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Mixed, Virtual and Augmented Reality Coming to a Pair of Goggles Near You

By Ernest Worthman, IEEE Senior Member

Some might argue that mixed reality (MR) will, eventually, become the top of the reality pyramid. This is mainly due to its ability to interact, in real time, with surroundings. While that argument has merit, there is always the case where the best, or most sophisticated, is not necessary. And, do not forget, all layers of the pyramid have potential applications. Exactly, how the reality road will wind is somewhat fuzzy. However, 2018 will see the various flavors of reality develop some clearer vectors.

Up until now, virtual reality (VR) has garnered the lion’s share of the attention. However, augmented reality (AR) will finally gain traction in 2018. In fact, industry gossip seems to think AR will be what sees the most advancement.

There are several reasons for the pace of development of the various renditions of reality and how they will carve out their specific niches once the technology enables it.  Of course, in the early stages, where we are presently, what can be done, and for how much, is the primary development engine. For that reason, VR has led the pack.

However, technology for the development of AR advanced significantly in 2017, thusly, it is likely to see the most acceleration in 2018. MR is still, largely, on the drawing board and requires significant resources and a model of interfacing in real time that will take a while to develop – in both technology and applications. Therefore, the excitement for 2018 will be in the AR segment.

AR has a large application base. VR is being relegated, mostly, to gaming while AR is targeting the enterprise. The biggest roadblock has been the difficulty in developing AR headsets that can match the performance of VR units. The main reason is that AR takes a lot more resources and processing than VR, and encompasses a much larger environment.

AR will get a bump in 2018 from Apple, as well. They are staunch proponents of AR, and have recently launched something called the ARKit. In addition, it is rumored that they are also working on their own AR headset. If the headset goes public, 2018 could well be the year that AR gains significant traction. In fact, the research firm, Gartner, believes that AR will become one of the leading technologies in 2018.

As far as MR goes, look for slow but steady progress. However, eventually, MR will emerge as its own product and not, necessarily, the amalgamation of VR and AR as some seem to think.

Both AR and MR have markets. There will be some crossover. MR will take the market that demands high-end reality – things that will not work well with AR. Gartner notes that MR is “emerging as the immersive experience of choice providing a compelling technology that optimizes its interface to better match how people view and interact with their world.”

The truth is that all three platforms will continue to evolve. The lion’s share will go to AR, with MR bubbling just below the surface, for a while. VR will be steady as she goes.


There are not a lot of possible distruptions in this segment. The biggest impediment is the industry itself. If it realizes that AR and MR are sister technologies, each with different market segments, and keeps that in the target zone, progress for both should go unimpeded. However, if there is dissention in the ranks and the players try to make AR and MR competitors, that will create a bit of havoc and slow progress for both platforms.

Other than that, there is little that can stall the progress of the segment as a whole.

Ernest Worthman
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: [email protected]