When most people hear the term “mixed reality,” they probably think about entertainment and gaming. This technology offers a way to merge physical reality with virtual worlds, and we’ve already seen rudimentary applications on social media, such as Instagram filters that join the “real you” with a cat. It therefore might seem unlikely to imagine this same technology being used in the workplace.
However, as mixed reality continues to grow and new applications emerge, it’s clear that it has all kinds of professional applications and potential investing opportunities. Let’s look at how it can be used, along with the role of AI and a few companies to look out for.
What is mixed reality?
Virtual reality immerses you in an alternate reality through a screen, while augmented reality adds computer-generated images to your physical reality (think Pokemon Go). Mixed reality is an extension of AR that combines the two by allowing us to interact with virtual items without fully immersing us in an alternate reality.
It might sound unfamiliar, but we’ve been seeing representations of mixed reality in SciFi movies for decades. The technology makes it possible for us to view holograms of people and other 3D visuals as if they were in front of them — and considering the characters doing this are often scientists and researchers, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most exciting applications are in the working world.
The role of AI
One of the biggest challenges in mixed reality is ensuring that it interacts with the real world effectively, but this is no easy task considering how many possible cues it could be picking up from the environment and the different contexts or scenarios it could encounter.
AI and machine learning can help technology to recognize different objects and improve its understanding of an environment over time, making mixed reality even more powerful.
Professional uses of mixed reality
The most obvious use of mixed reality is in professions that require a lot of visualization and design, such as construction. In this field, workers are used to relying on a small screen to look at designs and plans, and having to relate them to a construction site themselves.
Trimble offers mixed reality solutions that add holographic data to our physical reality to wearers of its specialized glasses. These allow the workers to literally see the design come to life in front of them and map it out on top of the site, allowing them to find potential issues and understand the project more easily. They can also use the headset to measure sizes of space and carry out other work tasks to enhance their workflow.
This is far from the only application. Brainlab has developed a mixed reality viewer to help surgeons gain a better picture of the work they’re doing. Instead of comparing patient images on a screen and comparing them to the person in front of them in their head, the headset can map the images onto the patient to give surgeons a clearer perspective. Surgeons can also use the headset to visualize where to make incisions or perform other tasks during procedures.
In addition to helping professionals perform their work more efficiently and accurately, mixed reality offers a fantastic way to onboard and train new recruits. For example, in the case of surgery, mixed reality headsets could help them to visualize what different types of surgery with different patients may look like.
Companies to look out for
Plenty of public companies are also keen to get into the mixed reality space in the short term. Apple (AAPL) and Meta (META) are set to release mixed reality headsets in late 2022. However, these are currently targeted at consumers for leisure rather than businesses looking to take their technology to the next level.
Microsoft (MSFT) has been one of the pioneers of mixed reality, launching its Windows Mixed Reality HoloLens in 2016 and continuing to innovate. One of its latest projects is Microsoft Mesh, which is set to build on the existing Microsoft Teams by allowing colleagues to review 3D visuals and holograms together to improve workflows and communications when working remotely.
Ready for the shakeup?
With all the major tech companies fighting to get ahead in the mixed reality space and so many exciting new applications for different industries, it’s almost indisputable that mixed reality will play a role in the future, and those who invest early could end up ahead.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.