Welcome to Your New Mixed Reality Thinkstock

Welcome to Your New Mixed Reality

Virtual reality and augmented reality are already making waves in the industrial and commercial spaces. Now, mixed reality looks to bridge the two systems.

From Oculus Rift headsets to Microsoft HoloLens, even Pokémon Go app for smartphones, there have been mainstream hits of virtual and augmented reality. For entertainment purposes, virtual reality is typically marketed as an immersive gaming experience. Users pop on the headset and enter into a complete virtual world, losing their interaction with the outside environment. Virtual reality has also been made its way into the industrial space. Engineers can step into a model 3D space to examine layouts, plant facilities, and even hold meetings with coworkers across the country—all in a virtual space.

Augmented reality tackles the reality market from the other end of the spectrum. HoloLens is the best example of this interface, which overlays virtual models onto the real world. The headset interface is more of a viewer instead of a headset. The virtual models appear in the viewer, and can have limited interaction based on user input via hand gestures or controls.

The new Windows mixed-reality platform brings 20,000 video games to digital consumers, and will feature new headset designs from Acer, Oculus, Dell, Lenovo and HP.

Mixed Outcomes

Mixed reality differs from both of these by attempting to anchor the virtual models in real space. By using input cameras on the headset devices, the virtual models interact with the real space. The input cameras scan the surrounding environment, which eliminates the need for outside cameras or infrared beacons to track the movement of the user.

October 17th will see the release of Windows’ mixed-reality platform, with 20,000 video games for digital consumers. This will feature new headset designs from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Oculus. However, the mixed-reality technology has already been applied at Ford. For the past year, Ford has used the HoloLens and mixed-reality capability to directly model onto vehicles. Check out the video:

Ford’s designers started working with HoloLens so that they could stand in front of clay models of cars and see 3D vehicle elements digitally overlaid. By doing so, engineers could quickly evaluate their purpose and functionality. According to Craig Wetzel, Ford’s manager of design technical operations, the “ability to mesh digital and physical worlds together is, for us, the future of designing products.”

Engineers at Ford can use the HoloLens to analyze new car models. By mixing clay models and virtual models, this “mixed reality” helps designers conceptualize the new features of the vehicle.

By using the HoloLens for mixed reality instead of augmented reality, design and engineering teams at Ford found it easier to collaborate. Users can access similar data models regardless of location, and only designated users can access the data. Being able to interact directly with the clay model and virtual models allows everyone working on the product to better understand tradeoffs and to reflect customer experiences throughout the development process.

As a result, Ford’s engineers are able to evaluate in real time how a new design, such as a side mirror, not only affects the aesthetics, but also the customer’s view. Using mixed reality speeds up the process—what once took days or weeks to be completed can be done in a day.

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