Don’t Miss the Importance of Diminished Reality

Written by guest author Lindsay Boyajian, CMO at Augment 

Pairing augmented reality with diminished reality provides a superior visual experience and could help grow the AR market.

Augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality are three realities that exist on the reality-virtuality continuum—and they are probably the three terms you have heard again and again.  However, there is a fourth reality you probably haven’t heard of—diminished reality.

Diminished reality can be thought of as the opposite of augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) enhances our reality by overlaying digital elements like 3D models on the physical world.  Contrary to that, diminished reality (DR) diminishes parts of the physical world. It removes unwanted objects in our view.
Karen E. Hamilton (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

How does diminished reality enhance augmented reality?

Although DR doesn’t lie on the virtuality continuum, it can be used in combination with AR for a greater visual impact.

Let’s take the example of interior design. AR lends itself well to interior design because it allows us to try different pieces of furniture in our homes. Thanks to AR, we can see exactly how a new chair would fit and complement our existing space.

However, often the space we are trying to redesign is already crowded with old furniture. Placing the new chair in AR on top of the old chair doesn’t serve much value. You can’t appreciate it. If you first use DR to hide the old chair from view, then use AR to place the chair in the seemingly empty space, the visual experience is much improved and valuable for the end user.


This combination of augmented and diminished reality is referred to as mediated reality. The term mediated reality is attributed to MIT researcher Steven Mann in 1994. Mediated reality alters our perception of reality by adding and removing information through a device such as a headset or smartphone in real time.

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Don’t Write Microsoft Off

Typically, when we talk about the future of AR and VR, the first companies that come to mind are Apple, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat; however, Microsoft does not receive enough credit for the strong positioning it has already built.

As shown in our Jump Ball for the Next OS chart, Microsoft sits in third place behind Google and Apple in terms of elements necessary for a complete AR OS.

In the past week, Microsoft has made three important announcements that show the advances it’s making in order to better position itself as a key platform for VR and AR the future.

Project Scorpio. Last week, Microsoft unveiled its final Xbox Project Scorpio specifications through Digital Foundry. Project Scorpio is a mid-generation console with 4K output and VR gaming capabilities. Gaming is one of the first areas where VR will have a big impact, and Microsoft is poised to benefit from it.

Of all of the companies vying to own VR and AR platforms of the future, Microsoft is the only one to have a gaming console. In January, Microsoft shared that it had reached 55 million monthly active users on its Xbox Live platform, up 15% from the previous year. The Project Scorpio console, set to be released this fall, is powerful enough to display VR content. Microsoft’s main competition in console gaming is Sony, who released an early VR system in November of 2016. Sony has since announced that Playstation VR has sold over 915,000 units as of late February. We view Playstation VR as a step behind the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but ahead of smartphone-powered experiences.

While Microsoft doesn’t produce any VR hardware, it sells the Oculus Rift headset in its stores and has included the Xbox controller in Oculus Rift bundles. Oculus seems like the logical choice for a VR headset partner for Project Scorpio, but Microsoft shared that the next console will also support the Mixed Reality Headsets from Microsoft in 2018, which include headsets manufactured by Lenovo, Dell, Acer, and HP.

Mixed Reality OS Support. Microsoft recently announced that its latest Windows 10 update, the Creator’s Update, will start rolling out to users beginning on April 11th. This update will include support for Mixed Reality (MR) headsets. While this doesn’t mean much to consumers now since MR headsets won’t be available until the holiday season, developers that are soon to receive their MR development kits will be able to work on creating content and applications now. Providing developers with this early window should lead to high-quality MR content being available on day one of the MR headset releases.

It’s also important to remember that Microsoft is leading the way when it comes to MR hardware, with the Hololens. While there are improvements that can be made, Microsoft has a commanding lead in the category. Its updates to Windows 10 will further benefit Hololens developers as well. We continue to view mixed reality as true augmented reality.

Sprinkles. Microsoft has also released a photo application for iOS called Sprinkles, which is a foray into AR on a mobile platform. Sprinkles gives users photo editing tools, allowing them to add filters, stickers, and emojis. In addition, it utilizes facial recognition to position stickers and recommend celebrity look-a-likes. This app is similar to Apple’s recently released Clips.

While Microsoft clearly missed an opportunity in the shift to the mobile computing paradigm, it seems heavily invested in positioning itself as a strong company in the future computing paradigm based on its investments in AR and VR.

Disclaimer: We actively write about the themes in which we invest: artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality. From time to time, we will write about companies that are in our portfolio.  Content on this site including opinions on specific themes in technology, market estimates, and estimates and commentary regarding publicly traded or private companies is not intended for use in making investment decisions. We hold no obligation to update any of our projections. We express no warranties about any estimates or opinions we make.

Feedback Loup: Clips

Yesterday Apple released Clips, a new app for iPhone users. Apple describes Clips as, “A new iOS app for making and sharing fun videos with text, effects, graphics, and more.” And Clips is fun, but it doesn’t show us the kind of augmented reality lenses and layers that we were hoping to see from Apple.

We’ve written a lot about how AR will change the way we interact with computers. Over the next several years, the smartphone will increasingly become a window through which users can see an augmented world. Players like Apple and Google are well-positioned to win the jump ball to own the dominant operating systems in that new paradigm. Google’s leadership in core disciplines like maps, data, and content make it an important incumbent. Apple’s leadership among app developers and payments will be important, but we think design is Apple’s trump card in AR. But Clips is more filters and effects than lenses and layers. There is an interesting real-time transcription capability, but unfortunately Clips is short on true AR.

In about 5 min. I was able to put together a short video with text, effects, filters, and music. Clips uses fairly rudimentary real-time computer imaging, but this could be the beginning of the underlying technology that will one day direct you to your seat in a stadium, overlay talking points during a presentation, or provide instructions as you assemble new furniture.

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Would You Let a Robot Do These 12 Jobs?

This week we attended Automate, a robotics trade show in Chicago focused on manufacturing and fulfillment. As we explored the show floor, we saw a number of robots able to work next to humans for an affordable cost of $30-$40k each. Most vendors claimed less than a 12 month payback period. Automation is now in reach for many businesses, and they are slowly becoming comfortable implementing robots, in part for the cost advantage and part out of necessity to find labor.

We left the show with two questions. First, are we too conservative to believe it will take 30 years for 70% of human jobs to be replaced by robots?  Short answer: we’re optimistic and should have a better idea of how quickly automation will come over the next few years.  Second, how comfortable are consumers allowing robots to do certain jobs? To address this question, we surveyed 500 average consumers in the US and asked them to rate their comfort level with robots performing 12 specific tasks.

Survey methodology. We asked survey takers across a mix of age and income demographics to rate their comfort level with robots performing various tasks on a scale of 1-5: 1 being extremely uncomfortable, 3 being neutral, and 5 being extremely comfortable. We surveyed jobs in four categories: time-consuming chores, transportation, personal/family livelihood, and professional services.

Time-consuming chores. We found general acceptance in robots performing daily, relatively safe, time-consuming chores such as vacuuming, mowing the lawn, or preparing food.  Of all of the four categories of jobs we surveyed, the time-consuming chore category was the most positively viewed. This may be because these tasks have low downside if a robot fails to do them well; you just end up with a poorly vacuumed house, a butchered lawn, or a bad meal. The 30-44 age bracket, or loosely late millennials, consistently indicated the highest levels of comfort with this category (and most categories), while the 18-29 demo, or early millennials, surprisingly saw less benefit to robot vacuums or meal-makers – perhaps because many in this demo don’t perform the tasks themselves (see tables below).

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AI’s Busted Bracket

The Loup Ventures NCAA bracket contest isn’t as hotly contested as we thought it would be. We entered Bing’s AI bracket into our pool, and it’s just as busted as the others. In fact, Bing’s bracket will finish at the bottom of our pool, in 7th place, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game. We would like to think that we outsmarted AI, but the reality is that predicting the outcome of the NCAA tournament is more a matter of luck than skill. Bing’s performance doesn’t mean it’s broken, just unlucky this year.

* Bing Predicts 2017 NCAA Basketball Bracket

To date, Bing has chosen 39 out of 67 games correctly, including the opening round. Bing was 2 of 4 in the opening round, 24 of 32 in the 1st Round, 9 of 16 in the 2nd Round, 4 of 8 in the Sweet Sixteen, before going 0 for 4 in the Elite Eight and ending its chances at victory. If you look at Bing’s bracket now, it will show a different story, because it re-picked winners for matches after each round. Even with this adjustment, it only picked 47 of 66 games correctly, leading into tonight’s game. In the adjusted rounds, Bing chose Final Four weekend right with Gonzaga and UNC as winners, with UNC ultimately taking home the crown.

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