Meta Quest 3 is coming out in a few weeks and will bring mixed reality to the mainstream for the first time. But why should you worry?
By mixed reality I mean the ability to bring digital elements into the physical environment, or to mix the real and the virtual, whereas virtual reality, the dominant paradigm so far, immerses you completely.
The Meta Quest 3 will be the first mass consumer headset designed with mixed reality in mind, though it will still support what we know as virtual reality. Apple Vision Pro, expected in early 2024, will also focus on mixed reality, although Apple will use different terms for it.
We can expect the entire industry to move in this direction over the next few years, including mixed reality as a mode alongside VR.
This is not the end of virtual reality
Now, some VR enthusiasts fear that VR may soon fade into the background or be supplanted entirely with the advent of MR. This is unlikely because VR is an established mode, while mixed reality has yet to prove itself. But even in the long run, mixed reality will complement virtual reality, not replace it.
There will still be a market for VR and full immersion. Just because a lot of people are playing on smartphones these days doesn’t mean that there is no longer interest in PC and console games. Both have their place.
There is no reason to worry, but there is reason to be excited. Mixed reality will open up new possibilities and inspire new user groups to the technology we love. Whether it’s MR or VR.
Here’s the first of two articles on why I’m excited about mixed reality – and you should be too.
Mixed reality fits more easily into everyday life
I love how the Playstation VR 2 first shows me my physical surroundings when I put the headset on, so I can get my bearings, grab the controllers and position myself in the room before switching to VR.
Meta Quest 2, on the other hand, blinds me to my surroundings at first. Even when I enable the pass-through view, the device somehow keeps switching to the virtual home environment as the primary mode.
With mixed reality the concept of visual transparency will become basic, making headsets more user-friendly and secure. I no longer shut out the world and my fellow humans, but bring digital elements into the social space. This is a complete reversal of the previous paradigm.
I look forward to playing games like Cubism or Squingle in my living room, even if they don’t offer sophisticated interaction with the physical environment. I put on my headset and the digital objects will float in front of me. I must not draw boundaries, move furniture or valuables or warn people around me. Because I can simply see them.
Mixed reality allows for snacking
Simple mixed reality of this nature could relate to virtual reality in much the same way that smartphone gaming relates to PC and console gaming, to use the analogy above again. It is more mobile, relaxed and approachable. If the games are based on hand tracking, the transition is even easier and faster, and that’s what the technology needs to become mainstream.
The lower the technical and social barriers, the more successful the medium can be. In this way, the technology can win over people who would otherwise not know what to do with it, which ultimately benefits the entire industry.
Fully immersive VR games will remain my staple, but I look forward to mixed reality snacks like these and am curious to see how they affect my headset usage.
But that’s just one of several reasons why I am one mixed reality believers. The second article will be published next week.
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