Reality Becomes More Blended

I’ve blogged before about the blending of the digital and physical to create new kinds of hybrid spaces – here, here, here, here and here.   This blending opens up all kinds of possibilities for new experiences in cities, in entertainment, education, and elsewhere.

(We, at the Gotham Innovation Greenhouse, hope to move this forward as well in a few months – but that’s another story.)

Of course, blended reality is not yet part of the everyday lives of most people.

hasn’t stopped creative technologists. There have been several
developments this year which illustrate new kinds of blended reality.  

Here are some that caught my attention.


Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its HoloLens
and “Windows Holographic Platform”. The HoloLens is their version of
virtual reality that lets you see three-dimensional holographic images
in the space around you. 


While the obvious gaming uses have already been reported
on, there are other uses, for example, enabling a person to envision
what a building interior would look like from the viewpoint of someone
walking inside. The latter was shown at the Architecture and Design Film Festival.

Of course, since this is a Microsoft product, there have been both enthusiastic and not-so-enthusiastic reviews, sometimes in the same magazine, as you can see if you follow the links.


also doesn’t always provide leading edge technologies, so there has
been much interest – but not too much information – about a
Florida-based company called Magic Leap which is going beyond the
HoloLens. The company proclaims its aim to mix the physical and virtual


It has received investments from major competitors of Microsoft,
but until two weeks ago didn’t show much. Then it released a video
showing a person interacting with virtual objects, robots and the solar
system. The company has assured everyone that the video was recorded
just as it happened, without special effects.

Magic Leap’s CEO, Rony Abovitz, was reported
to say

“We are sensing the world — the floor, the people. We’re doing
real-time understanding of the world, so that all these objects can know
where they sit.”

While Microsoft and Magic Leap seem to be mainly
focused on blending reality indoors, others are demonstrating ways that
the virtual and physical can work together outdoors or both indoors and


In June, Samsung showed
the latest generation of see-through 55 inch OLED display that seems to
be able to really handle high transparency and strong light going
through it. To add to the feeling, the company has combined it with
Intel’s technology to see and understand what a person is doing with
what’s on the screen.



While Microsoft and Oculus, among
others, are busy creating devices you can wear over your eyes, in a
sense the real challenge is to create 3D illusions without the need for
glasses. The Technical University of Vienna and Trilite announced their prototype earlier this year.


As they describe it:

“A sophisticated laser system sends laser
beams into different directions. Therefore, different pictures are
visible from different angles. The angular resolution is so fine that
the left eye is presented a different picture than the right one,
creating a 3D effect… 3D movies in the cinema only show two different
pictures – one for each eye. The newly developed display, however, can
present hundreds of pictures. Walking by the display, one can get a view
of the displayed object from different sides, just like passing a real

2wenty Lightworks

More ephemeral, but more dramatic, is the work of the Los Angeles light and media artist, 2wenty, who has created dancing lightworks, such as this:



And for those us who want to paint with light, there is Pixelstick,
which contains 200 full color LEDs controlled by a programmed SD card.
Although it started as a Kickstarter campaign two years ago, it has
graduated from that status.


There’s more background in a video at

blending of the physical and the virtual, of art and technology, is at
the very least a lot of fun. More later on its broader significance.

© 2015 Norman Jacknis, All Rights Reserved