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What is spatial computing?

spatial computing

Since the presentation of the new Apple VR/AR glasses Apple Vision Pro, Spatial Computing is on everyone's lips again. For XR connoisseurs, the term is not new. But what exactly does it mean? Get ready to explore the exciting world of Spatial Computing!

Where does the term spatial computing come from?

The term "spatial computing" was first coined in 2003 by Simon Greenwold, a British software developer and visionary. He defined spatial computing as "the interaction between man and machine in a three-dimensional space". 
Greenwold believed that the traditional way we interact with computers is inefficient and unnatural. He argued that we should design computers to integrate into the real world and provide us with an immersive and natural user experience.
Greenwold's vision of spatial computing was inspired by developments in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR allows users to immerse themselves in a completely artificial environment, while AR projects digital information into the real world.

Introduction to Spatial Computing

The foundations of spatial computing are based on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. AR extends our real world by integrating digital content into it, while VR immerses us in a completely artificial environment. Spatial computing combines these technologies and opens up a new level of immersion and interaction.

The difference with virtual reality

Spatial computing and virtual reality are two technologies that are often confused with each other, yet there are some important differences between the two. Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that allows users to immerse themselves in a completely virtual world. This virtual world is often represented by VR goggles that cover the user's entire field of view. Spatial computing, on the other hand, allows users to see and interact with digital content in the physical world. This content can be displayed on a smartphone, tablet or AR glasses.

The advantages of Spatial Computing

Many advantages arise over traditional digital interaction technologies. One of the biggest advantages is that it creates a seamless and immersive user experience. Users can see and interact with digital content in the physical world as if they were part of it. This allows companies to create unique and immersive user experiences that delight and engage users. Another benefit is that it provides the ability to place digital content in the physical world. This can be useful for drawing users' attention to specific products or services.

How does spatial computing work?

Spatial computing is based on a range of technologies and devices that work together to provide us with an immersive and interactive experience. These include data glasses such as the Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Meta Quest 3, which serve as an interface between us and the digital world. These glasses allow us to see and interact with virtual objects in our real environment.

Another important component of spatial computing are depth cameras such as the Microsoft Azure Kinect and the Intel RealSense D450. These cameras capture the depth of the real world and enable devices to seamlessly integrate virtual objects into the real world. By combining data glasses and depth cameras, we can see and interact with digital content in our physical environment.

Other technologies such as controllers, hand tracking and eye tracking also play an important role in spatial computing. Controllers simulate physical objects and provide a haptic interface for interaction. Hand tracking allows us to interact with the environment in a natural way by recognizing our hand movements. Eye tracking captures the movements of our eyes and enables more intuitive control of the virtual environment.

The basis of spatial computing is the real-time 3D rendering capability of the devices. This technology requires high computing power, as all visible objects need to be redrawn up to 60 times per second. Various approaches are used to meet these requirements, including powerful gaming PCs, standalone headsets and cloud rendering solutions.

Gdevices for spatial computing

Various devices are used for spatial computing, including:

    • Data glasses: Data glasses are wearable devices that display virtual objects in the real world. Examples of data glasses for spatial computing are the Microsoft HoloLens and the Meta Quest 2.
    • Depth cameras: Depth cameras capture the depth of the real world. This information can be used to realistically insert virtual objects into the real world. Examples of depth cameras for spatial computing are the Microsoft Azure Kinect and the Intel RealSense D450.

Microsoft HoloLens

The Microsoft HoloLens is a pair of data glasses for spatial computing. It was first introduced in 2015 and has been available in several versions since then. HoloLens enables users to see and interact with virtual objects in the real world.

Azure Kinect depth cameras

Azure Kinect is a depth camera platform from Microsoft that was developed for spatial computing applications. Azure Kinect was first introduced in 2019 and is available in two versions: Azure Kinect DK and Azure Kinect S.

Azure Kinect cameras can capture the depth of the real world and use this information to insert virtual objects into the real world. Azure Kinect cameras are often used in industrial applications to improve workflow and increase safety.

Apple Vision Pro

Apple's first VR /AR glasses promise many features from the field of spatial computing. Apple Vision Pro focuses on productivity in a virtual 3D working environment. In contrast to VR glasses, Apple Vision Pro promises full awareness of the real world even when wearing the glasses. Apple promises to make screens superfluous with its device. With a price above 3000$, the device is probably more interesting for B2B and enterprise clientele. 


The leading companies in the field of spatial computing

Various companies have specialized in spatial computing and are driving the development of this technology. Here are some of the leading companies in this field:


hololens 2 -spatial computing

Microsoft is a pioneer in the field of spatial computing and offers HoloLens 2, one of the best-known AR glasses on the market. HoloLens enables users to see and interact with digital content in their physical environment. Microsoft continues to invest heavily in the development of spatial computing technologies and has developed a powerful depth camera with Azure Kinect.




With the introduction of the Apple Vision Pro, Apple has established spatial computing as part of its product strategy. The Apple Vision Pro is a VR/AR goggle that focuses on productivity and creating a virtual 3D work environment. Apple has a reputation for innovative and user-friendly technologies and is expected to play a significant role in the further development of spatial computing.


Meta (formerly Facebook)


Meta (formerly Facebook) has made a significant contribution to the popularization of VR with the Oculus VR platform. The company continues to develop VR and AR technologies and recently unveiled its vision of the Metaverse, a digital environment where people can interact with VR and AR devices. Meta is committed to realizing the full potential of spatial computing and creating new opportunities for social interaction and collaboration. The latest device from Meta, the Quest 3, is often compared to the Apple Vision Pro in terms of its features. However, the comparison is not entirely accurate, as the Quest, at €550, is a much cheaper product than the Vision Pro, which will cost over €3000. Although both devices have similar features, you can't expect the much cheaper Quest 3 to be on a par with Apple's premium model. 


Google is another company that has invested in the field of spatial computing. With projects such as Google Glass and ARCore, Google has developed innovative AR technologies. The company is also working on integrating AR and VR technologies into its various products and services to create immersive and interactive user experiences. However, Google has withdrawn from the hardware business following the failure of the Google VR glasses Daydream. Google Daydream was intended to compete with the Samsung Gear VR cell phone VR system. However, it could not keep up with the software diversity of the Samsung Gear VR.


The Future of Spatial Computing

The future of spatial computing is promising, as more and more companies and industries are recognizing the potential of this technology. It is expected that there will be even more applications and uses in the coming years. One area that could be further developed in the future is the integration of spatial computing into everyday objects such as glasses and smartwatches. This could make spatial computing an integral part of our daily lives.

In addition, technological advances are expected to further improve the performance and usability of spatial computing devices. New display technologies, more powerful processors and advanced tracking systems will enable us to create even more realistic and immersive experiences.

Overall, spatial computing offers an exciting future with endless possibilities. It has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with digital content and create new immersive and interactive experiences. From the entertainment industry to education, healthcare and industry, spatial computing is expected to play a significant role in many areas.

clarence dadson

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Clarence Dadson CEO Design4real