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What is Mixed Reality?

Everything you need to know about mixed reality – what it is, how it works, and what it could be used for in the future.

Mark
Updated: January 16, 2023

The term “mixed reality” (MR) is only known among specific circles or professions but is less known to the general public than the other “realities,” namely, virtual and augmented realities. However, with the Metaverse becoming ingrained in the typical person’s vocabulary, people will start to take an interest in this third cousin to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

But what exactly is MR? In its simplest form, MR is a mix of virtual reality (VR) and real-world elements. This means that users can see and interact with both the virtual world and the real world at the same time.

Is there a definition for Mixed Reality?

As the name suggests, mixed reality combines the two more popular realities. It is similar to virtual reality because it immerses the user in a three-dimensional world, but this reality is rooted in an artificial space with little or nothing to do with the user’s immediate surroundings.

On the other hand, interacting with the user’s physical world is a trait that AR shares with mixed reality. However, AR also shares with VR the inability to respond to obstacles the user encounters while moving about. If you recall the highly popular game Pokemon Go way back in 2015, the Pokemon are virtually just sprites trapped in a place that happens to be capable of specific movements.

You can see now that mixed reality is a bridge that connects the gaps between the natural world and the digital space in a manner that VR and AR cannot. This technology allows you to experience both the artificial and the natural environments simultaneously using specially designed headsets.

You exist in both worlds at the same time.

Mixed Reality has been described as the next evolution of computing, and it’s not hard to see why. MR has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with both the digital and physical world. Imagine walking around in a virtual world like the real world. Or being able to see digital information overlaid on the physical world around you. This is the power of MR.

While MR is still in its early days, there are already several different MR applications and devices available. Microsoft’s HoloLens is one of the most well-known MR devices. The HoloLens is a headset that allows users to see and interact with holograms in the real world. Other MR devices include the Magic Leap One and the Oculus Rift.

How is Mixed Reality being used right now?

Although its gaming merits are yet to be seen, mixed reality has already seen small-scale use in various industries. In these applications, mixed reality is used as a safe and effective tool for training and education purposes. These industries include:

Aviation

Virtual reality simulators may be realistic and accurate while wearing the headset. However, they provide no tactile information to the pilots. Unfortunately, learning by touch is necessary for the aviators to build muscle memory. With mixed reality headsets, the trainees see and touch the instruments within the physical cockpit and see how their actions affect flight through the virtual reality display in their headsets.

Medicine

Research and training in medicine are sometimes cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive, but Mixed Reality may help to change that. In fact, four medical researchers have studied how mixed reality can benefit surgeons in planning their upcoming procedures. The study’s authors teamed up with Microsoft through the Hololens and Unity Technologies and unearthed promising results.

Events

Mixed reality can spice up the experience for event attendees, which means more positive feedback and engagement for the organizers. For example, being able to take a picture of a famous guest at the event makes the occasion truly memorable for attendees. mixed reality photobooths will let these individuals take selfies with the avatar of their beloved artists – something that they’ll thank the event organizers for!

Gaming

You’ve seen what augmented reality can do to gaming, thanks to Nintendo’s innovative approach to Pokemon Go. Mixed reality can take that to the next level. Imagine several players congregate in a specially designed field to play first-person shooter games like Call of Duty. They run through the space, shooting at other players’ avatars and taking cover behind the physical obstacles placed throughout the course.

On-the-job meetings

VR already realized the potential of remote meetings in a digital space with everyone wearing their avatars. Mixed Reality further improves on that by projecting the avatars of each attendee against the backdrop of the user’s immediate environment. Microsoft is in the vanguard of these developments with Holoportation, aside from their virtual reality meeting room in Teams Mesh.

Because it is more recent than Augmented and Virtual realities, development for Mixed Reality technologies is still ongoing. The five applications above are the ones that have started to take shape. With the Metaverse also beginning to materialize, other uses for mixed reality will definitely appear in the near future.

The Bottom Line

Like the Metaverse, Mixed Reality is still an infant technology that otherwise holds tremendous potential even in its early stages. Like its predecessors, AR and VR, MR will be a disruptive technology that will significantly transform the industrial, gaming, and social landscapes once it’s fully off the ground.

There’s one thing for sure. These unique innovations will bring us closer each day to the worlds that we used to see only in the movies!

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