What's On VR/AR's Horizon?: VRS 2016 Dispatch

We're kept busy enough with current VR/AR innovation, but what's on the longer-term horizon? This was the topic of a panel I moderated at Greenlight Insights' VRS 2016.

The panel's theme had a subtext of AR and MR, given their longer-term horizon. But there are also future developments in VR, such as lightfields, haptics and new use cases. 

On the AR front, more than half the panel represented AR glasses, including Meta, Atheer and ODG. But the similarities stopped there, as each targets different areas. 

Meta is targeting several enterprise use cases, while Atheer is focused on manufacturing and medical applications and ODG is pursuing consumer and enterprise.

Meta's Stefano Baldassi, with a background in neuroscience, asserts that AR should cater to humans' innate cognition, such as intuitive gestures to manipulate graphical overlays.

This speaks Singularity University's Jody Medich's language. She focuses on design that builds from human cognition, rather than force new input languages (e.g. gamepads).

Atheer's Frank Nuovo applies this principle but in a different way. His AR glasses make use of graphics that everyone is used to, including icon-based screens within users' line of sight.

ODG is likewise focused on enterprise, said Nima Shams. But he foresees big opportunity in consumer applications, such as ODG's BMW integration for driving overlays. 

But it's not all enterprise and consumer. There are altruistic and socially valuable use cases such as AR's use in Education. Here, Lifelique is pioneering lots of learning tools. 

Ondrej Homola explains that learning can be accelerated through 3D models, housed in an open development platform, allowing students to be more immersed in subjects.

Medich continued the theme of altruism. Using VR's ability to dominate the visual cortex, it can be applied to things like pain therapy for injured soldiers or burn victims.

She describes the brain's habit of "skipping" steps to avoid sensory overload and to triage the most important incoming signals -- a fundamental human survival mechanism.

Building from that, VR's level of immersion can manipulate the brain to skip specific steps deliberately... such as pain receptors. There are myriad directions this can go.

In total, the prevailing theme was the vast applicability possible in VR and AR's next generation. The use cases will continue to develop, and move well beyond fun & games. 

Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.