One of the most overlooked components of talking about augmented reality and virtual reality is getting people to actually use the hardware and software associated with these platforms.
We're so early in the development of immersive computing that we're still dealing with a fairly scattered range of experiences, which is confusing for many consumers. This confusion has led some to sit on the sidelines, waiting for the dust to clear until there are a few affordable, clear leaders in the space.
And guess what, some of those sideline sitters include technologists as well. To address this issue in its own house, Microsoft has launched an internal program for its employees called the Reality Room.
Described as a place where the company's employees can "learn, experiment, and hack on XR (virtual, augmented, and mixed reality)," the Reality Room gives employees full access to the new range of Microsoft-partner VR headsets as well as the HoloLens.
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While using the HoloLens, users also have the option of enabling a "spectator view," which uses a camera rig to give those outside of the room (via a wall-sized monitor) a firsthand look at what the user is seeing through the device. The Reality Room is also equipped with a green screen motion capture setup, as well as coding stations.
Although the initiative has little to do with Microsoft's public-facing products, it's nevertheless an important case of Microsoft walking the talk when it comes promoting the idea of integrating immersive computing in organizations in ways that make AR and VR more accessible to the uninitiated. (Yes, it's true, many people working in various facets of the tech industry still haven't really tried quality AR and VR for themselves.)
Another interesting tidbit here is the fact that Microsoft is adopting (perhaps unofficially) the XR (extended reality) term to describe the entire range of immersive computing terms (VR, AR, and MR) in the details framing the concept behind the Reality Room. Considering the confusion around its use of the term mixed reality, it's an interesting choice of words, and could hint at another branding turn coming in 2018.
And while I'm personally fine with keeping things simple with just AR and VR, as a lifelong X-Men fan (shout out to the Danger Room!), XR does have a certain cool ring to it, even though I don't think it will catch on with consumers.
But the most important point of this new video from Microsoft is its promotion of a "reality room" as "a thing" in almost any office or — gasp! — home. No, we're not ready for Star Trek holodecks just yet, but if you have some free space in your office or home, setting aside an area for a reality room is a great way to embrace and explore immersive computing.
Thankfully, there are already plenty of guides out there with tips if you're ready to create your own.
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