Startup company Magic Leap wants to use mixed reality to do away with your desktop computer. TechRadar reports that the company recently released a video showing how our future computer desktops might look and operate. Magic Leap wants to replace windows on a screen with holograms on your desk. The video appears to be a proof of concept and claims that no special effects were used to produce it. If this claim is true, it is very close to creating the first completely wireless, totally touch-free computer workstation. It would require no mouse, no monitor, and perhaps no keyboard as well.
Magic Leap’s device uses what is known as mixed-reality technology. Mixed reality is similar to virtual reality and augmented reality, but is different in an important way. Virtual reality creates a digital world that fully immerses the user. A user in virtual reality is unaware of his or her physical surroundings, only seeing what is in the virtual world. Augmented reality allows the user to see the physical surroundings, but overlays those surroundings with graphics that serve some purpose. For example, there are phone apps that use the camera to view your surroundings while shooting superimposed aliens seemingly in the environment.
“Mixed reality lets the user see the real world (like AR) while also seeing believable, virtual objects (like VR). And then it anchors those virtual objects to a point in real space, making it possible to treat them as “real,” at least from the perspective of the person who can see the MR experience.”
Therefore, the objects in a mixed reality environment can theoretically interact with objects in reality. For example, a 3D map could be anchored to an open book. As the book moves in the real world, so would the map, and closing the book could make the map disappear.
Magic Leap’s concept of mixed reality will not just be limited to a user’s desktop either. Judging from the video below of its homepage, Magic Leap has loftier ambitions than just desktop computing.
The integration of a digital reality into our surroundings has been depicted in many science fiction movies – Minority Report comes to mind. However, this tech has always seemed just a bit far out of reach. With recent advances and the release of virtual reality hardware, it is beginning to appear feasible.
Mixed reality, as Magic Leap envisions it, will replace more than just our computers.
On its website, the company says, “We decided to take a different path and rethink the relationship technology has with people.”
It sees a world where people are unfettered by the devices they use and carry around with them. Smartphones, tablets, laptops – all of these things will not be necessary. Theaters will not need projectors, and films could potentially become interactive experiences, where the audience can actually reach out and manipulate bits of the movie. Perhaps this is looking a bit far ahead, but the two videos show a company that is looking ahead at least that far and beyond. With Microsoft’s HoloLens looking to capture some of the same market, competition has brought the future closer than we think.
It is a bit strange to imagine everyone walking around with a big set of Magic Leap Mixed Reality goggles on their faces. However, with chips and tech continuing to miniaturize, it’s not hard to imagine them developing eyewear more stylish than Google Glass. This goal seems to be within the company’s reach.
According to a Magic Leap press release, last February the company secured $793.5 million in new funding.
“Continued investment comes from Google Inc., Qualcomm Incorporated, through its venture investment group, Qualcomm Ventures, and others. New investment also comes from Warner Bros. and tier-one financial institutions, including Fidelity Management and Research Company, J.P. Morgan Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc., and Wellington Management Company.”
With this amount of backing, Magic Leap should have no problems achieving its goals, but when it does, will the public be ready for mixed reality?
[Image via Magic Leap]