Exploring spatial computing in 5 minutes

Spatial computing refers to the technology that innovatively merges the digital world with the physical. Discover everything you need to know in just 5 minutes!

23-04-2024 - 6 minute read. Posted in: tips.

Exploring spatial computing in 5 minutes

Keeping up with developments in the world of tech can be a dizzying affair. Spatial computing is one of those concepts that you may have heard of but haven't yet fully familiarized yourself with. Set aside 5 minutes and we'll explain everything you need to know!

Spatial computing in a nutshell

Spatial computing is a term used to describe the technology that innovatively merges the digital and physical worlds. It is the integration of digital content and objects into our real physical environment. This means that the technology enables us to engage and interact with the digital world in a highly immersive and intuitive way.

The term has recently been used by Apple as the term to describe – and promote – their Vision Pro headset. In this context, spatial computing is used as an umbrella term for a technology that transcends the boundaries of what we understand as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and even extended reality (XR).

Augmented and virtual reality explained

Before we dive into spatial computing, let’s get a clear understanding of augmented and virtual reality, including related terms.

Augmented reality Augmented reality has the ability to superimpose computer-generated elements into the real world, i.e. your physical surroundings. Yet, these digital elements (or digital information) are often static. This means that the user is able to view but not (or to a limited extent) interact with the digital elements integrated into the physical environment.

Virtual reality Virtual reality is a bit different. When wearing a VR headset, you're completely absorbed in a world disconnected from your physical environment. In other words, the user is immersed in an interactive digital environment. VR headsets are often used for gaming and simulations.

There’s also a third concept, namely mixed reality (MR). As the name implies, MR merges elements of VR and AR. MR has the ability to blend responsive digital content with your exact physical surroundings. For instance, this enables you to see incoming texts or calls before your eyes on the screen in the headset, rather than on your phone in your pocket.

Extended reality (XR) is the umbrella term that covers all of the above-mentioned "realities".

Apple’s take on spatial computing

As mentioned, spatial computing has recently been presented by Apple with their Vision Pro headset. But what exactly makes Apple’s Vision Pro different from existing AR, VR, and MR headsets?

Vision Pro incorporates elements of AR, VR and MR, but is also said to encompass a broader understanding of extended reality technology. This includes the ability to:

  • Map and understand space
  • Identify and follow objects
  • Facilitate natural interactions between people and digital content

In other words, in contrast to AR and VR Apple’s spatial computing device surpasses the ability to superimpose digital content onto the world or create a fully absorbing virtual environment. Instead, it provides a more seamless and intuitive user experience where virtual elements are fully and seamlessly integrated into the physical environment.

With Apple Vision Pro, the user simply navigates using their eyes, hands and voice. The user sees the screen through the headset as a layer on top of reality, which has the potential to transform any experience, whether for entertainment or work.

How it works

Essentially, spatial computing makes use of a range of cameras, sensors, and depth-sensing technologies to comprehend the user's physical environment and precisely project digital content or virtual objects onto it.

This means that users are able to engage with digital content as if it were a part of their actual surroundings, ultimately creating a plethora of opportunities for both personal and professional uses.

Utilizing spatial computing in the real world

The spatial computing technology is already being adopted across industries, as many sectors can benefit from the technology.

For instance, benefits of spatial computing are being harnessed in:

  • Healthcare: Spatial computing plays an increasingly important role in healthcare. For instance, medical students use spatial computing to practice procedures and familiarize themselves with tools and equipment in a safe environment before performing risky procedures in the real world.
  • Education: In education, spatial computing can improve engagement and motivation, as well as increase students’ learning abilities. Imagine being able to immerse yourself in historical times and spaces or explore concepts virtually – and what this could mean for the learning experience.
  • Design, architecture, and engineering: Spatial computing has the ability to improve processes and results in design and engineering, as well as reduce time and costs. Designers and engineers can utilize spatial computing to test ideas and prototypes while being able to make alterations in real time.

In general, industries can benefit from spatial computing in terms of improved productivity due to increasingly digital workflows. Imagine having any information you may need available to you in your field of vision, or being able to remotely collaborate on a project with a colleague in real time. This can boost efficiency and reduce risks of and costs related to errors that could have been avoided.

Challenges of spatial computing

Like any other technology, spatial computing also presents certain challenges.

When looking to adopt a spatial computing approach, organizations must consider a few things, including:

  • Privacy and security concerns regarding collection of user data etc.
  • Resistance to adoption and changes in workflows
  • Cost-benefit considerations, especially given the relative newness of the technology

The future of spatial computing

We are looking into a future of spatial computing which is so advanced and complex that it is difficult to imagine. In the future, spatial computing will be a key pillar in driving technological advancements.

Spatial computing will definitely continue to change the digital landscape and transform the way we experience and interact with the metaverse. We will likely experience that boundaries between the physical and digital world become increasingly blurred as spatial computing becomes more immersive and integrated. For example, we're most likely going to see an upsurge in the prevalence of virtual romantic companions as the experience will be more immersive and thus seem more "real".

Author Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann

Emilie Hartmann is a student and copywriter at Moxso, where she is a language nerd and always on the lookout for new and exciting topics to write about. She is currently doing her Master's in English, where she is primarily working in the fields of Creative Writing and Digital Humanities.

View all posts by Emilie Hartmann

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