Forget keyboards, mice and screens. Source: Shutterstock

How spatial computing can change the way we interact with technology

  • The way we interact with tech hasn’t changed in decades
  • Immersive technologies such as AR, VR, and XR offer the concept of spatial computing
  • This concept can “unleash the true powers” of technology

From buttons and keys, to gazing at screens, the way we interact with IT – and the hardware we use to do it – may still be improving, but it hasn’t really changed much in decades now.

But with the new technology we have within our reach today, this can really start to change. The concept is called ‘spatial computing’.

Spatial computing helps heighten the sense of ‘presence’ where human interaction and digital content are uniform and connected through immersive technologies — augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (XR) tools.

Spatial computing radically changes the human-computer interaction and is also set in motion to transform the relationship we have with the digital realm. In spatial computing, “hardware is purely the engine oriented toward the display/world,” wrote Victor Agulhorn, co-founder of VR company Targo on Medium. “Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Moving users away from a passive role of ‘consuming’ digital content, instead, the concept of spatial computing is to invite users to actively engage with digital content beyond the sense of sight. Instead, they interact with it how they would in the physical world, such as using voice control, their eye or head position, or the most minute of finger movements. 

“Spatial computing will unleash the true powers of all other technologies,” said Ivan Khoo, the CEO of Ministry XR, a Malaysian based company that specializes in spatial computing technologies.

In an exclusive interview, Ministry XR told TechHQ that the unique blend of digital content and physical environment that enables society to engage with content with a higher degree of immersion, changing our perception of technology and its potentially seamless role in our everyday lives. 

“At the heart of spatial computing is a very intelligent system whose aim is to provide hyper-individualized experiences to each and every user.”

Khoo explained the significance of spatial computing is to break the presupposed mold that humans should adapt to the interactions of computers. When computers are designed to suit the natural interactions of people, that’s when the true potential of technologies can be unleashed and cultivated.

“Simply put — spatial computing is when man, machine, and environment reconcile and humanity no longer has to adapt to the intricacies of computing.

“Instead, computers adapt to humanity and its environment – naturally and ubiquitously.”

Enterprise driving sales

Based on the International Data Corporation’s (IDC), shipments for VR headsets are predicted to hit 36.7 million units in 2023, with a five-year CAGR of 46.7 percent. At the same time, AR headsets are expected to reach 31.9 million units in 2023, with a 140.9 percent CAGR.

Undeniably, the global market for immersive technology is climbing ever higher as the technology becomes more accessible. The adoption of immersive technology is pervasive as both public and private sectors found the applications of this next-gen software and tool to be revolutionary.

Ministry XR has worked with major brands itself, last year collaborating with Ford to deliver the automaker’s brand promise of “Built Ford Tough.”

A VR-powered simulation was created to transform the test drive experience. Drivers were geared with VR headsets and introduced Ford Ranger’s advanced safety features in a virtual car crash. “On top of a lift in brand impression, Ford saw a 61 percent increase in sales during the campaign period,” Kimberley Yap, V.P XR Experience Design shared.

As enterprises are seeing the real opportunities immersive technologies can offer for users in simulated environments, other industries such as the medical and finance sectors are also tapping in.

For pharmaceutical labs, VR holds immense potential in research and enables researchers to explore the structural components and drug designs beyond a microscopic view.

Researchers can touch, manipulate and create molecules with the use of the controllers and present their findings on a 3D screen. This offers chemists and researchers an enhanced way to collaborate and engage with drug development, significantly streamlining laboratory practices but also presenting new opportunities for drug discovery and development.

Meanwhile, the increasingly versatile and affordability of headsets has attracted the interests of the finance industry.

According to Bank of America’s David Reily, the company is testing XR technologies in trading rooms, transforming trading floors to a 3D realm of live information, accessible to anyone equipped with headsets.  

A world of spatial computing

When asked about the peak in popularity of XR among enterprises, Yap elaborated: “In the experience economy, people are spending less on things and more on things to do.”

Bearing in mind the shift of consumerism and profoundly enlightened users of technologies, “marketers are increasingly activating brand storytelling by orchestrating meaningful experiences that lead to action and conversion.”

This falls in line with the many benefits of XR, listed as “intuitive, engaging, borderless, and cost-saving,” but the core reason that propels the adoption of immersive technologies is the impact it brings to user experience.

In this aspect, XR unlocks a new way of how users interact with the physical world and objects and Yap trusts that the most compelling experiences are built on a people/user first basis.

“Which is why I believe hyper-individualization is the future of marketing.

“When brands and businesses create experiences and products at the intersection of technology and humanity, magic happens,” Yap told TechHQ.

The beauty of spatial computing is the mobility of immersive technologies, unrestricted by location or physical parameters, instead, the gate to the digital realm lies in portable headsets, at least currently. 

CTO of Ministry XR, Andrew Yew, explained the challenge in designing and deploying XR technologies, in particular, AR headsets is to create “user experiences that seamlessly integrate technology.”

For instance, when developing a spatial computing application for smartphones, the user experience design must account for behavior associated when using a mobile device.

As the notion of spatial computing escalates and gain prominence across industries, the interconnectivity between our physical world and the digital realm will be enhanced.

“We believe we are on the cusp of widespread adoption, even if AR headsets are still undergoing effective miniaturization, phone-based AR can already become mainstream, and will only get more widespread as the readiness of wearables improves,” Yew stated.