2021: Merging Mixed Reality with Machine Learning + AI

by Mike Koss

As we cast off the horror of 2020, it is clear that 2021 heralds the coming of a new age; our way of life is fundamentally under question.

The impact of COVID-19 has not yet even begun to be accepted into our lives or fully realised. We have all had to adapt to a new way of existing. The social ramifications of prolonged isolation and the massive void left by the closure of our entertainment, sporting, and social outlets will be felt for a generation. It is unclear at the time of writing just how many of our beloved pubs, venues, stores, and attractions will not return, but it is clear that the impact will be great.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become (for most) our only options for human interaction, and at first, the virtual pub night was a quirky fun experience, but now we tire of it and long for something more real; it seems like a distant dream. Two dimensions are so dated now that it is like looking at an old cathode TV against a modern flatscreen; modernisation of the dimensions is required and quickly.

Looking forward, I can see two distinct reactions to the end of lockdown, I see those eager to get back out there, to embrace a social life so long robbed from them, and I can see those for whom a return to the norm will not be desirable. The loss of social cohesion for some will make it hard to return to a crowded bar, sporting event, theatre, or gig.

Eleven years ago, while I was at Disney, I started to look into Augmented Reality. I had grand ideas back then, but then the technology wasn’t there yet to allow me to realise them.

Using 3D models from one of the Disney properties and using black and white markers, it was possible to create animated storybooks. However, the only way back then to realise these ideas was via a webcam and a PC. Fast forward to the present day, and there are thousands of augmented reality applications and filters delivered via your smartphone. The old black and white markers are a thing of the past, and the quality of the applications is beyond what I could have imagined back then.

We are now at the point where:

  • 70% – 75% of people between 16 and 44 are aware of Augmented Reality
  • Augmented Reality on its own is likely to generate $75 billion in revenue by 2023
  • Pokemon Go was and is a thing and a massive success at that
  • Microsoft’s first HoloLens sold over 500,000 units (in commercial and educational channels)
  • The HoloLens 2 was launched in 2019 at almost a consumer-grade price

The tipping point or saturation point has arrived. AR has been removed from the Gartner Hype Cycle, placing AR into what Gartner considers a mature technology. As a side note, Social Distancing technologies are still on the hype cycle and expected to mature in the next two years.

The social restructuring that has come about due to the pandemic presents us with fertile ground to advance entertainment and how we digest our content once more. The old premise of being across all three screens is in need of an update. It’s time to tackle dimensional realities on the immersive front.

I am excited about the XR future; merging AR/MR with Machine learning and Artificial Intelligent systems, creating eco-systems that immerse the viewer into hyper-personalised content and experiences in a way never seen before.

Advances in cloud computing, the reduction in the cost of Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), and the societal shifts we have seen as a result of the pandemic is giving innovators in the Immersive Reality spaces a fantastic opportunity to deliver a much needed new means of interacting with our favourite content creators and ultimately with each other.

Beyond that, retail has been disseminated (although the death of the high street started way before the pandemic). Beyond the pandemic, retail in the traditional sense will struggle to return. We have lost so many brands, and the likelihood of new businesses popping up to

take over these empty, costly, and ancient lots are unlikely when we have at our fingertips everything we could possibly desire.

At BLANK XR, we are hard at work creating Earth’s 1st Mega-Mall in XR. We’re transforming the retail experience through combining immersive tech with AI and machine learning. We’re able to empower brands to provide a new, hyper-personalised experience for shoppers in both the virtual and physical worlds.

The technology is here. It’s time to build the future, and I, for one, am very excited!