The metaverse term implies that there is only one place. It might appear that everyone must experience the metaverse in the same way. However, users can and should experience metaverse in their own ways.
When one examines which is the core technology most people use to access metaverse, it becomes quickly apparent that there are many XR technologies available. Each of these technologies offers a unique metaverse experience.
This XR spectrum contains:
- VR is a virtual reality (VR) that aims to immerse users in an all-digital, fully immersive experience.
- Augmented reality and mixed Reality (MR), where the metaverse augments the user’s perception of physical reality.
- Assisted Reality: This is a small amount of digital content that provides a user with a limited metaverse experience to aid them in completing real-world tasks.
The XR technology spectrum allows digital Transformation leaders to create and deploy many metaverse applications. They also ensure that each one delivers its users – whether they are a CEO in an office or a business line director in a meeting space – a metaverse experience which engages, empowers and elevates them without compromising their workplace safety.
Information Density and Environmental Intensity
Two terms – information density and environment intensity – can be used to help developers and defenders of metaverse applications decide which XR tech is most suitable for a specific use case.
Information density is the amount of richness and detail provided by an XR experience. VR technologies, for example, use binocular streaming to deliver immersive video that is fully within the user’s field-of-view in order to provide high information density. AR and MR technologies that combine digital content with a user’s view of their actual reality have a lower information density. The information density of assisted reality technologies, which allow users to view or glance at digital content without actually seeing their environment, is even lower.
XR technologies that have high information density provide a richer experience for users, allowing them to understand complex digital data more deeply. However, XR technology with high information density requires more attention and processing of information from the user than technologies with lower information densities. Technology at the extreme end of the spectrum can block out physical reality information, thereby limiting the user’s situational awareness and potentially compromising safety in the workplace.
The risk that the user’s environment poses to their health is called environmental intensity.
- This could cause damage to either the user’s XR device or the user themselves.
- It is possible that the user will need to use their XR device for a prolonged period of time without power;
- These are safety and health risks that may require the wearer to have certain types of personal protection equipment (PPE), or to maintain a certain level of situational awareness.
An office in a commercial building, conference room in hotels, or trailer on a construction site are all examples of places that have low environmental intensities. High environmental intensities can be found in places such as an operating room in hospital, a garage at an auto repair shop, an assembly line in a factory or the top of an electric transmission tower.
We will see that the metaverse use cases which require high information density should be used in areas with low environmental intensity. Metaverse use cases in high-emitting areas will require technologies with lower information density.
Virtual Reality — High Immersion and Low Situational Awareness
VR is a high-quality immersive experience that allows users to see and hear what is happening in the virtual world. It’s at the one end of the XR tech spectrum. VR technologies like the Oculus Quest or the more recent, rebranded Meta Quest 2, have high information densities, which allow them to immerse users in a virtual universe. This means that most of what they see and hear are images and sounds generated by VR technology. Ready Player One is the ultimate example of virtual reality. In it, the users live almost entirely in a virtual universe (until they are freed from its all-consuming control).
While current technologies may not be able replicate the virtual reality shown on TV and movies, they can offer us audio and visual experiences that allow us to pretend to be a crane operator loading containers onto ships , driving a new vehicle design, or actually repairing complex industrial machinery.
VR’s high level of information density makes it an ideal choice for entertainment, education, training and simulation uses cases where any degree of awareness of one’s physical environment will reduce the experience’s value. The poor choice of VR technologies with high information density makes them an poor choice in use cases that involve any level of environmental intensity. People who have seen VR headset users know that tables, walls, and other objects are often safe but can become dangerous if they lose all or most of their environment awareness.
It is important to avoid using VR in areas with low levels of environmental intensity, such as a busy street, bustling kitchen, or warehouse. These places are often used by people who want to enhance or mix their real world experience with digital information or to aid them in completing a task. Virtual reality occupies most of the user’s cognitive load, information processing abilities, and leaves little to no attention.
Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality – Some Immersion with Some Situation Awareness
AR and MR are located in the middle of XR technology. They allow users to augment or mix their physical world experience with audio, video, images and other digital information. AR and MR technologies like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 don’t provide enough information density for a user that they can fully immerse themselves into the metaverse. They tightly integrate the metaverse and the physical world to provide a mixed physical and virtual experience.
The integration of the physical and metaverse can have many benefits. For example, a game application that allows children and teens to interact with digital pets, an entertainment app that shows tourists in Rome what an ancient event at the Coliseum might look like, a repair application that overlays tips and steps on top of the object the student is fixing, or an ecommerce application that lets someone see how new furniture would look inside their home.
AR and VR can be used for entertainment, training and e-commerce. However, AR and VR are not suitable for all use cases. AR and MR are not as immersive as VR but the information density of AR or MR can obscure certain aspects of one’s environment and distract from potential dangers. AR and MR technologies typically cover the majority of the user’s vision. This makes it difficult to use them with safety glasses, hardhats, or other PPE needed in high-environmental intensities such as industrial environments.
Assisted Reality Low Immersion with Full Situational Awareness
Assisted reality is a relatively new XR technology that lies at the opposite end of VR’s spectrum. My company’s provides the user almost complete situational awareness. They also add digital content and experiences that are designed to “assist” them with their physical tasks. Although the user can access information and interact with others via a digital metaverse, these experiences are not connected to their physical reality. Assistive reality can be described as a window into the metaverse that the user can access whenever they want.
Assisted reality can be used for remote expert guidance and digital workflow. It is also useful in auditing and inspection cases. One example of such use cases is a factory worker receiving assistance from a remote expert on how to fix a machine, a refinery worker calibrating the new measurement device with its vendor, or a field service technician using a workflow app to set up new equipment at a jobsite.
Workers who need to keep their field of view clear in order to prioritize situational awareness are often able to use assisted reality technologies. This is common for front-line workers in many industries, who often work with machines, from the manufacturing system on the floor to the material moving machines in warehouses to the complex and dangerous systems found in the field, such as drilling equipment on an offshore platform.
Situational awareness is essential for frontline workers in these types of industrial environments. The introduction of XR technology cannot compromise safety. Safety is more than a requirement for industrial workers who work with active machinery. It is an essential part of the workplace culture. KPIs are used to measure safety violations and hold managers and workers accountable.
These safety concerns mean that assisted reality must enable industrial frontline workers to use their hands and keep situational awareness in dangerous and noisy environments. With voice commands specifically designed for high-noise environments, assisted reality must allow users to have hands-free control over their metaverse experience. As safety is a fundamental principle, assisted reality technology should seamlessly integrate with PPE (especially hardhats with integrated hearing protection and eye protection). These assisted reality solutions should be comfortable and can work all shift.
A Spectrum of XR Technologies to Different Use Cases
All of the XR technologies, including AR, MR and assisted reality, are different in their form factors and locations. They are being used to connect workers with the metaverse across a variety of industries and markets, from employee classrooms to factory floors to warehouses to offshore oil rigs, despite their differences. These XR technologies can be used by companies to provide workers with metaverse experiences. This will allow them to increase productivity, safety, and precision.