Sight 2.0 – Take a Magic Leap outside your mind with VR-AR

The Good

Next-Gen VR-AR hardware is under development and is clearly going to change the way we see things (in more ways than one). Google and Microsoft’s answer to the Oculus Rift/Sony Morpheus can be products of immense power, both to inform us as well as inform about us.  Exciting times.  We face them with anticipation, but not without a small amount of trepidation.

Suddenly, I viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones.

Duking it out for control of your day-to-day reality, we have Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google’s Magic Leap.  Both purport to be Sight 2.0, but what does it mean for our way of life?  We explore the potential and promise of the competing approaches to reality overlays.

Cryptic comments about Weta Workshop add fuel to the Magic Leap fire and indicate that it is something more than just Google Glass 2 (which is already under development elsewhere).  Quite what that entails, we simply don’t know, but it’s an intruiging and attractive element of their project.  The MS HoloLens is impressing many beta-testers and finally answers the question “why aren’t MS getting involved in VR?”.  Personally I think Microsoft taking control of your retinas brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Blue Screen of Death’.

Erm, I’m going to go with a Unix base on this one guys. No offence. Give me a shout when you’re on HoloLens 3 service pack 2.  Cheers.

Scratch that, we’re going to need roads.

We’ve seen augmented reality from many providers, offering such wonders as:

  • News vids spliced into newspapers sitting on table tops
  • Auto-translation of restaurant menus in real time
  • Face recognition (prompting you with names or relevant details)
  • De-sensitisation of phobias

That’s science fact, now for science soon-to-be fact:

Real-Time Mapping

We’ve all seen silly hats mapped onto us via webcam software, but when we merge face-recognition with AR we get some really, really, weird shit.  “heh, check it out, my boss is an Uruk-Hai!”, “I hear you bro, mine can be a nasty piece of work”, “No, really, dude – I got Weta’s latest app and Saruman’s had his hand all over him.  He’s even got steamy breath and sick arrows”. [Ed: I’d love to see a Peter Molyneux effort at gamification of the workplace along these lines…]

See anything you like?

Instant View Sharing

..So we can know what each other are talking about without having to take photos or describe it laboriously:

“What kind of butterfly is this?”

“The moth kind”

Imagine helping the lo-tech family member with their PC when you can actually SEE what they’re doing:

“Stupid bloody computer, I didn’t even do anything!”

“Dad, I can actually see you.”

“Oh. Well, I only pressed it once!”


Mr. Gates, spying on 7 billion people isn’t part of my job description.

Detailed Info View

This is clearly the killer app for the new power generation, as long as it doesn’t get in the way augmented reality is going to benefit our day-to-day need for information.  The sky is the limit as far as staying informed goes, but managing the need for info versus overloading us with it is a tricky line to walk.

  • Heads-Up Display for information on items in view, giving you insight without manual searches.
  • Reviews of the restaurant you’re outside of.
  • Calorie data for the barcode you’re looking at.
  • Prompts for small talk (pulling data from social network feeds).
  • Navigation aids
  • Aide memoirs

The Bad

So, as hinted, it’s not all the stuff of a nerd’s wet dream.  As always, there is room for misuse and abuse.  Here are some handy tips!

  • Replacing your partner during sexy time (giving each other a ‘tune-up’, body double or overlaying the glory years…)
  • Making everything too perfect, deluding people into airy-fairy jaunts around a unicorn-filled rainbow land of toffee rivers and sugar cane trees.  Real life might be a hard place to face after a few months in la-la-land.
  • Cheating with AR is all too easy.  With the world’s information right in front of you, you’ll never have to revise for that exam again!  When the battery runs out you’ll be totally screwed, though.
  • Giving the Big G and M$ unparalleled insights into our habits, providing pure market research straight from the end-user.  In real time.
  • White-washing unsavoury or dissatisfying events in your life: removing grime, spots, and hard-to reach stains!
  • Completely blanking out scary or unwanted views: phobias, car crashes (perimeter black spot) and scenes of great peril*.

* Thanks Zaphod! 😉

It’s not hard to see the advertising benefits, too.  With eye-tracking and holographic overlays, things could get really intrusive.

“Hey, you really lingered on the ad for hot pants, do you wanna see some more?  We have cheap hot pants!”

“What? No, it was just Kylie wearing them, I don’t need hot pants.”

“Ah, I hear you, so.. porn then?”

“NO!  This is not the place for a boner!”

“Gotcha.  Say no more, bookmark it is.”

Yes, sweetie, of course your buck teeth turn me on.

The Ugly

One thing that is slightly worrisome: you could assassinate someone by fooling them into walking in harm’s way.  Imagine mapping out a passing car and putting it several feet to one side.  You’d cross the road in the wrong place and BOOM!

Here are some ways to ARssassinate people:

  • Disguising a deep hole/open man-hole cover
  • Distracting them with angry bees while they are driving
  • Showing them orange juice while they are holding bleach
  • Causing panic or inciting phobias in the weak-hearted
Blurgh!  I thought that was bleach.

The Agents of Chaos

So which does which?  What’s the difference?

Virtual Reality (VR) replaces your entire view with an artificial one.  You’re disconnected from reality but fully immersed in your virtual world. VR means moving very little (ideally being seated) but allows you to explore with your mind.

Augmented Reality (AR) creates an overlay to your sight, giving extra information about your surroundings or just giving you something more interesting to look at. AR is more of a sight upgrade.  Putting things in your line of sight at the expense of obscuring your view of the real world.  Caution is required when wearing AR glasses when on the move, but it’s totally context-dependent.

Oculus Rift

VR or AR?  VR.

Primary content type: 3D graphics

The one who kick-started the latest drive to VR (not entirely true, VR never actually died, but Palmer deserves a lot of credit).

Sony Morpheus

VR or AR? VR

Primary content type: 3D graphics

Sony were fanning the flame of VR all the way through the start of the 21st century.  Who knew?  Their product is aimed at PS4 users.

Magic Leap

VR or AR? AR

Primary content types: Information interfaces, real time data updates, guides, overlays.

Google’s version of the Oculus Rift.  Or, Google Glass for the VR generation.

MS HoloLens

VR or AR? AR

Primary content types: Information interfaces, real time data updates, guides, overlays.

Microsoft’s version of the Magic Leap.  Or, Office Assistant for the AR generation.

Cops d’Esprit

The possibilities for accurate real-time digital mapping are endlessly interesting and increasingly powerful.  If you can replace someone’s perception of the real world then you can convince them of many things.  A super uncle once said: with great power comes great responsibility.

So who gets your vote?  Are you eager to try it?  Do you trust them to police themselves and to do everything to protect your senses against malicious attack?  Let us know.

Oh, and for the avoidance of doubt, we are MASSIVELY looking forward to Microsoft’s HoloLens and it looks to be a truly game-changing product.  We want to try all 4 of them before we give our final verdict, so check back for updates or follow us on the Twitter.

Toby Worth

Toby Worth

Project Lead at VR-Gaming
I'm an incorrigible space cadet and a proper Knerd (crusading nerd).
Really enjoying things now the 21st century is getting into full-swing.As a self-appointed evangelist of ideas that are ahead of their time I will happily talk at you over ale.
Toby Worth

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