“What once was imagined soon will be experienced,” Lejerskar explains. “The technology convergence of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, Web and search, and digital content means that people can experience more in their daily lives by blurring the distinction between their physical existence and digital reality.”
As evidence of this trend, Lejerskar points to the realization of commercially viable applications for 3D interactive virtual reality technology – as well as the position of industry thought leaders championing the advancement of such experiences. Heavyweights Google and Microsoft are pushing this trend toward the manifestation of the 3D Internet, while computer and video game developers are whetting consumers’ appetites for 3D experiences with new technologies, such as Nintendo’s Wii. Hollywood studios and amusement parks also are incorporating 3D interactive virtual reality elements into their offerings.
“We’re witnessing the creation of an environment in which visualization companies, industry, academia and the public sector can meet and exchange knowledge, experiences and ideas,” Lejerskar says. “Within three to four years, we’ll see radical changes in how we shop, learn and communicate with business associates, friends and family. Consumers crave user-generated experiences that combine virtual reality technology with physical location-based events to produce totally immersive 3D interactive experiences.”
Virtual see, try, and buy technology already is enabling exponential growth in e-commerce, thanks in part to improved search engines that allow Web surfers to find products quickly. What’s next, Lejerskar points out, is the ultimate in customization. The next generation of the Internet, Web 3.0, will allow customers to become the driving force behind e-commerce. Rather than walking into a retail store to try on a pair of jeans, for example, shoppers will be able to select clothes with the correct fit using an online 3D body scan image. This virtual see, try and buy approach will become the dominate way to shop.
The world’s real estate development and sales market will get a boost from the convergence of physical realities and digital experiences, Lejerskar theorizes. With more and more workers adopting telecommuting, and geographically dispersed offices relying on tools such as Skype, the need to staff workers in the downtown sales office of a local real estate company will diminish. What’s more exciting to Lejerskar is that real estate sales will be conducted through mixed-reality, fully immersed atmospheres that will allow potential buyers to not only walk through a property, but virtually transport themselves into the environment to experience the physical and sensory experience of being there. Even more futuristic is the prediction that smart builders and developers will incorporate virtual reality as a part of the physical building design to give dwellers immersive experiences beyond their four walls.
The realm of personal communications will become fully integrated with mobile phones in a mixed reality where users might wear translucent goggles. Through these, wearers could see the real world as well as computer-generated images projected on top of that world, creating an interactive mixed reality experience in real time.
Lejerskar explains that example of uses include:
Medical — Mixed reality could be used to visualize “hidden” features. For example, a doctor could "see" a fetus inside a mother's womb.
Industrial or Aerospace Installation and Support — A system could be used to assist with difficult tasks by labeling parts to facilitate a mechanic's work.
Tourism — Location-based information labels or text could define and describe places or objects during tours. Imagine if this service was used to show archeological ruins, buildings or landscapes as these places existed in the past.
Entertainment — Mobile teleconferencing could be used for real participants to interact in real time with virtual characters or people. This also lends to physical involvement or a hands-on experience with 3D gaming.
Although many of Lejerskar’s predictions involve technology that won’t be commercially viable for three to 10 years, his company, EON Reality, is pioneering advanced 3D interactive virtual reality experiences today. EON Reality innovations include EONExperience and EON Human.
EONExperience is a 3D media solution for people to experience and share original, interactive 3D content worldwide through a Web experience. Viewers can create their own interactive 3D content by using EON Raptor, a free authoring tool for the 3ds Max plug-in, that enables users to convert 3ds Max content to interactive 3D data and then publish it for free to a Web page for viewing with a browser.
EON Human technology enables anyone to teleport real images of people into virtual reality. EON Human automatically generates a 3D face and body online from a single picture. The technology allows people to preserve themselves in 3D on the Web for eternity.