What is spatial computing?
We have seen advancement in user interface (UI) technology in the past few decades from command line interface to graphical user interface (GUI). To elaborate, probably two decades ago, we could only communicate with the computer by typing commands. Then came the era of GUIs, that we use daily on personal computers and smartphones. In future, whether we talk about AR/VR or mixed reality, it is not going to be in 2D anymore, it will have a third dimension and that will be spatial computing.
Spatial computing is the technology which makes the computer’s user interface a seamless part of the 3D environment which we live in. It offers machine to machine interaction or human-machine interaction in a 3D environment while using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality.
January 18, 2021
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Products related to spatial computing domain (by the key players):
Qualcomm: Qualcomm is actively working in spatial computing domain. Qualcomm is manufacturing ‘Snapdragon XR2’ chips which are used in its XR (extended reality) headsets.
Intel: Intel is manufacturing Xeon processors which are used by Tsunami XR. Tsunami XR offers persistent, multi-user environments for business collaboration and interactive training across a wide range of sectors, including aerospace and defense, automotive, energy, technology, and industrial.
Microsoft: Microsoft researchers are continuously making efforts to develop technologies that expand and enhance the world of spatial computing. Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 is a pair of mixed reality smart glasses that uses spatial computing technology.
Google: Google is funding companies which are into spatial computing domain. In 2017, Google gave funding to Magic Leap. Magic Leap 1 manufactured by Magic Leap is a wearable spatial computer.
The future of human-machine interaction (HMI) is going to be defined by AR/VR based technologies. The technological advancements in AR/VR have now moved beyond HMI and are paving the path for machine-to-machine interaction (MMI). The need to provide advanced & immersive user interfaces, higher productivity, and collaborative industrial solutions is going to drive the growth and adoption of spatial computing. Many of the technology giants have already started investing heavily on spatial computing and a number of startups are also building break-through solutions. The day is not far when spatial computing-based solutions will become an integral part of our life.
Note: The data for the year 2019 & 2020 is incomplete (due to the time lag between patent filing and publication).
Due to increase in adoption of IoT, VR/AR applications and devices, the scope of spatial computing has expanded. Spatial computing digitizes processes, collects data via sensors, and allows the computer hardware to control the object’s functions and operations. Therefore, in a way, spatial computing presents the physical world, in a digitally activated space. Also, spatial computing offers a huge range of technology options to step into, from haptic feedback systems, to edge computing, machine learning, and robotics.
The spatial computing market size can be estimated based on how extended reality technology is growing. This can be attributed to the fact that the extended reality technologies are based on spatial computing concepts. The extended reality market is projected to grow from $42.55 billion in 2020 to $333.16 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 50.9% from 2020 to 2025. Looking at the strong correlation between spatial computing and extended reality, the market for spatial computing is also expected to follow the same growth trajectory.
Growing Demand for Mobile-Based AR and VR Platforms
Covid-19 can also be a driving factor for this technology
The global spatial computing market can be classified based on application and region. Application-wise, the spatial computing industry can be broadly segmented into healthcare, transport, engineering, education, architecture, manufacturing, entertainment, and automotive.
Major Application Areas
Despite the advancements in medicines, lack of accurate and reliable diagnosis limits patient recovery. This concern is addressed by VR and AR tools, equipped with spatial computing. Also, during COVID-19 pandemic, the capabilities of spatial computing have expanded during patient care and treatment.
Spatial computing addresses the challenges in production capacity, labor efficiency and effectiveness in manufacturing. In manufacturing plants, the tools enabled with spatial computing identify and modify the discrepancies before a system/object is utilized, thereby, preventing the possibility of any unfortunate incidents.
Spatial computing addresses the challenges of 3D-design in the automotive industry. Companies like Ford are already making detailed 3D models of automobiles with the help of augmented reality and spatial computing.
The companies in entertainment industry are using spatial computing to deepen immersion. The Midnight Ride at China’s Lionsgate Entertainment World (based on Twilight Saga) and the VOID’s hyper-VR Marvel Avengers experience, use hand tracking to allow visitors to see their hands within the VR experience, reacting and moving in real-time. Further, we are also seeing huge demand in gaming products based on AR/VR technologies.
North America is expected to make notable contributions towards the overall market revenue of spatial computing. The growth of the business in this region is likely to be due to firms like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft trying to make use of spatial computing to improve the end-user viewing experience. Also, other firms like Magic Leap (based in the U.S), aim to fulfill demands of the customers through use of advanced technology like spatial computing & digital reality.
Further, a lot of R&D is being conducted by these firms in spatial computing domain. This can be attributed to the fact that these players are actively filing patents in the technology area. Unlike a number of other advanced technologies, Chinese entities seem to be lagging behind US companies in spatial computing technology.Spatial Computing is one step ahead of Augmented/Virtual Reality and a new era of computing aligned with human cognitive capabilities. The industry leaders have identified this as the next big thing and therefore, focused their R&D efforts towards it. The same is evident from the overall trend of patent filing (from 2013-2020) in the technology space.