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What is Spatial Computing? The Definitive Guide

Feb 28, 2024

Callum Moates

Spatial computing represents a fusion of digital content with our physical environment, enabling new ways to interact with the digital world that feel as natural as in the real world. This technology transcends traditional interfaces, allowing users to engage with 3D digital elements through gestures, voice, and movement. The potential of spatial computing spans numerous sectors, revolutionizing how we play, learn, work, and innovate. From immersive gaming experiences and captivating entertainment platforms to advanced healthcare simulations and interactive educational tools, spatial computing is setting the stage for a new era of digital interaction. Apple, a notable pioneer in this field, recently launched the Vision Pro headset, the company’s first spatial computing device with as much processing power as a MacBook Pro. Apple's entry underscores the technology's viability and signals a future where digital and physical worlds converge more closely than ever.

Understanding Spatial Computing

Spatial computing is the technological convergence of the virtual and physical worlds, facilitated by the integration of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR). This convergence enables the creation of environments where digital and physical elements coexist and interact in real time, driven by user input and environmental data. Spatial computing transforms how we perceive, interact with, and understand our surroundings, offering a more intuitive and immersive experience. It also allows machines to navigate and understand the physical environment around them.

Here are the fundamental principles and components of spatial computing:

  • Spatial mapping: This is the process of scanning the physical environment to create a 3D digital map. It considers the user’s position, orientation, context, and physical objects and surfaces in their environment. It allows virtual objects to be placed and interact within the natural world accurately, ensuring a seamless blend between the two. It is also helpful in avoiding collisions and motion planning.

  • Gesture recognition: By interpreting human gestures through sensors and cameras, spatial computing devices can allow users to manipulate digital content naturally as if they were touching or moving physical objects.

  • Immersive user interfaces: Spatial computing interfaces like head-mounted headsets are designed to be intuitive, engaging, and accessible, providing users with a natural way to navigate and interact with digital content. It leverages new interfaces such as hand gestures, finger motions, gaze tracking, and voice commands through cutting-edge wearables equipped with high-resolution cameras, scanners, microphones, and sensors.

Here are some applications of spatial computing:

  • AR navigation: Augmented reality navigation systems overlay digital directions and points of interest onto the real world, enhancing the user's understanding of their environment and simplifying navigation in complex spaces. For instance, the Google Maps AR navigation feature allows users to view the live capture of their environment and get AR overlays of information about where they are and the step-by-step directions to their destination.

  • Virtual prototyping: In industries such as manufacturing and design, spatial computing allows for creating 3D virtual prototypes. This ability enables designers and engineers to visualize, interact with, and test their designs in a three-dimensional space without physical models.

  • Interactive storytelling: Spatial computing transforms storytelling by placing the audience inside the story. Through AR, VR, and mixed reality (MR), stories become immersive experiences where users can interact with the narrative elements, making decisions that influence the outcome. An example is the Washington Post's AR series, which enriches reporting and storytelling, making it more immersive for the audience. The series allowed readers to view the interiors of the world’s most iconic billion-dollar buildings supported by audio narration.

Key technologies

Exploring the technologies that enable spatial computing experiences involves understanding various components that work together to blend digital content with the physical world. 

Here’s a deep dive into the core technologies, advancements, and platforms shaping the spatial computing landscape:

  • Sensors and cameras: At the heart of spatial computing are sensors and cameras that gather data from the user's environment. Technology like LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors, depth-sensing cameras, and IMUs (inertial measurement units), which include motion-sensing elements like accelerometers and gyroscopes, help sketch out a live-action map of everything in one’s physical environment, capturing every move and moment in real-time. These components enable devices to understand and interact with their surroundings in three dimensions.

  • Display technologies: Spatial computing requires advanced display technologies to overlay digital content onto the real world or to create entirely virtual environments. These technologies include head-mounted displays (HMDs) for immersive experiences, augmented reality (AR) glasses for blending digital and physical worlds, and projection systems that map digital content onto physical surfaces.

Here are some key advancements in hardware and software that have contributed to the growth of spatial computing:

  • Depth Sensing: Depth sensing technology has significantly advanced, enabling a more accurate, quicker, and more detailed understanding of the physical environment by collecting distance information across a field of view. This technology allows devices to create a 3D map of the space, enabling more realistic and interactive AR experiences. For instance, the VIVE XR Elite headset has a depth sensor for accurate scanning and faster 3D mesh generation.

  • SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping): SLAM technology is crucial for spatial computing, allowing devices to map an environment and track their own movement simultaneously. This technology is essential for navigation, object placement, and interaction within physical spaces, providing a foundation for AR and VR applications. Advancements in different types of SLAM, like LiDAR SLAM technology, make environmental reconstruction more accurate, enabling direct robotic positioning and navigation. 

  • Spatial sound: Spatial sound technologies simulate how sound behaves in the real world, making digital audio sources appear to be from all around a user in three-dimensional space. This technology is already being used as a part of Apple's Spatial Audio feature in AirPods.

Below are some notable spatial computing platforms and ecosystems:

  • Apple's ARKit: ARKit is a development tool built by Apple for developers to create AR experiences and was introduced in iOS 11. It provides developers with tools for motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation, enabling the creation of rich, interactive AR applications.

  • Google's ARCore: ARCore is Google's software development kit (SDK) for building AR experiences. It supports motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation, like ARKit, and offers APIs to build experiences across Android, iOS, Unity, and Web. 

  • Microsoft's HoloLens: The HoloLens is a standalone holographic computer that enables high-definition holograms to integrate with the physical world. Unlike ARKit and ARCore, primarily software platforms, HoloLens is a hardware solution with its own set of sensors, cameras, and a custom holographic processing unit (HPU) to support spatial computing tasks.


Spatial computing is poised to revolutionize multiple sectors, including gaming, education, architecture, healthcare, and manufacturing, by facilitating immersive, interactive experiences, significantly improving learning outcomes, design processes, patient care, and manufacturing efficiency. The global market for spatial computing is expected to reach an impressive USD 620.2 billion by 2032, as reported by, reflecting its growing demand and transformative potential across industries. 

Gaming and entertainment

Spatial computing has significantly impacted the gaming and entertainment industries by transforming traditional gaming experiences into immersive, interactive environments through AR and VR. This technological evolution allows players to engage in multiplayer environments that are not just immersive but also offer a real sense of presence and interaction within a digitally augmented or entirely virtual world.

AR technologies have enabled location-based gaming experiences, a prime example of which is Pokémon GO. This game revolutionized the gaming industry by blending the real world with the game's virtual environment, encouraging players to explore their physical surroundings to catch Pokémon. Other games like Minecraft VR take the beloved game into virtual reality, allowing players to immerse themselves fully in the game's blocky universe. 

Now, games are evolving beyond mobile and tablet-based AR to spatial computing devices like the Apple Vision Pro headset. Games like Rec Rom have already announced support for the Apple Vision Pro, while Resolution Games is set to release its first spatial computing game, Demeo, on the platform.


Here are some key applications of spatial computing in enhancing productivity:

  • Process optimization: In the workplace, spatial computing technologies are being used to facilitate complex tasks, enable remote assistance, and provide training simulations that would be impractical or too costly to replicate in the real world. For instance, AR can overlay digital information onto physical objects, aiding in machinery repair or architectural planning by showing blueprints or schematics directly in the user's field of view. 

  • Virtual workspaces: The Apple Vision Pro, a headset that combines AR and VR capabilities, offers a range of productivity-enhancing features. For example, it can be used to create multiple virtual monitors and screens, allowing users to expand their digital workspace without needing additional physical screens.

  • Remote collaboration: Platforms that use AR and VR for virtual meetings and collaborative workspaces, such as Spatial, enable teams to work together in real-time, regardless of physical location. VR allows for creating virtual workspaces where users can interact with digital objects and data in a fully immersive environment, making it ideal for tasks that require deep concentration or spatial understanding. Another platform, Microsoft Mesh, lets remote teams dive into a virtual workspace, play with 3D models, and tweak objects in real-time, making distance a thing of the past.

  • Training and simulation: Companies like Strivr offer VR-based training solutions that simulate real-world scenarios for employees, ranging from customer service to emergency response drills, enhancing learning outcomes and operational efficiency.

Education and training

Advancements in spatial computing drive experiential education involving more hands-on learning, enhancing engagement and motivation with interactive and enjoyable virtual learning experiences. Spatial technologies improve information retention by providing experiential learning opportunities, making complex concepts more memorable. Research by Microsoft reveals that spatial computing boosts test scores by 22% and ramps up student engagement and retention by 35%, thanks to immersive and 3D tech learning. Additionally, AR and VR make learning more accessible and inclusive, removing barriers for students with disabilities or those facing geographical, financial, or physical constraints.

Here are some ways spatial computing is impacting education and training:

  • Immersive virtual field trips: VR platforms like Google Expeditions and Oculus Rift enable students to embark on virtual field trips to distant or inaccessible locations, such as historical sites, outer space, or the depths of the ocean, without leaving the classroom. These immersive trips provide a rich, contextual understanding of subjects that cannot be replicated through traditional teaching methods.

  • Interactive science simulations: AR and VR allow students to interact with complex scientific models and simulations. For example, they can visualize and manipulate molecular structures in 3D space or witness chemical reactions up close. The Froggipedia app leverages AR technology to let students delve into the anatomy of a frog, exploring its internal organs right from the app.

  • Practical skills training: Spatial computing technologies are particularly beneficial in fields that require hands-on skills training, such as medicine, engineering, and technical vocations. VR simulations can replicate real-life scenarios for surgical training, mechanical repairs, or construction projects, allowing learners to practice and hone their skills in a risk-free environment. This practical approach to skills training accelerates learning, reduces training costs, and minimizes errors in real-world applications.

  • Lifelong learning: Spatial computing supports lifelong learning by making education more flexible and accessible. Adults can use VR and AR applications to explore new interests, learn new languages, or acquire new skills from their homes, fitting education into their busy schedules. This accessibility encourages continuous personal and professional growth.

Future opportunities

Here are some emerging technologies that we expect to impact spatial computing in the near future:

  • Spatial AI: This technology enhances spatial computing with artificial intelligence (AI) by enabling more intelligent and context-aware interactions within virtual and augmented environments. Spatial AI can analyze and understand physical environments in real-time, allowing for dynamic content generation and more responsive virtual elements that interact naturally with the real world. Integrating Spatial AI into AR and VR applications promises to deliver more personalized and intuitive user experiences, paving the way for advanced navigation systems, interactive learning environments, and smarter virtual assistants.

  • Volumetric capture: Volumetric capture technology records an object or scene from all angles to create a three-dimensional representation, offering unparalleled realism and immersion for virtual experiences. Its potential impact on spatial computing is vast, ranging from more lifelike virtual meetings and social interactions to enhanced virtual training simulations that accurately replicate real-world scenarios. This technology could revolutionize content creation for entertainment, education, and training by providing users with immersive experiences indistinguishable from reality. The industry has yet to experience its full potential and is exploring partnerships to grow in the market like Unity’s recent collaboration with Microsoft in 2023 to integrate volumetric video into its gaming engine. 

  • Wearable devices: The future of spatial computing also heavily relies on advancing wearable devices, such as AR glasses and VR headsets. As these devices become more lightweight, powerful, and affordable, they will enable the widespread adoption of spatial computing applications. Wearable devices will become integral to daily life, offering seamless access to information, enhanced communication, and immersive entertainment. They will also play a crucial role in health and fitness, providing users real-time data and personalized feedback.

As spatial computing technologies evolve, they will unlock new dimensions of interaction, collaboration, and immersion with new applications across digital twins, immersive social networking, and collaborative virtual workspaces.

Feb 28, 2024

Callum Moates

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We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2023

Landvault · Wam Group

All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2023 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2023 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved