Virtual reality, Augmented reality, holograms; it all sounds like science fiction. But we are entering this age. We already have motion controlled computer interfaces (Wii, Kinect, Playstation Move). Brain controlled is around the corner (Force Trainer, Necomimi, and the most advanced I have seen, from a TED talk). All of these are getting better as we speak. These are all about how we communicate with the computer, but there are advances in the way that computers communicate with us as well.
We have had new projects delving into different ways to present information to ourselves for many years. Today we see 3-D, curved screens, projectors. We have seen more risky things flop before. The Virtual Boy is a prime example, it was an early attempt at virtual reality video games. So what is virtual reality? Virtual reality is being able to enter a world that does not actually exist. There is also ‘Augmented Reality’ which is using a computer to change, or ‘augment’ how we see the world. This is basically using a computer to overlay virtual images into the real world. Hologram is altogether a different beast. They use a projection system to put an image into the real world that anyone looking at it can see.
Today we are seeing these things on the horizon, some are even on the market already, many will be out in the next several years. The Oculus Rift is a cutting edge virtual reality gaming device. It tracks the motion of your head to control the game world, as well as using a traditional controller to actually move. Google Glass is the most well-known augmented reality technology coming to the market. Testers have already been using them in the real world. It is being marketed as a heads-up display, this is the most common idea of what augmented reality is. Google Glass has the capability of showing a video to the wearer, projecting maps onto real world streets, and even letting us interact with games that only we can see. Even the Nintendo 3DS has an augmented reality game where the player shoots little pictures that pop up around the room. The most hyped Augmented reality right now is being terribly mis-marketed. The Microsoft HoloLens. This may be the technology that interacts the most with the real world. It can show images interacting with real-world objects. Like a game of Minecraft sitting on your living room table (until I saw this I was wondering why Microsoft bought Minecraft.) or someone pointing out what to fix. This is all incredibly cool, but it is not a hologram. A hologram is a three dimensional virtual object in space, like Hatsune Miku. This is a popular singer from Japan who is completely a computer construct (including her voice) and still does full concerts.
I am absolutely fascinated by all of these technologies, but I believe we need to maintain realism in their marketing. If Microsoft is so keen on selling the HoloLens as something so much more advanced than Google Glass as to do so much work to make it seem like an entirely different technology, why when I search Google Glass do ads for HoloLens come up?
While the HoloLens is interesting to me, it is not as friendly for everyday wear. I am excited to see it, but I really look forward to Google releasing Glass for the public.
Update 1: Since I first published this about a year ago I have found that Google Glass has said that the prototype phase is over, and is still committed to the product, but do not have any official release dates
Update 2 – Google Glass has been shelved for the time being. On the Virtual Reality front however, the HTC Vive has been making a splash with its superior motion control features, while another Google entry, the Daydream, is intriguing. In brain-control there is the Mind Flex, and an unnerving TED talk about controlling another person! The future is out there!