missing out on the most important moments in our lives.
Peek Into the Future
Let’s take a quick peek into what our streets would look like if Mixed Reality as a technology were applied to head displays for drivers and a wearable device for pedestrians.
Dermot McDonagh shared the above figure on how intelligent and effective Mixed Reality on the road could be. It is not just more convenient; it’s truly meeting people where their focus is going. With a simple application like this, the operating system can easily control incoming notifications based on the situation and context and bring the user’s attention and focus to the most important events on the road.
Notifications can then come back into display at stoplights and waiting periods when the vehicle isn’t really moving ahead. This focus can also be the reason someone’s life could be saved assuming an animal is crossing the road, or a child is running across the street!
It’s quite obvious that leveraging a convenient reality is much more effective to our safety than using cellphones on the road. Just like seatbelts!
But from a pure financial standpoint, Replacing Street signals, signs and warnings and everything else in between in terms of infrastructure work can save hundreds of millions of dollars including maintenance costs, operational costs, and everything else in between.
Nature can be left alone with no human intervention while relying on Mixed Reality to give motorists and pedestrians a customized experience to bring them the information they need to reach their destinations. Installing street signs, signals and drilling into nature will no longer be needed as everything else becomes digitized.
Applications for Mixed Reality are endless. But they are also quite difficult. This is the case with every truly evolutionary step in the history of man. Let’s talk about these challenges.
You might have been already wondering while reading this article; How are we going to support a network to provide data access at this scale? What can we do if the Mixed Reality system experiences a failure? How are the mass majority of people will be able to afford expensive Mixed Reality devices? And many other questions like these.
If you take away Mixed Reality from the equation and apply the very same questions to cellphones some twenty years ago, you will start realizing that Mixed Reality is nothing, but the next evolution of what cellphones are. These very same questions were asked earlier. Cellphones used to cost over $4,000! The very first Motorola DynaTac 8000X used to cost around $3995! That was also in 1982! It didn’t have apps, video calling or even texting! It had a terrible network, and it was only used by the wealthy in big cities.
And then as technology evolved, and cellphones became more and more adaptable some twenty years after they were productized, you can find them today everywhere you go. It’s actually a lot harder today to find someone without a cellphone than someone who carries one!
Cellphones existed to pave the way for the next generation of compute devices to take our evolution to the next level. Just like landlines that existed before cellphones to establish the infrastructure that’ll be used later to power up the evolution of communications.
But the challenges that faces Mixed Reality today are a lot more complex. Such as the case with every evolutionary step. Companies everywhere have been trying to find the best way to come a bit nearer to a fully functional Mixed Reality product. Some stayed in the Augmented Reality world, such as Google Glass, Magic Leap, and many others. Some decided to create their own reality as an entertainment product such as HTC Vive, Oculus, and others. And then Microsoft came in and introduced HoloLens in 2015 as a true Mixed Reality device.
The difficulty with Mixed Reality is that you are not just applying a layer on top of the existing reality. You are mixing with it. That’s where/when it becomes a convenient reality.
The Road to Productization
Coming up with an idea is a dozen for a dime. Finding supporters who believe in the very same idea is a bit harder. Dedicating one’s life to bring that idea into a working solution is even harder. But turning that idea into a true product that someone else cares about is where the difficulty is.
Companies have been trying to come up with a form factor that is intuitive enough for the public to utilize and leverage in their day to day lives. Google tried to simplify the experience with their Glass product — however, the product failed for so many reasons. Battery life, privacy concerns, unknown value and so many other reasons. Some say the Google Glass was too futuristic for it’s time. It arrived too early. Some say it was due to the lack of vision on the creator’s side. But regardless of the reasons, we all can agree that the product failed.
Some companies decided that it’s too early for a wearable technology and decided to make Mixed Reality as a part of a mobile phone experience. Apple started to introduce Mixed Reality through their tablets, phones and then promised to introduce Apple glasses and then many other companies, big and small started to follow suit.
The road to productization is quite challenging on both the hardware and the software sides. But also, on the people side in terms of adaptation and utilization. And that’s what makes this endeavor worth the investment and worth the time.
But looking at most of these products that we have today, I started to realize that we are all at stage 0 when it comes to Mixed Reality. We are all living in the external side of things. That’s not the only way to approaching this problem. Let’s talk about the deep future of Mixed Reality here.
Into the Deep (Stage 1)
In the deep future, Mixed Reality will continue to exist as an inseparable part of the human anatomy. We can already see signs and attempts of injecting computers into the human brain like what NeuraLink is working on these days. They defined three main steps for implementing the technology. Understanding the brain, interfacing with the brain then engineering with the brain.
Interfacing with the brain shall lead to a deeper understanding of human vision, feelings, and all of our other senses. It’s like Morpheus says: “If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain”.
It’s quite evident that humanity shall leap at some point in the near future into a stage (stage 1) where accessing the brain and bringing up certain visualizations will become as regular as cellphones today. In the deep future, humanity will merge with the machine, which will inevitably be the end of primitive life as we know it and the beginning of a new age of computing and communications.
This approach isn’t just going to integrate Mixed Reality into our lives, but it’s going to serve as the only line of defense against a potential rogue A.I. Mixing with the machine will be the only option humanity has to withstand and compete with a self-aware metal monster roaming the earth to fulfill whatever purpose it defines for itself.
Not The only Way
Mixing with the machine isn’t the only way, however. We all realize and live the fact that the best “machine” that ever walked the earth is not made out of metal, motors, and cords. We may have lost our way in our evolutionary journey. The tools we’ve created seem superior at first, but they are completely primitive to the amount of computation one single organic natural human cell has.
Our software and hardware today are merely a child imitation of the outstanding computation power organic life has. And while the tech industry is fully invested in the metal, some other scientists are focusing more on understanding the organic marvel that is you and I today.
Understanding ourselves, our creation and evolution is the very first step towards survival of our species and our fulfillment thereafter. We may use our computers to expedite our understanding of ourselves externally, but we should never devolve into a bunch of toasters.
There have been several experimentations and attempts to understand psychedelics which brings an entirely new realm of the meaning of “Mixed Reality”. This class of psychoactive substances has proven to change perception, mood, and cognitive processes. It is, however, fatal, dangerous, unpredictable, and extremely complex. It’s not easy to control and it’s not easy to understand.
It is inevitable that there will be a point in time where the biochemical research and technical evolution will meet at the crossroads where one overcome the other or a hybrid will be born out of the two methodologies. It is hard to say at this point. Although a lot more individuals are more drawn towards technical evolution than biochemical, simply because the latter is too complex and hard to understand. Even with our so-called quantum computation power today.
“Above” and “Beyond” (Stage 2)
The final stage is merely a subject today. A metaphysical approach to understand what’s beyond physics. Ancient texts talk about certain individuals’ abilities to become one with the universe, then control reality as they so choose. This is beyond computations, calculations, biology, and everything else in between.
History brings up certain individuals like Natasha Demkina the girl who can see through people’s flesh! Natasha has a “built-in” X-ray vision in her eyes naturally where she can see through people’s skin. If you travel a bit further, you will hear about the Tibetan monks who can change their body temperatures using their minds using the Tummo technique. Ben Underwood is an individual that has sonar vision where he could see like Dolphins without suing his eyes!
It is becoming more and more evident that there’s more to unlock within our own powers. It seems that we can potentially “natively” control, mix or become our “reality” without any technical or chemical intervention.
This particular and final section of this article is the shortest. It intentionally reflects how less we know about our own native powers, and what we can do to control our reality.
This long article reflects my own personal thoughts in understanding this era we live in. Keeping my eyes to the stars, my heart with the people and my feet on the ground. Overall, the future is quite promising and exciting. We hear about new innovations every single day in every aspect of our lives. We concur challenges that we couldn’t even effort to think about in the past.
It is quite an honor to be part of our human journey in understanding our universe, ourselves and everything else in between.