It’s real, only better

New ventures are ginning up technologies that insert virtual objects into a person’s view of the real world. In the old movie, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, actors and cartoon characters inhabited the same world. Now – thanks to startups such as Magic Leap, Pixvana, 8i and Jaunt – you could have R2-D2, unicorns, personalities from history and other fantastical companions lounging in your living room.

The implications for entertainment, education, training, scenario-testing and video-conferencing are so vast that the companies involved have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital. (Facebook bought Oculus, one such startup, for $2 billion last year.) However, no one is quite sure when or what the breakout application will be. Besides, headsets can cost $500 or more and need a pricey computer to run the complex software. Some people report that the experience induced motion sickness.

TRENDPOST: Investors and tech savants are betting heavily that mixing the two realities will be computing’s next big thing. The sector still needs to weather its shakeout and consolidation phase, but commercial products – and possibly corporate IPOs – are poised to enter the market within 18 months. Meanwhile, the rest of us will struggle with the cognitive, psychological, practical and perhaps legal questions that may redefine what “reality” really is.

Ben Daviss

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