What leaders need to know about spatial computing

By Cathy Hackl

Spatial computing is a term that many in the business world might have heard for the first time during Apple’s announcement, but it is by no means a new term. In 2003, researcher Simon Greenwold, then at the MIT Media Lab, defined spatial computing as: “Human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces.” Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Magic Leap (my former employer), Meta, Microsoft, and others have come up with their own definitions, but they basically boil down to this: Spatial computing is an evolving form of computing that blends our physical world and virtual experiences using a wide range of technologies, thus enabling humans to interact and communicate in new ways with each other and with machines, as well as giving machines the capabilities to navigate and understand our physical environment in new ways.

From a business perspective, it will allow people to create new content, products, experiences, and services that have purpose in both physical and virtual environments, expanding computing into everything you can see, touch, and know.

Sci-fi as this may sound, it’s already in use. One could argue that our mobile phones are primitive spatial devices. Many professionals in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), extended reality (XR), and artificial intelligence (AI) have been working on spatial computing for years.

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