Edge of Innovation

Immersive Internet, Merged Reality and the tech buzzwords of 2016

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Every year, the tech industry throws out a handful of terms that you might not have encountered before. Last year’s buzzwords included the likes of quantum dots and ring radiators, WiGig and WattUp. This year, we’ve highlighted eight more, ranging from VR-friendly backpack PCs to cognitive computing and the immersive internet.

1. The backpack PC
As its name suggests, the backpack PC is a computer that you wear on your back like a rucksack. It’s an attempt to cut the cables for VR systems, giving players the freedom to explore virtual worlds without real world wires getting in the way.

Backpack PCs aren’t underpowered either. The MSI VR One, for example, combines an overclocked Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card.

2. Cognitive computing
Josh Walden at Saffron Technologies describes cognitive computing as “software that combines the power of computing with brain-like intelligence to solve and even anticipate complex problems.” These systems augment analytics with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Crucially, they do more than just crunch data. Their programming can understand and learn from it.

Forza Horizon 3 open world games
Forza Horizon 3 blends high-speed racing with an open world element and supports HDR.

3. HDR (High Dynamic Range)
You might have noticed an HDR option on your smartphone camera. Or on that new Black Friday UHDTV you bought. Jeremy Laird explains the tech nicely on Rock Paper Shotgun.

“HDR stands for high dynamic range”, he says, “and in this context, that ‘range’ refers to the range of colours a display can generate. The net result is massively more visual pop and vibrancy… HDR isn’t about more pixels. It’s about making each individual pixel work harder and look better.”

4. Hyperloop
Despite advances in speed, today’s trains still run on the same rails they used in 1804. Tomorrow’s trains, however, might not need rails at all. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has put forward the idea of a ‘Hyperloop’ — part maglev, part air cannon.

Imagine a “low pressure tube with capsules that are transported… on a cushion of air,” propelled between stations at speeds of up to 760mph. To put that into perspective, a train journey today between London and Glasgow takes over five hours. Via a Hyperloop it might take just 30 minutes.

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Intel’s Project Alloy headset combines virtual reality and augmented reality into a new experience.

5. Merged reality
Think of merged reality as a blend of VR and AR technologies. As Intel CEO Brian Krzanich explained at IDF 2016, a merged reality is where “things from the real world can come into the virtual world and vice-versa.”

Intel’s merged reality headset is codenamed Project Alloy. It’s untethered like the Samsung VR and offers room-scale experiences like an HTC Vive. It also doesn’t require any touch controllers. Instead, realities are merged together, which means you can use your hands to manipulate virtual objects.

6. Immersive internet
New technologies are changing the way we consume entertainment and information online. It’s not just reading words on a page or looking at static images any more. We’re just as likely to watch, listen, interact and explore our content. It’s what Intel’s 7th generation Core processors are built for — faster, more efficient, and powerful enough to handle 4K UHD, 360-degree video and virtual reality. See what they can do here.

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7. Volocopter
Multicopter drones come in all shapes and sizes but few are bigger than the Volocopter VC200, which made history this year as the first certified multicopter to fly with a person aboard. Powered by nine batteries, its 18 propellers can zip it along at speeds up to 60mph.

8. Room-scale VR
Beyond the likes of Google Cardboard and Samsung VR, room-scale VR uses additional sensors (or cameras) in a room to track the physical position of a head mounted display.

These sensors define the boundaries of a ‘play space’, allowing the wearer to physically move around the room — jumping, crawling, walking or sitting — and seeing those movements translated into the virtual world. The HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PSVR all support room-scale virtual reality. It might even be the future of theme park rides.

There you have it, eight of the buzzwords that have shaped 2016. With CES 2017 on the horizon, we look forward to seeing what the tech industry comes up with next.

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