Why Immersive Computing Could Be the Next Big Thing

New tech could offer better ways to communicate

  • Industry experts are pushing the idea of immersive computing as a better way for users to communicate, work and play.
  • Observers have given mixed reviews to Meta’s version of a virtual reality meeting space. 
  • Immersive computing could transform everything from entertainment to healthcare.
Person wearing a VR headset using an immersive computing interface to browse content.

Gorodenkoff / Getty images

Your time spent on your phone or computer might soon be much more immersive. 

The world is moving toward immersive computing platforms that will let you feel and interact with your surroundings in new ways, Meta's president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said recently. It's part of a growing movement toward the metaverse, a network of virtual places linked to a virtual universe. 

"Currently, digital information is hosted in 2D screens that require the user to fully engage in the digital world to interact with," Christopher M. Reid, the founder of goHere, a creative agency specializing in mixed reality, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Immersive computing—more commonly known as spatial computing—will make digital information more accessible and useful by incorporating 3D interactive holograms into physical space."

The Rise of Immersive Computing

Virtual reality (VR) is the most obvious example of immersive computing, and it's a hot area. Revenue in the VR space is expected to grow to $52.05 billion by 2027. Clegg predicted social and business meetings would soon be ubiquitous in virtual reality. However, Meta's own Horizon Worlds virtual and social space has been panned by some observers. 

With immersive computing, users will be able to get a more complete picture of what is happening on their computer.

Reid said several hardware providers had created spatial computing headsets, also known as head-mounted displays, that allow enterprise customers to use mixed reality in the military, industry, manufacturing, design, healthcare, and office settings. The headset hardware is currently bulky and sometimes tethered to a computer. Still, developers are competing to create a new generation of user-accessible mixed reality headsets with breakthroughs driven by 5G, new battery technology, and lessons learned from current headsets. 

Viktor Lindell, an advisor at MetaversePlus, said in an email to Lifewire that immersive computing offers many advantages. For example, immersive computing can provide a more engaging and memorable experience for users, making it easier for them to understand complex concepts or processes. 

"It can also be used to create more realistic simulations for training and education purposes and enhance entertainment experiences," he added. "Additionally, immersive computing can improve productivity by allowing users to interact with digital information more efficiently and effectively."

New technologies will make future devices even more immersive than today's bulky headsets, John Xie, the CEO of the tech company Taskade said in an email. With current technology, users mostly rely on visual cues to understand what is happening on their screens. 

"With immersive computing, users will be able to get a more complete picture of what is happening on their computer," Xie added. "This is because they will be able to use all of their senses to interact with the computer. For example, they will be able to feel textures and temperature changes. Additionally, they will be able to hear sound cues and smell scents that are associated with certain actions."

Your Immersive Future

Immersive computing opens up new advertising possibilities, which might or might not be good, depending on your perspective. For advertisers, though, the latest immersive computing world could be a gold mine. Louis Boka, a partner in the firm Metasphere, pointed out in an email that virtually every user today has a smartphone with augmented reality (AR) capabilities. Instead of seeing an ad for a product or service on their device, immersive computing offers users the possibility of opening their camera application and seeing reality augmented with contextual ads wherever they are. 

"Imagine opening your camera app and seeing a giant Big Mac flying over your city or waiting at a bus stop and having the possibility to display the car of your dreams in front of you and customize it to your taste," he added. 

Lindell predicted immersive computing would soon become increasingly widespread and sophisticated, with more advanced hardware and software capabilities. He said new technologies to boost immersive computing could include the development of more lightweight and affordable VR/AR headsets. Also under development are improved haptic feedback systems (meaning you'd feel rather than just see what's going on) and advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) to create more personalized and adaptive user experiences. 

"As immersive computing becomes more ubiquitous, we may see it being used in a wide range of applications, from entertainment and gaming to education and training, as well as in fields such as healthcare, engineering, and architecture," Lindell added.

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