The New Reality of Mixed Reality | TechWell

The New Reality of Mixed Reality

nasa onsight

Want to play with a porg? Walk on Mars? Or help those with autism practice social skills?

Welcome to the new reality of mixed reality, where digital and physical objects coexist and interact to provide a new medium that a variety of organizations see as full of potential.

Mixed reality porgs. Lucasfilm is one entertainment company embracing emerging technology platforms such as mixed reality. Did you think the porgs in Star Wars: The Last Jedi were adorable or an annoying ploy to sell merchandise? Here’s a factoid: According to a Star Wars blog, the porgs evolved from puffins that actually cover the island (which happens to be a wildlife preserve) where filming for the movie took place. Regardless of the value they added to the movie, Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB has a new role for the porgs in a mixed-reality immersive experiment. Coming this December, Star Wars: Project Porg is planned as a free digital download for the Magic Leap One where you can play with porgs yourself.

Virtually walk on Mars. The winner of NASA's 2018 Software of the Year award is OnSight, mixed reality software that lets NASA scientists walk on Mars—virtually. Taking actual images of Mars from the Curiosity rover, the software developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the Microsoft HoloLens turns them into a 3D landscape. Scientists can wander around and virtually study rocks and valleys in the rover’s path and collaborate with other scientists.

"Being able to visualize Curiosity's drives and virtually walk them before we actually do it with the rover is really helpful to give me a sense of how safe or challenging the terrain will be," said Abigail Fraeman, a member of Curiosity's science team in the announcement.

Role-play practice for those with autism. Through collaboration between Magic Leap, the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and the Dan Marino Foundation, a tool uses mixed reality to help young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) overcome an obstacle they may encounter as they attempt to find employment—in-person job interviews. Currently in the testing phase, the Virtual Interactive Training Agent (VITA), now in mixed reality on Magic Leap One, provides a safe and controlled virtual environment that helps reduce anxiety while those with ASD can build confidence and skills.

“It's still early days, but the potential for how this kind of technology can help people is enormous," said Arno Hartholt, director of R&D Integration for USC's Institute for Creative Technologies.

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