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August 15, 2023

The Slow Rise of Mixed Reality

VR systems were first popularized by the gaming industry, but are now used for a plethora of use cases throughout many industries. AR systems, on the other hand, were a bit slower to emerge, but are now becoming more numerous in marketing, gaming, social media, and more. These two immersive technologies have been explored extensively in the last couple of years; so much so, that they practically became mainstream.

Today, however, we’re seeing these two technologies merge and give rise to the best of both worlds: Mixed Reality. 💫

Mixed Reality (MR) is a relatively recent innovation. Not so long ago, it was still being refined, and wasn’t yet available or inexpensive enough for most consumers to enjoy; but now, it’s slowly rising and starting to get more widely accessible. Major tech powerhouses, such as Meta and Apple, are investing in this emerging technology, helping it get out of its niche and unlocking a huge number of potential applications. Should this pattern continue, MR could soon become commonplace in a multitude of professions, and mark inevitable change across several business facets.

What it is

Now, you may be wondering… What is MR exactly? 🤔

Mixed reality, also known as MR, MX, or hybrid reality, stands halfway between Augmented and Virtual Reality. Digital content is overlayed over the user’s real environment and can be interacted with in real time, which means elements of both the real and the digital world can be manipulated and interacted with simultaneously. For example, you could take a virtual box from your real table, open it, and see what’s inside.

There remains a collective ambiguity between AR and MR. Both overlay virtual content on top of a real-world view: so, what’s the difference? Well, the thing is: their terminologies mostly overlap, so they are largely synonymous. In both, digital additions are interwoven with the physical world such that they are perceived as being part of it, and can be interacted with as if they were real. The main difference is that MR headsets, as opposed to AR headsets, allow the user to transition between full immersion and partial immersion within the same experience. Yeah… Confusing, we know! 😵

The immersive experiences spectrum, also known as “continuum of virtuality”, offers an insightful perspective in imaging these concepts.

The continuum is basically a linear representation of all the realities; its scale ranges from completely physical, to completely virtual. On the far left, nothing is digital; and on the far right, everything is. Near the digital end of the spectrum, the concept of Augmented Virtuality is introduced, where the virtual world is augmented with physical objects. Augmented Reality stands near the physical end of the spectrum since the vast majority of the information you view and interact with is genuine, with little digital enhancement. Now, Mixed Reality lies in the center of it all where the digital and physical worlds collide to create an all-rounded experience. It englobes both AR, and AV as an umbrella term.

For a more comprehensive overview of all immersive technologies and what differentiates them, check out our article A whole range of realities. 🌌

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