The Potential of Mixed Reality

Updated: May 24, 2018

This opinion piece by Rob Minson, CTO of Fracture, Rob talks about the potential of Mixed Reality including a concept of how it could be used for Air Traffic Control.

Rob Minson, CTO of Fracture

Our company works in the field of Mixed Reality and uses game engines to create bespoke pieces of holographic content and the tools to manipulate them.

This process differs from traditional 3D content development in two key ways: firstly holograms and holographic interfaces don't just exist in a screen or in a headset, they exist in the real world, so must be designed to fit alongside real world objects, people and situations; secondly holograms are not

rendered using screens, but using additive stereoscopic displays like the Microsoft HoloLens, this has significant implications for colour, transparency and lighting, among many other things.

Fracture Reality showcases a future air traffic control concept with SITA

The Future of Air Traffic Control? Fracture MR collaborated with SITA Labs to create this holographic interface for viewing the realtime operations of Helsinki Vantaa Airport in Finland. The system recreates the functionality of an existing system based on traditional screens but uses the HoloLens' holographic rendering and gestural interfaces to present and interact with the data in more intuitive ways.

3D interfaces have been a mainstay of science fiction for decades. But when it comes to the real world - outside of video games - they have been limited to either novelties like Google Earth; or to specialist applications like Computer Aided Design (CAD) or Geographical Information Systems (GIS). One of the reasons is that the tools we use to interact with computers - screens, keyboards, mouses - have steep learning curves when it comes to navigating 3D environments. MR systems offer the ability to navigate a virtual 3D scene as easily as we navigate a real one - by walking and looking around.

Combining data from Open Streetmap and Transport for London, Fracture MR created a holographic interactive map of London in which the user can show and hide data about transport networks and property developments.

MR also offers the ability to merge the virtual and the real to place data alongside real world objects, places and people that data relates to. Consider a scenario of equipment maintenance, navigation, or disaster response. Placing information and instructions holographically within the real world, rather than schematically on a handheld device can considerably lower the friction between the virtual and the real.

The ability of MR to merge the virtual and real is most tantalising when combined with other emerging technologies. Consider how combining MR and computer vision would change the experience of finding a friend in a crowd, or change our spatial awareness as pedestrians in traffic. Physical objects in museums, art galleries or stores become entry points to a world of visual interactive information when combined with computer vision and online AI bots.

Other emerging technologies such as remote rendering and high speed mobile networks offer the possibility of radically reducing the size, weight and cost of MR hardware. The 'head mounted devices' of today will quickly be superseded by the next generation of lightweight, wearable, unobtrusive MR devices. These devices, far from being competitors to their VR cousins, will be aiming to replace today's smartphone as the dominant personal computing platform.

For more information visit Fracture.