Technology Impacts of Artificial Intelligence on AR, VR, and MR

In a nutshell,

The digital technology landscape is constantly evolving and, in many ways, accelerating at a pace greater than ever before. From artificial intelligence (AI) to AR, VR and MR, new fields, technologies and concepts are tearing up the technology space and are gaining popularity among people in and outside of the tech industries. Certainly, these are standalone technologies, but have you ever considered the advantages of combining these technologies? Well, you may be thinking, what does AI have to do with AR, VR and MR? That’s exactly what we are going to explore in this article, how AI can reshape the world of AR, VR and MR, focusing on what AI is and the different ways AI will transform the realms of each AR, VR and MR technologies.

For most of us, the day begins by turning on our smartphones. A decade ago, there were no smartphones. Three decades earlier, no one even had a computer. Going further down the lane, the first personal computers came out about 50 years ago. Today, when we look around, we can see virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri scheduling meetings or sending emails, chatbots responding to customer feedback, AI predicting orders even before they are placed, AR/VR technologies allowing customers to virtually try on outfits, Metaverse hosting conferences and more. Whether you take these technological advancements as fun or from a more professional or technological perspective, there is no doubt that the ever-increasing pace of digital disruption is reinventing the way we live, work and do almost everything. As these newer technologies are adopted at unprecedented rates, it is always better to explore how they might mutually modify one another in order to realize and maximize their full potential.

AI Everywhere

Well, simply search for an article on Extended Reality, I can assure you that you’ll soon be receiving more news and updates about Extended Reality technologies from almost everywhere. The cause of this effect is artificial intelligence. We live in this magnificent bubble of AI, which can be considered the most revolutionary technology in the history of humanity. It is almost impossible to overstate the wide variety of technological breakthroughs that AI has made over the years. According to experts in the industry, it is one of the true technologies that can solve all of humanity’s needs and requirements. However, in order to know where AI is headed, it is necessary to comprehend AI in depth. So, come on, let’s explore what AI is.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

In simple terms, artificial intelligence, or AI, is the method of making machines or systems intelligent much like the human brain by letting them use some parts of human skills, like object or speech recognition. In the words of Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy, who are known as the fathers of the field, AI is the ability of machines to do tasks that require intelligence showcased by humans and animals. AI enables systems to mimic human behavior and intelligence to perform various tasks and consequently improve themselves based on the information they collect. The terms ‘artificial’ mean ‘made by humans’ and ‘intelligence’ means ‘to think or understand’. So, AI is essentially the process of teaching machines how the human brain functions and what tasks it does, so that they can function accordingly.

AI vs ML vs DL

AI is an umbrella discipline that covers everything that makes machines smarter and has now become the catch-all term for all complex tasks that require human input. The term is often used interchangeably with its subfields, such as machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL) and others.

ML lets machines learn and get better on their own, without any human assistance or interference. The recommendations you get for music and videos on various streaming apps are a very good example of ML. DL, on the other hand, is a type of machine learning that is based on the way the human brain filters through information. It helps the computer sort through and filter information so that it can predict and classify it. The caption generators, image analysis tools that you often use are examples of DL. Despite the fact that machine learning and deep learning are subsets of AI, it should be highlighted that not all AI involves machine learning and deep learning.

There is no limit to where AI can take humanity in the future, and enterprises throughout the globe are leveraging the technology to increase the power and capabilities of emerging technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). 

Let’s take a look at how AI can transform AR, VR and MR technologies.

How can AI reshape AR, VR and MR?

Despite the fact that AI, AR, VR, and MR are distinct technologies, when these technological heart throbs join forces, not only do they bring out the best in each other, but they also power extraordinary experiences. Let’s see how the magic happens. 

Meet the power couples

First, let’s get our heads around the AI-AR alliance.

AI and Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, fondly known as AR, is one of the trendiest buzzwords in technology right now. AR enhances our view of the real world by superimposing computer-generated digital components onto the physical environment, making the virtual elements a part of the real world. To get started with AR, all you need is a camera-equipped device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or smart glasses loaded with AR software. 

AR employs traditional computer vision technologies, such as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), to process the video stream captured by the camera and to recognize the objects in the surroundings. Thus, AR can display virtual content in the user’s physical world. AI, on the other hand, can make maps of the outside world and keep track of movements. This means that tedious and outdated app development processes can be replaced with AI.

With the new advances in machine learning and deep learning technologies, AI can provide several advanced functions to AR, such as enhancing interaction with the surroundings in the user’s physical environment, offering better engaging and interactive mobile experiences, enhancing speech recognition, image tracking, object recognition, etc.

AI’s ability to make hard and complicated decisions can be used in defense and the military, along with AR. AI can be used to test a number of simulations from the past to find the best way to use AR in military systems. In the future, as this field grows and changes, the system may be able to recognize and label threats.

One of the most common ways AI is used is in chatbots, which are now used by many brands on their websites and are always getting better. When it comes to online shopping and e-commerce, putting AR into chatbots will give customers a unique experience. The customers can look at dresses and get suggestions from the AI bot. In the same way, the bot can tell the customer what makeup products would work best for them, and AR can help the customer see what the bot suggested. Several studies show that 59% of online shoppers are happy and satisfied when they find items that are made especially for them.

Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence

Unlike AR, Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated three-dimensional environment where users can interact and become immersed by using devices that send and receive information, such as goggles, headsets, gloves, bodysuits, etc. In a typical VR format, the person wearing the headset with a stereoscopic screen views animated images of the simulated environment. Motion sensors pick up the user’s movements and change the view on the screen in real-time, right when the user moves. This gives the impression that the user is actually there.

When combined with AI, VR can provide users with some pretty extraordinary experiences. In the travel and tourism industry, airlines, hotels, resorts, amusement parks and major tourist destinations employ virtual reality technology to show potential customers a preview of what they will experience. VR can provide guests a view of what staying at a resort or touring a region would be like. It brings photographs and descriptions to life by allowing users to visit a resort’s guest rooms, swimming pools, restaurants, and spas, for instance, prior to their arrival. With the use of AI, clients will be able to experience future vacations in an even more dynamic manner. Prospective visitors may utilize VR to explore sites of interest, and AI can assist them in making decisions on their visits. For example, VR allows guests to see their stay at a resort before they book, while AI software can handle the actual booking of the trip, including hotel and airline reservations.

VR is already being utilized to enhance the shopping experience in immersive shopping. Before making a purchase, shoppers can try on items or test drive a vehicle in a virtual environment thanks to VR. Despite the fact that virtual shopping is undoubtedly fascinating, AI will enhance the experience even more. A customer interested in purchasing furniture, for instance, could utilize VR to test out sofas and chairs of interest, while AI could introduce a virtual sales associate who could provide recommendations, answer questions, and even close the deal. The confluence of AI and VR not only helps consumers but also presents enormous opportunities for businesses; for example, it will allow businesses to learn more about buyers, such as what they enjoy and how they purchase, in order to enhance their products and increase their sales.

VR has already drastically transformed the entertainment industry. While gaming, VR headsets immerse players in virtual worlds so they feel like they are truly in the game, allowing thrill-seekers to experience, for example, the death-defying speeds and heights of roller coasters. While VR is currently a lively element of the entertainment business, AI will make it much more engaging. AI would make background characters in a video game more intelligent, allowing them to interact with actual players. It would profoundly change gaming by making it more interesting and thrilling. The impact of AI on VR will continue to grow and improve; it’s only going to get bigger and better. Let’s take a look at how AI is transforming the MR space.

 AI and MR

MR is the merging of the real and digital worlds to create new environments and visualizations where the real and virtual worlds can coexist and interact in real-time, giving users unique experiences. The virtual objects are overlaid on top of the real world, letting the user experience the MR environment and see and perceive the virtual objects as if they were in real world. In AR, it’s easy to see through the illusion and realize that the objects aren’t real, and in VR, you get to immerse yourselves completely, detaching from the physical environment. In MR, it’s harder to see through the illusion because virtual objects act like real-world objects. So, when you get close to a virtual object or interact with it in MR, it moves closer to you as a real object would.

MR experiences are made possible by devices that are usually lightweight and wearable. The devices are generally equipped with front-mounted cameras to recognize the distinctive features of the real world (such as objects, walls, etc.) and blend them with the virtual world as seen through the headset. In addition, they also have a processor for processing the information transmitted by an array of sensors embedded in the headset. These processors run the algorithms used for pattern recognition on a cloud-based server. Then, these devices use a projector for displaying virtual images in real-life environments, which are finally reflected back to the eye with the help of beam-splitting technology.

As discussed already, MR devices enable the interaction of virtual holograms in the real-life environment, blending the real world with the virtual world. But these MR devices require a great deal of calculations and adjustments to accurately determine the position of a virtual object in a real-world environment. They are then required to apply these rules and logic to the objects to make them behave like real-world objects. As these computations happen on the cloud, the results take a significant amount of time lag, which prevents the user from having a truly immersive experience. Also, in most cases, user mobility is restricted by the limitations of the current devices.

With AI, MR devices can perceive the environment in a much more distinct way and give the user a better experience. Mixed Reality devices with AI coprocessors are becoming more common in Mixed Reality devices, which is a move in the right direction. Microsoft’s recent announcement of the HoloLens 2 project, which is an update to the current MR device that now has an AI coprocessor, is a clear example.

By using AI chips for computing, the above calculations that took plenty of time can now be done with high accuracy and quick results. It means that algorithms and calculations can run instantaneously without having to send or receive data from cloud servers. Having the data stored locally on your headset will help remove time lag and make the MR experiences feel more real and immersive. In other words, the visual data can now be analyzed right on the device, and complex computational tasks can be performed closer to the data source. This provides the device with enhanced processing speed, paving the way for faster performance. Since the data is always on your headset, the cloud doesn’t have to do as many calculations, which makes the data more secure.

Using AI chips also makes it possible to automate complex calculations like estimating depth perception and gives MR devices a better understanding of their surroundings in general. The generative models from AI’s Deep Learning can be used to generate believable avatars (virtual characters) in the real world. AI can also be used to compress images in an intelligent way, enabling faster transmission over wireless networks. Motion capture can now be done with AI features like phase-functioned neural networks and self-teaching AI. Using techniques from machine learning, the huge library of stored movements can be combined and fit into new characters.

Ultimately, by using AI-powered Mixed Reality devices, the goal is to make the MR experience more real, faster and more mobile. The end goal, in the long run, is to make smart, intelligent and self-learning MR devices.

However, this is not the end of the influence that AI will have on MR. New advances are being made in the fields of AI and MR on a daily basis; let’s see what the future holds for AI and MR.

What the future holds

The rate of technological progress is moving at such a breakneck pace that it is almost impossible to keep up. Technologies such as AI, AR, VR and MR are beginning to seep into almost every facet of our lives. It is impossible to imagine life before the advent of these technological advancements. However, even without us knowing, we have already progressed to the next stage of the technological revolution, which is the convergence of technologies. Combining and fusing multiple technologies will, without a doubt, make our lives easier and so many of our experiences better. The future is yet to see even more mergers, so let’s wait and see what’s about to unfold.

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