Mixing Realities Pt. 2

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” Although Douglas Everett’s reference may have been decidedly different than mixed reality technology, there is no doubt in his understanding. There are those who both dream and live in a way that allows their dreams to become reality, turn everything they have ever wanted into a realistic part of their lives. With the new mixed reality technologies coming out there is an even greater way to make it all come to life. In those worlds that have been created for us, anything we can imagine can become reality, with the right programming.

            The term “virtual reality” was not used until somewhat recently in history, closer to 1960, but the origins are still up for debate.[1] The difficulty really comes from determining what exactly it means, a solid definition for what counts as virtual reality. There is evidence that pieces of art as far back as Renaissance Europe showed alternate worlds and experiences that took you to another place. More recently it was reimagined with the Sensorama. In the 1950s this device was created that allowed for color display and a stereo system as well as a simulation that took you through a world similar to ours but with a whole new experience.[2]

            With years of work and millions of dollars of funding and projects into the mix, in 1992 the first interactive movie was created by Nicole Stenger. The advancements made allowed for this program to track your movements completely and in real time, with a similar device created by Louis Rosenberg the same year. Less virtual reality than mixed reality, but what do the details matter? A whole lot, that’s how much!

 The turning point between virtual, augmented, and mixed realities gets a bit blurry, but overall, they have been known as X-Reality.[3] Let’s start with the differences between them. Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a world that can be interacted with, whether by fitted gloves, controllers, you name it! While augmented reality takes those same aspects, the virtual objects and environments, and meshes them into the real world through a medium. Our phones can even be augmented reality mediums with games like Pokémon Go or filters on Snapchat that turn you into a dog. Virtual elements that change or alter reality without actually changing them. So where it all comes together is with mixed reality (MR), which many people oftentimes assume is the same as Augmented Reality (AR). Imagine for a moment that you slap someone in the face with a banana, you see it hit them, they have a reaction, it physically touches them. Not so fun for them, but with VR and AR it won’t actually touch them, just the avatar they use. Hell, the banana you slapped them with isn’t even real; but when we’re talking about mixed reality it switches things up. Mixed reality will take that banana and its data and show it through whatever medium you’re using, then it will render an item over the top of it. You will still be holding the banana, but in the game you could be holding a pack of Gushers. If you slap them with it, it won’t just hit their avatar, but it will hit them as well, the mixing of the two realities.[4]

            Let’s not complicate things by getting into all that right now, how about we focus on virtual reality for today instead?

            Virtual reality may not bring virtual things into real life, but it can do the reverse. Anything and everything you can possibly imagine can be created using virtual reality; as a hero fighting a mighty dragon, or vice versa. The closest thing there is to a limit with virtual reality is the imagination of whoever made it and the processing power of the computer. Needless to say it has its drawbacks. Currently there is no way for us to virtually recreate smell or taste like we do vision and touch.[5] Our senses of smell and taste are part of our chemosensory system meaning our smell comes from special cells. In average terms, our body detects and analyzes different chemicals that creates a specific smell for whatever we are smelling.[6]

            Used from anything like formal training for a sales person or a business seminar to performing an operation as complicated as heart surgery. The VR device is connected to the surgeon along with gloves and other highly complicated controllers that allow for the extreme precision necessary. They then get connected up with a robotic arm or an entire robotic device. With this type of technology, they are able to know exactly what is happening at every point and every step of the way and not even have to be in the same building! The implications something this advanced can have is beyond what was possible even half a dozen years ago. Arguably the most important part of this is the feedback the surgeon gets. It helps create physical pressure against the surgeon’s controls for them to know exactly what kind of adjustments they have to make.[7]

            That same type of precision and detail has been developed for all types of technology, including art. The early history of this type of art can be traced back to the beginning of the Renaissance period in history with perspective art, creating a new world of sorts. VR allows for artists to create models and truly experience what it is like to see their creations in realistic environments.[8] Fashion will never be the same. There are entire virtual reality fashions shows, entirely with VR goggles and controllers. This is only the beginning, but more to come! In part 3, Ethenreal from Avalon Blogging out!


[1] History Of Virtual Reality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html

[2] History of Virtual Reality. (2016, November 16). Retrieved from https://www.fi.edu/virtual-reality/history-of-virtual-reality

[3] What’s the Difference Between AR, VR, and MR? (2017, September 29). Retrieved from https://www.fi.edu/difference-between-ar-vr-and-mr

[4] Brandon Bray. (n.d.). What is mixed reality? – Mixed Reality. Retrieved from https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/mixed-reality/mixed-reality

[5] Matthews, D. (2017, March 09). Why Smells Are So Difficult To Simulate For Virtual Reality. Retrieved from https://uploadvr.com/why-smell-is-so-difficult-to-simulate-in-vr/

[6] Smell Disorders. (2018, January 16). Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/smell-disorders

[7] Virtual reality in surgery. (2017, June 28). Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality-healthcare/surgery.html

[8] Segura, A. (2019, January 21). AR and VR in Fashion Retail. Retrieved from https://fashionretail.blog/2018/05/07/ar-vr-in-fashion/

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