ROSE has won our first Shorty award! Last week our Clash From the Past Mini Games project took home the Bronze Award for Art Direction at the 15th Annual Shorty Awards. In addition, we also won the Audience Honor for Clash From the Past Mini Games in the Art Direction and Gaming category, and for Mastercard Immersive Tour of the Miami Design District in the Extended Reality category! We are so proud of our team! Thank you to our partners and collaborators and to everyone that voted.
The concept of a “metaverse” has been around for decades, but in recent years, it has gained increased attention and interest as a new frontier for technology and human interaction. With the continued development of its technologies, the metaverse is becoming increasingly sophisticated and realistic. For businesses, the metaverse presents a new way to connect with customers, collaborate with colleagues, and innovate in ways that were previously impossible.
WHAT IS THE METAVERSE?The metaverse is a fully immersive digital world where users can interact with each other and the environment in real time, using avatars, 3D graphics, and advanced interfaces. It is not just a single platform or technology, but a network of interconnected virtual worlds that can be accessed and experienced by users worldwide. The metaverse offers a wide range of experiences, from social interactions and gaming to education and commerce. Users can create and customize their avatars, explore virtual environments, interact with other users, and conduct transactions using virtual currencies. In this virtual space, the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds are blurred, providing new opportunities for social interaction, entertainment, and business development. Although the metaverse is still in its early stages, it is rapidly evolving, and companies are investing heavily in its development. As technology continues to improve, the metaverse has the potential to become a central hub for human interaction and commerce, opening up new possibilities for the future of the internet and the way we interact with each other.
THE HISTORY OF THE METAVERSEThe concept of the metaverse originated from science fiction, specifically Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which depicted a virtual reality space called the Metaverse. In this virtual world, people could conduct business and interact with each other in a fully immersive environment. The novel’s portrayal of the Metaverse had a significant impact on the development of virtual reality and online gaming. Image Source In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the metaverse began to take shape in online gaming communities and virtual worlds. Second Life, which launched in 2003, was one of the first virtual worlds to gain widespread attention. Second Life allowed users to create their own avatars, explore virtual environments, and interact with other users in real time. It quickly became a popular platform for social interaction and creative expression. Image Source In the years that followed, other virtual worlds and online gaming platforms emerged, each with unique features and capabilities, including World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Minecraft, among others. The development of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology in recent years has led to the creation of more sophisticated virtual worlds, expanding the possibilities of the metaverse beyond gaming.
HOW DOES THE METAVERSE WORK?The metaverse is a complex system that enables user interaction with the virtual environment through a combination of software and hardware. It operates on a set of protocols governing data sharing and transaction processing. Key technologies employed in the metaverse include virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cloud computing. While often confused with the metaverse, VR and AR are merely components of it. VR provides a fully immersive experience, while AR overlays digital content onto the real world. In contrast, the metaverse transcends these technologies by establishing a persistent virtual environment accessible from anywhere. At its core, the metaverse operates as a decentralized network utilizing blockchain technology. This ensures secure and transparent transactions, vital for establishing trust and reliability within the virtual economy. AI complements this infrastructure by generating intelligent virtual agents capable of interacting with users, providing information, and assisting with various tasks. The metaverse relies on the computing power of cloud technology to create and sustain its immersive virtual environment. Furthermore, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum hold the potential to facilitate seamless virtual transactions, enhancing the metaverse’s functionality and economic ecosystem.
METAVERSE SOFTWAREThe metaverse requires a combination of software and hardware to function properly. On the software side, several platforms provide access to the metaverse. These platforms represent a diverse range of metaverse experiences, from user-generated content creation to immersive social interactions. Each platform offers unique features and opportunities for users to engage, create, and explore within their respective virtual worlds.
RobloxImage Source Roblox is a prominent metaverse platform that allows users to create and play games within a virtual world. It boasts an extensive user-generated content ecosystem, enabling developers to create their own experiences using Roblox Studio. With over 200 million monthly active users, Roblox has a thriving economy where players can buy and sell virtual goods.
Fortnite (Epic Games)Image Source While primarily known as a popular battle royale game, Fortnite has expanded its metaverse-like elements through in-game events, collaborations, and a virtual social space called Party Royale. Fortnite’s immersive experiences, live events, and creative mode allow users to interact, socialize, and engage with various forms of entertainment within the game’s virtual world.
The SandboxImage Source The Sandbox is a blockchain-based gaming platform that empowers users to create, share, and monetize their gaming experiences. It utilizes voxels, a 3D pixel art style, and offers a user-friendly game-maker tool that allows creators to design interactive experiences. The Sandbox also operates on a cryptocurrency model where users can own and trade virtual assets using its native currency, SAND.
Horizon Worlds (Meta)Image Source Horizon Worlds, developed by Meta (formerly Facebook), is an immersive social metaverse platform. It aims to provide a seamless and accessible virtual reality experience for users. Horizon Worlds offers tools and resources for creators to build their own worlds and experiences, emphasizing social interaction, creativity, and exploration.
DecentralandImage Source Decentraland is a blockchain-based virtual world that allows users to create, buy, and sell virtual land and experiences. Powered by the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland enables users to develop and monetize their virtual content using its scripting language. It also has its own cryptocurrency called MANA, which is used for buying virtual land and trading virtual assets within the platform.
METAVERSE HARDWAREOn the hardware side, the metaverse requires devices that can display and interact with the virtual environment. These devices range from smartphones and computers to VR and MR headsets. VR headsets provide a more immersive experience, while MR headsets overlay digital information in the real world.
Virtual Reality HeadsetsVR headsets are a key component for experiencing the metaverse in an immersive manner. Devices like the Meta Quest, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR offer high-quality VR experiences, allowing users to explore virtual environments and interact with them using motion controllers.
Meta QuestImage Source The Meta Quest is a standalone virtual reality headset. It offers a wireless and all-in-one VR experience without the need for a PC or external sensors. The Quest features built-in tracking sensors and motion controllers, providing users with freedom of movement within virtual environments. With its high-resolution displays and intuitive user interface, the Quest delivers a compelling and immersive VR experience for gaming, social interaction, and other metaverse activities.
HTC ViveImage Source The HTC Vive is a PC-based virtual reality headset known for its room-scale tracking capabilities. It utilizes external base stations that track the user’s movements and position in physical space, allowing for precise and immersive VR experiences. The Vive offers high-resolution displays, comfortable headsets, and motion controllers for intuitive interaction. It also supports a wide range of VR applications, from gaming to architectural visualization, making it a popular choice for metaverse enthusiasts.
PlayStation VRImage Source PlayStation VR (PSVR) is a virtual reality headset designed for use with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 gaming consoles. It provides an accessible entry point to VR for console gamers. The PSVR features a comfortable headset, motion controllers, and an external camera that tracks the user’s movements. While the resolution may be slightly lower compared to PC-based VR, the PSVR offers a range of immersive gaming experiences and integrates seamlessly with the PlayStation ecosystem.
Mixed Reality HeadsetsMixed reality (MR) headsets, such as Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One, blend virtual content with the real world in a more interactive and immersive manner. By combining real-world mapping with virtual elements, Mixed Reality headsets enable users to interact with and manipulate virtual objects within their physical environment.
Microsoft HoloLensImage Source The Microsoft HoloLens blends virtual content with the real world. It features transparent lenses that allow users to see and interact with holographic objects superimposed on their surroundings. The HoloLens employs advanced sensors, cameras, and spatial mapping technology to provide an interactive and spatially aware experience. It is widely used in enterprise and industrial applications, offering unique opportunities for metaverse experiences that merge virtual and physical elements.
Magic LeapImage Source Magic Leap is an extended reality company that has developed the Magic Leap One headset. It is designed to provide a seamless and natural experience by superimposing digital content onto the user’s real-world environment. Magic Leap employs a combination of sensors, cameras, and waveguide technology to create realistic and interactive experiences. The headset includes a controller for input and navigation, allowing users to interact with virtual objects and applications in their surroundings.
Smartphones and Tablets:While not dedicated metaverse devices, smartphones and tablets play a significant role in accessing metaverse applications and experiences. Mobile devices often feature AR capabilities, allowing users to engage with augmented reality elements and applications, making them accessible entry points to the metaverse.
INDUSTRY USES OF THE METAVERSEOne of the most significant benefits of the metaverse for businesses is the ability to create immersive brand experiences. This not only provides a unique and engaging experience but also allows businesses to showcase products in ways that were previously impossible.
FashionThe fashion industry is embracing the metaverse as a platform for innovative and immersive experiences and is expected to grow by $6.61 billion from 2021-2026. Fashion brands can create virtual showrooms and fashion shows within the metaverse. Users can customize and try on virtual outfits, explore virtual boutiques, and make virtual purchases. Virtual fashion collaborations and limited-edition virtual items can also be introduced, creating unique opportunities for brand engagement. Image Source In 2022 Decentraland hosted the first annual Metaverse Fashion Week. The event was held again this year in 2023 and featured brands such as Adidas, Coach, Tomy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana, and more. The brands’ experiences ranged from Adidas hosting a runway show debuting 16 digital pieces, to Coach’s virtual showroom inside a giant floating spaceship of their iconic Tabby bag. Image Source By embracing virtual fashion, designers can push the boundaries of design, experiment with innovative concepts, and offer unique digital fashion experiences to a broader community.
Food And BeverageThe food and beverage industry can leverage the metaverse to create immersive and engaging consumer brand experiences. Through the metaverse, brands can connect with their target audience, increase brand awareness, foster loyalty, and generate new revenue streams. Virtual product launches and tasting events within the metaverse offer brands an opportunity to reach a wider audience and generate buzz Image Source In Decentraland Jose Cuervo has created their Cuervo Metadistillary. It is a metaverse experience that brings the essence of the tequila production process to life in a virtual environment. Users can explore the virtual distillery, learn about the history and craftsmanship of Jose Cuervo tequila, make their own custom cocktail, and socialize with others.
RetailIn the retail industry, the metaverse offers new opportunities for virtual shopping experiences. Virtual shopping experiences can offer personalized recommendations, interactive product showcases, and social shopping. The metaverse provides a dynamic platform for brands to showcase products in realistic settings, generate excitement, and bridge the gap between online and offline shopping, fostering customer engagement and loyalty. It is expected that e-commerce value in the Metaverse will be $2-$2.6 trillion by 2030. Image Source On Roblox, West Elm hosts their West Elm’s Home Design Experience. The experience enables users to virtually explore and design their dream homes using the brand’s products and designs. Customers can customize virtual spaces, experiment with furniture layouts, and visualize how West Elm’s items would fit into their real-world environments. This interactive approach enhances the shopping experience by allowing customers to make informed decisions and reduces guesswork.
THE FUTURE OF THE METAVERSEThe metaverse holds immense potential to reshape how we interact, collaborate, and experience digital spaces. It promises to redefine the boundaries of digital interaction, unleashing a new era of interconnectedness and possibilities for individuals and businesses alike. With the collective efforts of technology companies, content creators, and industry leaders, the metaverse is poised to become an integral part of our digital future.
Our experiences are no longer simply real or imagined. Today, technology can change our experience of the world and introduce us to new worlds altogether. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are the most common forms of Extended Reality (XR), but there’s also Mixed Reality (MR). What does that mean? It turns out, Mixed Reality can mean different things to different people. But, after reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what they’re saying – no matter who they are.
MIXED REALITY AND THE VIRTUALITY CONTINUUMExtended Reality can be understood as spectrums in terms of the display technology and/or in terms of the nature and behavior of the virtual elements as well as how we interact with them. In both cases, unassisted vision lands on one end (no virtual elements) and Virtual Reality exists on the other end In the display spectrum, Augmented Reality would land in the middle, as it is a combination of the world as it appears unaided and the world altered and augmented with virtual elements. Another approach encourages looking at how users interact with an experience rather than merely how they view it. Virtual Reality environments are immersive and often interactive experiences like games and simulations that exist in their own virtual worlds, while Augmented Reality applications rely on the physical world to add value. Some criteria for whether an experience is classified as augmented reality, mixed reality, or virtual reality include the ability of virtual elements to react with one another as well. This “virtuality continuum” introduced by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino in 1994 is the touchstone of Mixed Reality. When companies or individuals use the term “Mixed Reality” they usually have a version of the virtuality continuum in mind, whether they realize it or not. However, these terms were introduced almost thirty years ago and the ways that these technologies have manifested since then leaves room for debate and discussion.
One Term, a Dozen DefinitionsIn the emerging technology space, different companies define Mixed Reality slightly differently, and there is no single universally accepted definition. While they don’t all explicitly cite the virtuality continuum, they do all address MR as incorporating both virtual elements and interactions in a physically-grounded environment. For example, ROSE uses the following definition of Mixed Reality: “Mixed Reality (MR) allows real and digital elements to interact with one another and the user like they would in the real world. Mixed reality maintains a connection to the real world, similar to Augmented Reality, and therefore is not considered fully immersive. In a Mixed Reality environment, 3D content will react to the user the same way it would in the real world. You must have an MR device, like a headset or glasses, to view an MR experience making it less accessible than Augmented Reality.” However, Knowing how ROSE defines uses a term doesn’t always help if you’re talking with someone from Microsoft, Meta, Varjo, or any other number of Extended Reality companies. For example, Microsoft provides the following definition of Mixed Reality: “Mixed reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environmental interactions.” Meta defines Mixed Reality in more abstract terms, discussing what the experiences should feel like for users. While it’s not as quotable, it gets at the core values that consistently make up our shared understanding of Mixed Reality: A computer-assisted view of the physical world designed around a human user. With that in mind, let’s look at some examples of Mixed Reality and “Mixed Reality-like” hardware and experiences.
MIXED REALITY HARDWAREThere are dedicated Mixed Reality devices. However, these days, most Virtual Reality devices are capable of experiences that arguably qualify as Mixed Reality. Similarly, some experiences available on Augmented Reality glasses and even mobile devices may constitute Mixed Reality-like experiences.
Mixed Reality DevicesDedicated Mixed Reality devices, like Magic Leap and Microsoft’s Hololens, were designed specifically for MR experiences and are the best (and least contested) examples of the technology. These headsets feature transparent lenses allowing a view of the physical environment that is augmented with a holographic display. These headsets also include advanced depth sensors, cameras, and software allowing “scene understanding” for interactive virtual elements to exist in or even originate from the user’s physical environment. However, these displays are bulky and expensive to produce. The software behind them also requires a lot more computing power than other forms of extended reality. As a result, they are almost exclusively limited to enterprise use cases. In response, other forms of hardware have a different approach to Mixed Reality-like experiences. Some coming devices, like the Lynx-R1, offer VR and AR with MR operating as a scale between these views.
Virtual Reality DevicesMost modern Virtual Reality devices are also “Mixed Reality” devices thanks to a technique called “passthrough.” This technique augments a live camera feed of the user’s surroundings instead of using a translucent or transparent display like AR and MR Virtual Reality devices don’t have transparent lenses that allow a user to see their physical environment directly. Instead, VR devices have a growing number of increasingly robust cameras. In addition to tracking, these cameras can reconstruct the user’s view within the VR displays and augment it to create a Mixed Reality-like experience on VR hardware. Companies like Varjo and Meta use the term “Mixed Reality” to describe experiences enabled via passthrough. Meta’s Quest line is a great example of how this technology is developing over time. Passthrough on the Quest 2 is black-and-white, grainy, and not very useful for most experiences. Passthrough on the Quest Pro is higher quality, color, and far more interactive. Varjo’s Reality Cloud even allows a sort of environment transfer that allows one user’s physical environment to be recreated in real time and rendered as a remote user’s virtual environment. This is another example of an experience that blurs the lines between Mixed Reality and virtual reality in ways that were likely not anticipated by Milgram and Kishino. Experiences enabled via passthrough are MR in terms of their interactivity with the user and with the user’s environment, even if they still aren’t as fully-featured as experiences on dedicated Mixed Reality devices. However, because the display of the user’s physical environment is digitally rendered, they aren’t “pure” Mixed Reality.
Augmented Reality Glasses and Mobile DevicesAugmented Reality glasses have a transparent display so, even though the virtual aspect is handled differently by the hardware, they have a similar starting point to dedicated Mixed Reality devices. However, the experiences that these devices can offer are more limited. This is largely because of computational constraints. Most AR glasses still use a small computing puck or a mobile phone so that they can maintain their small and mobile form factor. Even some mobile devices like smartphones can deliver Mixed Reality-like experiences using an approach similar to passthrough on VR headsets. The device limitations prevent the full-featured environmental awareness and interactivity that makes MR so impactful. As a result, most Extended Reality applications on mobile devices and AR glasses consist of virtual elements placed into the environment by the user that remain largely non-responsive to the user and to the environment.
Ever-Changing TechnologiesWhile developments like passthrough make Mixed Reality-like experiences more viable on VR headsets, developments in connectivity and computing help to bring these experiences to AR glasses. Shifts like cloud and edge computing are making it easier for smaller devices to do more work by moving computing to remote servers. Changes in hardware and design also make XR experiences on mobile devices more powerful. A few years ago, simple AR on most mobile devices was impossible because of the lack of cameras and depth sensors. Between mobile devices designed with these experiences in mind and developments in software, this is rapidly changing.
MIXED REALITY EXPERIENCESDedicated Mixed Reality headsets remain priced outside of availability for most consumers and most applications developed for these headsets accordingly fit into enterprise or academic use cases. However, Mixed Reality as it is offered through passthrough on VR headsets has opened the door more widely to MR consumer experiences.
Medical EducationGigXR was launched in 2019 specifically to take over XR content and projects from Pearson. Since then, the company has expanded the volume and interactivity of the content that it offers – often through partnerships with imaging and technology companies. Insight is a series of mixed reality medical education experiences created by GigXR and ANIMA RES, a 3D medical illustration company. The program requires at least one Microsoft HoloLens headset to run, allowing a student or instructor to manipulate virtually reconstructed organ systems in real-time. Additional viewers can join on headsets or on 2D platforms.
Design and TrainingCampfire uses its own in-house headset to view 3D models in a user’s environment that can be viewed and annotated collaboratively in real-time regardless of whether the users are together or remote. Like GigXR, not all participants need to have a headset. In fact, users without a headset can still interact with the model on desktop or mobile devices – just not in MR. The device is used for product design, as well as for training and education use cases.
Entertainment“I Expect You to Die” is a Virtual Reality game series from developer Schell Games. However, with the “Home Sweet Home” installment of the series, a player’s den becomes a mini escape room, thanks to Mixed Reality. The free-to-play game runs on either the more rudimentary passthrough of the Meta Quest 2 or the more powerful MR display of the Quest Pro. Through clever tech and clever story writing, the experience incorporates elements of the player’s home environment into the plot.
TOMORROW’S TECHNOLOGY, TODAY’S WORLDSThere is a debate about which experiences and devices really qualify as “Mixed Reality.” Many people see this tension as unnecessary, arguing that most average users don’t use these terms anyway. While the term is valuable to specialists today, it is interesting to wonder what will happen to it as technological advances bridge the gap between AR and MR.
With Virtual Reality’s increasing time in the spotlight, most people probably have some surface-level understanding of what it is. However, different types of VR experiences and how they are being used in business, education, and entertainment are unclear for many. While many people still view VR as a technology of the future, it is already being used successfully across industries.