Introduction to Spatial Computing
Definition & Overview
Spatial Computing and Mixed Reality (MR) Technology are at the forefront of merging the digital and physical worlds to create immersive and interactive experiences. These technologies are transforming the way we perceive and interact with the environment, offering exciting possibilities for various industries, including financial services.
Merging Digital & Physical Worlds
Spatial Computing blurs the lines between the physical and digital realms, enabling users to interact with digital content in a real-world context. MR Technology combines elements of the physical environment with virtual or augmented objects, enhancing our perception of reality.
Central to the spatial computing experience are devices like augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) headsets, as well as handheld devices that allow users to engage with digital content in a spatial context. Hardware advancements are propelling the adoption of these technologies. Recent advancements have enabled complex motion capture tooling (once only in the realm of Hollywood productions) to be utilised for full-body capture in the comfort of our own homes.
Emerging Current Trends
Spatial Computing and MR Technology are rapidly evolving. Current trends include more affordable and accessible hardware, increased investment in MR applications, and the integration of spatial computing into various industries, more focused on entertainment than financial services, but still with applicability to our industry!
What comes next?
The future of Spatial Computing and Mixed Reality promises even more exciting advancements, such as improved user interfaces, greater integration with artificial intelligence, and broader application across sectors. The financial services industry is poised to benefit from these innovations, with opportunities for enhanced customer experiences, data visualization, and training.
A brief history of Spatial Computing
Spatial Computing has a fascinating history that can be traced back to the mid-20th century. During this period, researchers and innovators began to conceptualize the idea of merging digital and physical worlds. The core concept of spatial computing, which involves enhancing our interaction with the environment through digital augmentation, started to take shape.
Early developments in computer graphics and human-computer interaction were critical in setting the stage for spatial computing. Researchers and pioneers explored ways to create immersive digital experiences, often with a focus on research and specialized applications.
Spatial Computing has a rich history of development, marked by significant milestones that have paved the way for its current state and future directions. Understanding this history is essential to appreciate the evolution of these technologies.
Spatial Computing dates back to the mid-20th century when researchers began to envision the possibilities of merging digital and physical realities. Early developments in computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and augmented reality laid the foundation for the field. Notable milestones include the creation of the first head-mounted displays, like the Sword of Damocles in the 1960s, which were precursors to modern mixed reality headsets.
The 1990s saw the emergence of augmented reality systems, such as the Virtual Fixtures system developed by Boeing. These early systems were primarily used in industrial and military applications.
In the 21st century, key developments like the release of the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One brought mixed reality to the consumer market, signalling a shift from research and development to practical applications. These developments ignited interest in spatial computing across various industries, including healthcare, education, and financial services.
Today, spatial computing is on the brink of a new era, with innovations like more accessible hardware, advanced computer vision, and greater integration with artificial intelligence. The financial services sector is exploring the potential of these technologies to enhance customer experiences, facilitate data analysis, and transform training and operations.
The evolution of spatial computing is marked by key milestones that propelled the technology forward:
- The Sword of Damocles (1960s): Often cited as one of the earliest head-mounted displays, the Sword of Damocles was developed by Ivan Sutherland. It was a massive and heavy apparatus, but it laid the foundation for future advancements in augmented and virtual reality.
- Virtual Fixtures (1990s): Boeing's Virtual Fixtures system represented an important step in the development of augmented reality. This system was designed to aid aircraft assembly and maintenance and demonstrated the practical applications of spatial computing.
- The Digital Eyeglasses (1990s): Myron Krueger's Digital Eyeglasses system combined virtual and physical elements, allowing users to interact with digital objects in real time. This early augmented reality system laid the groundwork for later developments in AR technology.
- The Introduction of Marker-Based Tracking (2000s): Marker-based tracking systems, where physical markers or codes are used to track the position and orientation of objects in the real world, became more sophisticated. This technology facilitated improved augmented reality experiences and was widely adopted in various applications.
- Pokémon GO (2016): While not a technological development per se, the massive success of Pokémon GO brought augmented reality to the mainstream. The game introduced millions of people to the concept of interacting with digital elements in the real world using their smartphones. This popular game marked a shift in how people perceive and engage with augmented reality.
- Advancements in Computer Vision (2010s - Present): The continuous advancement of computer vision technologies, including object recognition and tracking, has been instrumental in enhancing the capabilities of spatial computing. These technologies allow for more precise and seamless interaction between the digital and physical worlds.
Current State & Future Directions
Spatial computing has come a long way from its early conceptualization and the development of pioneering systems. Today, the technology is more accessible and applicable in various industries.
The release of consumer-grade mixed reality headsets like the Microsoft HoloLens and Magic Leap One has brought spatial computing to a broader audience. These headsets offer a combination of augmented and virtual reality experiences. For more dedicated virtual reality experiences, headsets from Meta, Sony and Valve have brought Virtual Reality into the homes of gamers around the world.
Spatial computing has found applications in fields such as healthcare, education, gaming, and, significantly, financial services. In the financial sector, spatial computing is being explored for enhancing customer experiences, data analysis, training, and operations.
The future of spatial computing is promising, with ongoing advancements in hardware, computer vision, and artificial intelligence. As technology becomes more accessible and affordable, we can expect increased adoption across industries and further integration with AI to create smarter and more intuitive mixed reality experiences.
Types of Reality & their Use Cases
Spatial Computing encompasses a spectrum of realities that merge the digital and physical worlds. Understanding these different types of reality is essential to grasp the full range of experiences that can be achieved through spatial computing technology. Each comes with its own use cases and benefits that we will explore in future deep dives.
Augmented Reality (AR) enriches the real world with digital overlays. By superimposing computer-generated content onto the physical environment, AR enhances our perception of reality. From informative heads-up displays to interactive marketing campaigns, AR finds applications in diverse fields, including gaming, education, healthcare, and, significantly, financial services.
Virtual Reality (VR) immerses users in entirely computer-generated environments. It creates a simulated reality, often delivered through specialized headsets. VR's applications extend from gaming and immersive training to therapeutic experiences. In financial services, VR can be used for immersive data visualization and training simulations.
Mixed Reality (MR) sits at the intersection of AR and VR. MR seamlessly blends digital and physical elements, allowing users to interact with both. This type of reality is particularly promising for financial services, offering applications in data visualization, real-time analytics, and collaborative work environments.
Applicability in Financial Services
Spatial computing and mixed reality technology are not confined to the realm of gaming or entertainment; they hold immense promise for revolutionizing various industries, and financial services are no exception. In this section, we will delve into the practical applications of spatial computing within the financial sector, showcasing how these technologies can reshape the landscape of banking, investment, customer service, and operational processes.
From enhancing customer experiences and data visualization to training and collaboration, spatial computing has the potential to drive innovation and operational efficiency in financial services. By leveraging the capabilities of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, financial institutions can redefine how they interact with customers, manage data, and train their workforce.
- Transforming Branch Operations: Spatial computing can reshape the way banks operate their physical branches. By implementing augmented reality (AR) features, banks can offer customers virtual tours of their branches, provide interactive digital displays, and even enable virtual consultations with banking experts. These enhancements improve customer engagement and streamline the banking experience.
- Immersive Customer Experiences: Imagine a world where customers can walk into a virtual branch and consult with a digital banker who appears as a hologram. Spatial computing allows banks to create immersive customer experiences, providing financial advice and services in a dynamic, interactive, and engaging manner.
- Mixed Reality Financial Consultations: Mixed reality technology enables financial advisors to have real-time consultations with clients. During these consultations, they can present financial data and investment options using 3D visualizations, making complex financial concepts more understandable. This immersive approach to financial advisory can enhance decision-making and improve client satisfaction.
- Data Visualization and Analysis: In the world of investment, data is key. Spatial computing technologies provide a new dimension to data visualization. Investment professionals can explore complex financial data through immersive 3D charts, graphs, and models. This capability offers a deeper understanding of market trends, risk assessments, and investment opportunities.
- Portfolio Management: Spatial computing can assist portfolio managers by creating interactive, real-time portfolio displays in a mixed reality environment. Managers can visualize their portfolio's performance, make data-driven decisions, and interact with investment data like never before.
- Enhanced Training Simulations: Investment professionals can benefit from immersive training simulations, allowing them to practice trading strategies, conduct risk assessments, and experience market scenarios in a controlled and risk-free environment. This hands-on approach to training can significantly improve decision-making skills and readiness for real-world financial markets.
- Remote Assistance: Spatial computing offers the potential for remote customer assistance in the financial industry. Customers can seek help via augmented reality video calls, where financial advisors can guide them through processes, answer questions, and provide support, all in a virtual setting.
- Interactive Data Visualization: Financial institutions can employ augmented reality to help clients visualize their financial data. Complex financial data, portfolio performance, and investment projections can be displayed in an interactive and easy-to-understand manner, improving transparency and engagement.
- Immersive Customer Support: Imagine offering customers an immersive support experience where they can interact with virtual financial advisors in a digital branch. Spatial computing enables the creation of interactive customer support environments, improving customer satisfaction and providing personalized assistance.
- Training and Development: Spatial computing offers new opportunities for employee training and development in financial services. It enables realistic training simulations, such as simulated trading environments and financial scenario testing, preparing staff for complex real-world situations.
- Data Analytics and Collaboration: Spatial computing enhances data analysis by providing collaborative, 3D visualizations of financial data. Teams can collaborate in real-time, analyse complex datasets, and make informed decisions more effectively.
- Streamlined Workflows: Financial institutions can streamline internal processes through the use of mixed reality technology. Tasks such as document review, compliance checks, and internal collaboration can be optimized with spatial computing, leading to improved operational efficiency.
Tools & Development Platforms
Spatial computing and mixed reality development require a robust set of tools and platforms to create immersive experiences. In this section, we'll explore the key software and hardware tools that developers and businesses can leverage to build applications for spatial computing. These tools and platforms play a pivotal role in making spatial computing technology accessible and practical for a wide range of applications.
From software development kits (SDKs) to specialized hardware, the spatial computing ecosystem is rich and dynamic. By understanding the tools available, financial services professionals can make informed decisions about how to incorporate spatial computing into their operations and customer interactions.
Software Development Kits (SDKs)
Software Development Kits (SDKs) are essential for building spatial computing and mixed reality applications. These kits provide developers with the tools, libraries, and frameworks necessary to create immersive experiences. Some notable SDKs in this space include:
Microsoft Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK): MRTK is an open-source SDK designed to streamline the development of mixed reality applications. It's compatible with various platforms, making it a versatile choice for developers.
Unity 3D: Unity is a popular game engine that offers support for creating mixed reality experiences. It provides a robust platform for creating, testing, and deploying spatial computing applications. Additionally, Unity offers a free and open-source version, Unity Personal.
Unreal Engine: Unreal Engine is another widely used game engine known for its high-quality graphics and realistic simulations. It's suitable for building immersive mixed reality experiences. Unreal Engine is open-source, and its source code can be accessed and modified by developers.
ARKit (iOS) and ARCore (Android): Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore provide SDKs for developing augmented reality applications on their respective mobile platforms. These SDKs enable mobile app developers to create AR experiences. Both ARKit and ARCore have open-source communities that contribute to their development.
Vuforia: Vuforia is an augmented reality development platform that is often used for creating AR applications. It offers features like image recognition and tracking, making it suitable for various industries. While Vuforia offers a commercial license, there are open-source alternatives and libraries for image recognition and tracking.
Hardware & Devices
Microsoft HoloLens: Microsoft's HoloLens is a well-known mixed reality headset. It's equipped with sensors and cameras for precise tracking and interaction in the mixed reality space. While the hardware itself is proprietary, it can be used with open-source software development tools.
Magic Leap One: Magic Leap's mixed reality headset offers spatial computing experiences with a focus on spatial sound and interaction with digital objects. While the hardware is proprietary, there are open-source communities working on creating compatible software.
Oculus and Meta Quest: Oculus, now owned by Meta, offers both Rift and Quest headsets for virtual reality experiences. These devices are popular among VR developers. Oculus supports open development through its developer platform and has open-source projects related to VR development.
Mobile Devices: Many smartphones and tablets support augmented reality experiences. With AR-enabled devices, users can engage with AR applications using their mobile devices. Open-source AR frameworks, such as ARToolKit, support the development of AR apps for mobile devices.
Other Devices : Hardware devices like spatial cameras and trackers are essential for mapping and tracking physical spaces, enabling accurate spatial computing experiences. Some of these devices have open APIs and SDKs, allowing developers to create custom applications.
Unity 3D : Unity is not only a game engine but also a comprehensive development environment. It offers a visual interface for creating and testing mixed reality applications. Unity is highly extensible, and developers can create and share open-source extensions and plugins.
Unreal Engine : Unreal Engine provides a development environment that's popular for building high-quality mixed reality applications with advanced graphics and physics. It's open-source, and developers can access and modify its source code.
Visual Studio : Microsoft's Visual Studio is a widely used integrated development environment (IDE) for building mixed reality applications. It supports multiple programming languages and provides open-source extensions and tools.
Unity XR Platform : Unity's XR platform provides a comprehensive solution for building spatial computing applications. It supports multiple headsets and platforms, making it versatile for developers. Unity's XR SDK is open-source and actively maintained.
Content Creation Tools
3D Modelling Software: Tools like Blender, Maya, and 3ds Max are commonly used for creating 3D models and assets for mixed reality applications. These tools often have open-source alternatives for 3D modelling and animation.
Adobe Creative Cloud: Adobe's suite of creative software, including Photoshop and After Effects, can be used for creating and editing images, videos, and animations for spatial computing. While Adobe's software is commercial, there are open-source alternatives for image editing and animation.
3D Scanning and Photogrammetry Software: Tools like RealityCapture and Agisoft Metashape enable the creation of 3D models from real-world objects and scenes. Some photogrammetry software options are open-source or have open-source components.
Spatial Audio Tools: Software like Oculus Spatializer and Steam Audio is used for creating realistic 3D audio for mixed reality experiences. Some audio tools used in spatial computing are open-source or have open-source components.
Cross-platform development tools allow developers to create spatial computing applications that work across multiple platforms and devices. Some options for cross-platform development include:
- OpenXR: OpenXR is an open standard that enables developers to create spatial computing applications that can run on various headsets and platforms without significant modification. It provides a unified API for accessing spatial computing features.
- WebXR: WebXR is a web standard for creating immersive web experiences using VR and AR devices. It allows developers to build cross-platform spatial computing applications that run inside web browsers. WebXR can be leveraged with open-source web development tools and frameworks.
- Unity and Unreal Engine: Both Unity and Unreal Engine support cross-platform development, making it easier for developers to create applications that can be deployed on various devices and operating systems. These engines offer open-source options and extensions for cross-platform development.
Challenges & Considerations
As financial services professionals embark on the journey to harness the power of spatial computing and mixed reality technology, it's vital to recognize and thoroughly address the challenges and considerations inherent to these groundbreaking advancements.
Privacy & Security Concerns
Spatial computing applications often collect and process vast amounts of data about the physical and digital worlds. This raises concerns about user privacy, data security, and potential breaches. Financial institutions must implement robust data protection measures and adhere to strict privacy regulations to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of sensitive financial information.
User Adoption Challenges
The adoption of spatial computing in the financial services sector may face resistance or hesitancy among users. The transition from traditional financial services to spatially augmented experiences can be met with scepticism or a learning curve. Providing comprehensive user training, intuitive interfaces, and support is crucial for smooth adoption.
The financial industry is heavily regulated, and incorporating spatial computing technologies requires careful consideration of existing regulations. Financial institutions must navigate regulatory challenges to ensure that their spatial computing applications adhere to industry standards and compliance requirements.
Integration with Legacy Systems
Many financial institutions rely on legacy systems and technologies. Integrating spatial computing with these legacy systems can be complex. Compatibility issues, data migration, and the need for a seamless transition must be carefully managed during the integration process.
Data Accuracy and Reliability
Spatial computing relies on accurate and reliable data to provide users with relevant and precise information. Ensuring the accuracy of spatially augmented data is a critical consideration. Financial professionals and developers must validate the data sources and algorithms used to prevent inaccuracies that can impact decision-making.
Cost and Resource Allocation
The implementation of spatial computing in financial services requires significant financial investment. Costs may include hardware, software development, training, and ongoing maintenance. Efficient resource allocation is essential to maximize the benefits of spatial computing while managing expenses.
Spatial computing raises ethical questions, especially when it comes to data usage and the potential for data-driven decision-making. Financial institutions must uphold ethical standards, protect user rights, and ensure that data-driven processes align with ethical guidelines.
Scalability and Performance
As spatial computing applications gain traction, scalability and performance become paramount. Ensuring that these applications can handle increased user demand and deliver real-time performance is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction.
Successful spatial computing applications in financial services must prioritize human-centric design. Ensuring that the technology enhances, rather than complicates, the user experience is essential. Human factors, accessibility, and user feedback should guide design choices.
Training and Skill Development
To fully leverage the capabilities of spatial computing, financial professionals and employees need training and skill development. Investing in comprehensive training programs is crucial for ensuring that staff can effectively utilize these technologies in their roles.