Virtual reality (VR) has long been a science fiction dream.
VR usually involves compressing an imaginary digital universe into a piece of technology worn over our heads, where our most important biological sensors (eyes and ears) are placed. It’s an immersive experience meant to wholly transport us into its world. Oculus Rift is an excellent example: the company produces VR headgear to give users a unique gaming experience. Facebook recently acquired Oculus Rift because the social networking company believes that VR represents the next big leap in how we interact with the digital world. They’re not alone in making that bet.
Google’s Google Glass is another example of immersive technology, though it’s different in crucial ways: it’s not an enclosing headset but rather a camera, projector, and computer that resembles a pair of glasses. The camera and computer analyze the world around you and projects relevant information directly into one eye. This layering of the digital over the real world, called augmented reality (AR), is a middle path between immersion and the direct experience of the real world. Google is betting that AR and not VR is the future.
Enter Microsoft’s RoomAlive. Like Google Glass, it blurs the line between the virtual and the real. However, it does so by analyzing and subsuming the real world architecture it inhabits. It’s a fascinating technology and one that promises a lot of potential change to how we play and how architects practice.
Top Image: RoomAlive’s mapping of pixels over a room.