What Is Mixed Reality?

Mixed reality (MR) technology is a blend, or merging, of the viewer’s virtual and real-world environments. The goal of MR is to create an environment with interactive digital objects where the line between virtual and physical reality is blurred. For example, with MR the user can play a virtual video game and smack a character with a real-world remote control.

How Does Mixed Reality Work?

Mixed reality is a technology that closely blends physical reality and the digital world. Due to this blending, MR is also called hybrid reality or extended reality. In this form of virtual reality, users can interact with both the physical and virtual worlds simultaneously. MR programs allow digital objects to interact with physical objects; for example, an MR-generated character can appear to be sitting on the user’s real couch. 

Mixed Reality vs. Augmented and Virtual Reality

Mixed reality is a step beyond augmented reality, but it retains elements of the user’s real world. AR enhances a viewer’s perspective of the real world, while MR blurs the difference between the real world and virtual world. Virtual reality does not retain any features of the real-world surroundings.

Applications & Examples of MR

Beyond the use of augmented reality in games, there are many practical everyday uses for MR technology: 

  • Industry training — MR is a cost-effective way to train repair or installation technicians since large mock equipment setups are not needed.
  • Construction — Supervisors can guide workers to particular tasks or view schematic diagrams.
  • Manufacturing — Inspectors and supervisors can view real-time data about production processes.
  • Design — MR can be used to interact with new products in the development stage.
  • Healthcare — Healthcare workers can practice critical procedures with MR technology before performing the tasks on patients.

Mixed Reality Hardware

The hardware needed for MR is very comparable to the devices used for virtual reality experiences, which mostly includes headsets. A headset allows the user to watch the screen in front of their eyes, while the user’s movements are tracked so they can interact with the virtual world. Microsoft recently developed new MR hardware with MR controllers that can be tracked by the headset to enhance the user’s experience.

Future of Mixed Reality

Mixed reality combines the benefits of both augmented reality and virtual reality into one experience, which is likely to shape the future of our daily lives. Industry experts predict that MR will become a $1.2 billion to $6.9 billion global industry by 2024. According to Microsoft, one of the leaders of MR technology, 68% of companies believed that MR will become important to accomplishing strategic business goals. With the rise in remote workers, MR can increase collaboration and productivity across multiple industries.