Innovations in technology are coming fast and furious these days, and every major brand wants to be seen as standing at the forefront of the next generation. Google undeniably dominates the world of GPS and internet searching, and has joined up with Toyota to lead the way towards the creation and successful testing of an autonomous car. And Google isn’t stopping there. They are mere months away from the release of the Google Glass, a virtual reality headset that they feel will truly revolutionize the world of personal computing. But while their consumer focus has been a true strength of the brand, they are about to have some serious competition in virtual reality. The folks at Canon just announced they are launching a professional-grade “mixed reality” system called the MREAL.
The MREAL will never be mistaken for Google Glass. For one, it is going to be priced at $125,000 and will require a maintenance fee of $25,000 a year. Right away that puts it firmly at the level of engineering companies and the super rich. But if you are a product designer, the MREAL is an absolute game-changer. Basically, it’s a display that mounts over your eyes, and gives you the ability to overlay virtual creations on the real world with precise dimensions. Imagine an architect being able to walk the layout of his new building before they’ve even laid the foundation, or an automotive engineer getting the chance to look over every angle of a new vehicle prototype before finalizing the plans.
Detractors of the MREAL will likely point to its clunky physicality. Unlike Google Glass, which is basically the size of regular glasses and is completely translucent, the MREAL is weighty and bulky, covering your eyes much like a high powered set of binoculars. You’ll need to take regular breaks, or deal with some neck stiffness. And of course you’ve got that massive price tag. But the MREAL doesn’t just project an image on top of what you see. It actually records 3D video of the real world and moves that data into an internal computer, adds the virtual pieces over top and then outputs for your view. The entire thing happens in real-time, and you can see it all through a set of displays mounted inside the MREAL visor.
The net result is true 3D that will blend almost seamlessly with the real world. You can lean on the results you see. So it’s not just some sort of gimmick, but a true designer’s tool. But it doesn’t have to just stay inside the lab. It should be useful for consumer demonstrations of new products, or if you are pitching a concept to investors. You have to have a compelling sell, but you might not have the money to create a prototype. Use the MREAL cordless headsets and you can give those potential investors a virtual reality look at your business. For many individuals these possibilities won’t make up for the high cost. But once the technology gets out there you are sure to see other brands working hard to crack Canon’s design. It’s only a matter of time before this quality ends up in a consumer-grade package. And then the real revolution begins.