Verification: 3fb9dcd2634acc22

What is Mixed Reality? Everything you need to know

What is Mixed Reality 3 - Intelance

Table of Contents

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Visualise a room that contains both real furniture and virtual objects such as a digital world globe, and a real person who suddenly morphs into a digital avatar. What you’re imagining is Mixed Reality (MR), a technology that blends physical reality and the digital world closely together.

Mixed reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking natural and intuitive 3D human, computer, and environmental interactions. This new reality is based on advancements in computer vision, graphical processing, display technologies, input systems, and cloud computing. The term “mixed reality” was introduced in a 1994 paper by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino, “A Taxonomy of Mixed reality Visual Displays.” Their paper explored the concept of a virtuality continuum and the taxonomy of visual displays. Since then, the application of mixed reality has gone beyond displays to include:

  • Environmental understanding: spatial mapping and anchors.
  • Human understanding: hand-tracking, eye-tracking, and speech input.
  • Spatial sound.
  • Locations and positioning in both physical and virtual spaces.
  • Collaboration on 3D assets in mixed reality spaces.

How does mixed reality work?

To create a mixed reality experience, you don’t have to worry about physical constraints or obstacles, but need cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

An MR device is powered by advanced AI sensors, cameras, graphical computational power (GPU), and processors, like graphic cards and core chips, to process and store data in three dimensions. The more equipped a device is, the better the mixed reality experience. Examples can be smart glasses, gloves, body suits, or your good-old smartphone.

MR devices can connect users to a wired or wireless computer, console, or PC to access software. The software can add, clone, or move virtual objects around you to create immersions.

The mixed reality spectrum

Mixed reality is the result of blending the physical world with the digital world.

Mixed reality blends both physical and digital worlds. These two realities mark the polar ends of a spectrum known as the virtuality continuum. We refer to this spectrum of realities as the mixed reality spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we have the physical reality that we as humans exist. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the corresponding digital reality.

The interactions between computers, humans, and environments.

A combination of three essential elements sets the stage for creating true mixed reality experiences:

  • Computer processing powered by the cloud
  • Advanced input methods
  • Environmental perceptions

As we move through the physical world, our movements are mapped in a digital reality. Physical boundaries influence mixed reality experiences such as games or task-based guidance in a manufacturing facility. With environmental input and perceptions, experiences start to blend between physical and digital realities.

Mixed reality v augmented reality v virtual reality

The mixed reality spectrum

AR, VR, and MR fall under the same umbrella term of extended reality (XR). Despite the parity in the degree of immersions created by each of them, there is a possible relationship that makes them the epicenter of immersive tech.

The experiences that overlay graphics, video streams, or holograms in the physical world are called augmented reality. The experiences that occlude your view to present a fully immersive digital experience are virtual reality. The experiences that can transition between augmented and virtual realities form mixed reality, where you can:

  • Place a digital object, such as a hologram, in the physical world as if it were physically present.
  • Be personally and digitally present in the physical world, in the form of an avatar, to asynchronously collaborate with others at different points in time.

Augmented reality overlays digital content in a real-world scenario to educate, entertain, and immerse people. It is a way to augment a user’s sense of perception. AR experiences are mainly supplemented with AR headsets, controllers, input devices, and gyroscopes. Examples can be Pokémon Go and Snap AR. 

Virtual reality is a complete virtual replica of reality, representing every real element through a digital avatar. The fundamental concept behind the metaverse, virtual reality mainly focuses on cross-border virtual communication and social connections.

Mixed reality is a hybrid of augmented and virtual reality where 3D objects interact with the physical environment and people.

Types of mixed reality devices 

There are two main types of devices that deliver Mixed Reality experiences:

  1. Holographic devices are characterized by the device’s ability to display digital objects as if they existed in the real world.
  2. Immersive VR devices are characterized by the device’s ability to create a sense of presence by blocking out the physical world and replacing it with a fully immersive digital experience.

Benefits of mixed reality

Advancements in immersive mixed reality technology have opened up new avenues for both commercial and non-commercial sectors. Ideas that were once devised as sci-fi movies have slowly and gradually drifted into reality.

Some of the benefits of mixed reality are.

  • Strong customer base: Mixed reality combined with next-level AI can create unforgettable customer experiences at scale. Customers can experiment with something, try it on, or learn how to use it through instructional videos or virtual manuals in real life.
  • Trustworthiness: Trusted brands like Facebook, Apple, and Samsung are already investing in subsidiaries that will develop MR experiences for the general public. These initiatives are also funded heavily in the investment world, which could reduce doubt in the minds of consumers.
  • Increased concentration: MR combines natural and digital elements in unexpected ways that keep people focused until their experience is over. 
  • Hyper personalisation: No other form of media passes as more personal and engaging for customers than mixed reality. The individual immersed in a mixed reality scenario works with digital information more closely while in their physical world. 
  • Virtual demos for vendors: If you are a B2B company, you can provide holographic devices to your client for virtual walkthroughs of the product, which showcase features, modules, applications, and results in the customer’s living space.  
  • Reduced mishaps: Using MR technology as an adaptive training simulator for dangerous scenarios such as mining, archaeology, or mountain climbing reduces casualties and accidents. 
  • Conducive learning: Mixed reality’s cousin, augmented reality has successfully broken the outdated barriers to education and provides an experiential environment for students to learn, brainstorm, and interact. 

Challenges of mixed reality

As mixed reality has been adopted only recently, companies are still investing money in deeper research to see how they can use it as a part of their business funnel.

Mixed reality is driven by immersive technology and artificial intelligence, two standalone digital technologies that themselves haven’t been widely implemented. MR requires exceptional talent, and the process of creating 3D content is expensive, time-consuming, and hardware-intensive. Let’s look closely at some challenges we face in standardizing mixed reality.

  • Cost: The upfront cost of creating partially real and partially virtual environments is a lot. Aside from the hardware costs, investing in proper software development kits and hiring efficient developers who can curate customized applications costs thousands of dollars, with no guaranteed ROI.
  • Old spatial mapping techniques: Based on computational geometry or other mathematical techniques, which give only an approximate estimate of the position or location of a real-world object. Deploying 3D elements in any given environment requires the precise mapping of real-world coordinates.
  • Trained workforce: Service specialists, data analysts, and software engineers to build, train and test the entire infrastructure from scratch are necessary if you want to create an optimal MR experience. It’s one of the major MR challenges faced by industries today.
  • Time-consuming: MR is unlikely to be chosen as an efficient way of generating ROI. A startup’s minimum viable product (MVP) requires efficient marketing followed by lightning-fast production like just-in-time to spike sales. Mixed reality takes its own sweet time to show results.
  • User experience: Across different parts comes with different levels of tech savviness. Some might not be comfortable using a device to experience MR.