Extended Reality in 2024: Trends that will redefine the future

José Ramón Varela Vargas

NAKA Product Manager, Immersive Experiences Expert at NTT DATA

The evolution we've witnessed in the last decade is unparalleled. A convergence of technological advancements, increased corporate investments, and device development has created the ideal environment for the evolution of immersive technology. Factors such as AI, cloud computing, 5G, and innovations like device lightweighting, more efficient communication infrastructures, improvements in rendering technologies, and graphic cards, along with Apple's announcement of the Vision Pro launch in early 2024, have been the driving forces behind this rapid advancement.

Furthermore, we observe an expansion of use cases for immersive technology, extending beyond entertainment and gaming to encompass sectors such as health, education, employee experience, and sales.

This leads us to a pivotal question: Are we at a turning point where this technology will become mainstream? Can the new devices bring it to a broader audience? In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and outline some key trends for 2024 in the extended reality domain.

Key levers for Extended Reality evolution in 2024

Next, we will review the forecast of advances in the various technologies and elements that are part of extended reality.

Virtual and Augmented Reality: best of both worlds

Let's begin by discussing the outlook for these two technologies. Augmented reality is expected to continue growing in the coming year, gaining more relevance due to its ease of application in everyday activities. This trend has created an opportunity for mixed reality and virtual reality devices, which are incorporating features linked to augmented reality.

Illustrating this approach, Vision Pro is primarily designed for augmented and mixed reality, but also offers the possibility to immerse oneself in a completely digital environment. A convergence is anticipated, where most devices will combine both possibilities, eliminating the current divide and significantly expanding their capabilities. This holistic approach promises a richer and more versatile experience for users, integrating the best of both worlds.

AI revolution

Another trend making a strong impact is artificial intelligence (AI). AI not only facilitates the creation of more immersive experiences but also enables more natural interaction with technology through language, integrating the best of both worlds. The ability to communicate with systems and devices using natural language expands the possibilities for a more intuitive and accessible connection.

Other noteworthy advance is AI's capacity to produce and generate 3D models from a limited set of photographs, utilizing techniques like NERF and Gaussian Splatting. This approach lowers barriers to entry, allowing a broader audience to benefit from advanced capabilities without requiring specialized technical skills. For instance, a customer could easily generate their 3D avatar by simply sharing a photograph with the AI.

Connectivity boost

Continuous improvement in connectivity, another trend for 2024, not only enhances the level of immersive experiences but also adds value by leveraging ultra-fast communication networks. Having substantial bandwidth without relying on cables enables the use of powerful cloud-based computers for remote rendering, transferring results through the necessary bandwidth.

The rendering process, crucial for generating high-quality virtual environments in real-time, involves creating detailed and large images. The ability to render in the cloud, leveraging the speed of broadband connections, alleviates local processing burdens, allowing for very high-quality experiences on devices with lower technical specifications, thus, lighter and more economical. Additionally, it facilitates the creation of exceptional quality virtual scenarios, such as representing human organ structures more realistically for enhanced educational experiences.

Evolution of Digital Twins

This technology, representing digital versions that capture real-time data through sensors and replicate it in a virtual environment, is gaining increasing interest. It incorporates elements of augmented, mixed, and virtual reality, shaping the way we interact with the digital version. Interaction with the model benefits from tools like big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), robust communication networks, and artificial intelligence (AI). As these technologies enhance the fidelity of real object representation, the quality of interaction is enhanced, multiplying use cases.

Future of Hand-tracking

Immersive technology presents a dichotomy of advantages and challenges. On the positive side, the absence of controllers allows direct interaction with digital objects through natural gestures, providing a more intuitive and barrier-free experience. However, this freedom also comes with a significant drawback: the lack of feedback. Conventional controllers offer tactile and haptic feedback, indicating directions, vibrating, and enabling precise interaction.

In this context, the trend is moving towards the integration of haptic devices. Sensors play a crucial role in enabling computers to collect data and recognize objects and languages, providing feedback on performance. Moreover, these devices are becoming increasingly wearable; haptic gloves, for example, are evolving towards an optimal solution, enabling natural control and providing precise tactile feedback. 

With the possibility of new providers entering the market, a new sensory era in the virtual world is anticipated, especially in the field of haptic devices. By 2024, these devices, from gloves to full-body suits, could experience greater adoption thanks to more affordable options. This evolution promises to completely transform how we interact with technology, offering immersive and enriching tactile experiences.

Evolution of environment recognition

Currently, devices like Meta and Pico require users to manually define their play area within an immersive experience. Regarding innovation in user environment recognition, it is expected that future devices will not only use cameras but also integrate artificial intelligence to automatically recognize and safeguard this environment.

This evolution will not only simplify the configuration but also open doors to more intuitive and adaptive immersive experiences. This advanced approach would enable a safer immersive experience, where the system not only understands the user's location but also identifies potential hazards, marking a crucial step towards the full integration of virtual reality into daily life, providing an unprecedented level of safety and comfort.

Cybersecurity in immersive experiences

In a context where cyberattacks constantly evolve, the refinement of XR cybersecurity will undoubtedly be another axis of evolution in 2024. SaaS enterprise solutions must demonstrate a strong commitment to cybersecurity, as cyberattacks not only impact daily operations but can also harm customers. Consequences, such as data leaks and subsequent data sales, represent a costly challenge for organizations. 

It is expected that mechanisms such as data encryption will continue to be perfected in immersive experiences. It is crucial that immersive experiences incorporate data encryption at rest, data masking to prevent unauthorized access, and non-rest encryption.

and, what about the Metaverse?

We conclude the trend list with the concept of the metaverse, initially surrounded by endless expectations and enthusiasm but undergoing notable evolution in recent times. While some companies are still creating their virtual spaces, the focus has shifted towards more ad hoc experiences, emphasizing authenticity and integration with user needs, creating a more pragmatic and experience-focused metaverse, distancing itself from the initial hype to embrace a more mature and functional approach.

In this regard, the term "spatial computing" is emerging with great enthusiasm. This concept gains relevance as it aligns more with the current context and focuses on the natural integration of technology into our everyday environment. 

Spatial computing redefines the interaction between people and technology, promoting a smoother and integrated experience, connecting devices such as IoT devices, virtual reality glasses, and others. This approach transcends the creation of independent digital worlds, seeking to understand and improve the interconnection between the real and virtual worlds.

Moreover, the evolution is not limited to immersive devices and tracking technologies; significant progress is also anticipated in specialized software solutions for augmented and virtual reality, as well as operating systems designed to drive spatial computing. This shift in focus marks a new chapter in the digital narrative, leading us towards an era where technology integrates more naturally into our daily lives.

Opportunities on the XR horizon

The constant evolution of capabilities in augmented reality and mixed reality, coupled with the generative AI revolution, translates into continuous advancement in immersive experiences. This evolution aims to make these experiences not only more effective but also more natural and intuitive for users.

Ultimately, in the horizon of the upcoming year 2024, significant improvements in devices are expected, giving rise to new use cases, some of them focused on everyday aspects. An illustrative example is the possibility of enjoying TV series in an expanded and panoramic manner with Apple's Vision Pro, offering exceptional quality in the comfort of one's home.

These immersive technologies also stand as drivers of sustainability by reducing the need for physical travel, providing experiences that were previously only possible in-person. Will the coming year witness a broader expansion of extended reality among users? Only time will reveal.

At NAKA, we are embarking on a new phase of evolution in the field of Generative Artificial Intelligence. We invite you to discover in this article how Gen AI is shaping our capabilities and contributing to improving the immersive experiences developed at NAKA.

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