The virtual world started as a concept. However, as time went by, the real and virtual worlds started coming together to provide extremely breathtaking experiences in various ways, including gaming, architecture, and education. Mixed reality (MR) takes the virtual experience to the next level by blending augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
Technology is slowly becoming an integral part of our daily lives, with the gaming industry using it to provide gamers with realistic and immersive gaming experiences.
This article will cover everything you need to know about MR, including the technologies that power it. Let us examine this integral part of technology that bridges the gap between the virtual and real worlds.
What Is Mixed Reality: Complete Explanation
With the onset of virtual reality (VR), users got to experience realistic images, sound effects, and sensations that immersed them in the imaginary world. Augmented reality (AR) added virtual elements to the real world, allowing the two to interact and provide the best experience.
Mixed reality takes things to the next level by combining realistic aspects of the real world with virtual ones. MR combines virtual reality (VR) with augmented reality (AR). For instance, with mixed reality, you can play a virtual game in which you can use a real bat to fight the virtual character in the game.
Mixed Reality: An Exact Definition
MR is a hybrid of virtual reality and augmented reality. It is a user environment that combines physical reality and digital concepts to facilitate interactions between real and virtual objects. MR immerses the user in a virtual environment while, at the same time, layering digital content on top of the physical environment.
How Does Mixed Reality Work?
MR heavily relies on cloud computing and artificial intelligence. To process and store data in 3D, a mixed reality gadget uses AI sensors, graphical computation power, cameras, and processors. Some of these processors include graphic cards and core chips.
The MR device can connect its users to a source from which it accesses the MR software. The source, in this case, can be a console, wireless computer, or PC. The mixed reality software is capable of adding, cloning, or moving virtual elements around its users to create immersions.
Mixed reality gadgets include headsets like the HTC Vive, smart glasses, body suits, and gloves. To perfect the mixed reality experience, these gadgets use the following components:
- Spatial Mapping and Bounding Boxes: Used to detect physical elements.
- Real Environment Representation: Used for virtual replication of elements.
- Input Devices: They include motion sensors, treadmill floors, and cameras.
- Object Recognition: Helps group real objects into their specific categories. Object positions and locations are tracked in real and virtual worlds to establish the relationships.
- Ambisonics and Virtual Light: The MR gadget uses this to improve realism as it displays the virtual elements.
- 3D Assets: They work together in mixed-reality spaces to improve how the virtual environment looks and feels.
Additionally, mixed reality uses software development kits and advanced input sensing to create an immersive experience. The input sensing technology is extremely pivotal and must always work for MR to be successful.
Who Created Mixed Reality?
Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino were the first people to mention mixed reality. In their 1994 research paper, “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays,” they defined MR as part of the “virtuality continuum,” whereby it meets augmented reality and virtual reality in the middle to create a blend.
The two researchers considered mixed reality as a combination of visual displays meant to enhance communication between real and virtual environments.
Types of Mixed Reality Devices
There are two types of gadgets used in mixed reality. Let’s take a look:
- Holographic Gadgets: These devices use interactive virtual holograms to create an immersive user experience. Magic Leap and Google Cardboards are among the devices that fall under this category. They allow users to download and share 3D visuals through edge computing. Manufacturing and factory plants use these holographic devices to remotely direct professionals on product assembly and inspections through visual guidance.
- Immersive Gadgets: These devices use a head-mounted display (HMD) to replace the user’s environment with a virtual one. They come with two near-eye displays. The displays meet at a 114° arc enabling users to see in 3D. Immersive devices come with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) as a standard feature. This feature makes it possible to move limbs up and about without breaking the immersion experience.
What Are the Application of Mixed Reality?
MR has many applications, both at personal and organizational levels. Let us look at some of these applications.
Most enterprises are looking to improve their market reach using MR. The concept is mostly used in advertising and marketing where customers can get first-hand experience with products and services. Mixed reality headsets allow consumers to virtually experiment with the goods and services before deciding on whether to buy them or not.
Mixed reality has several educational applications including lectures and seminars. Using MR, a lecturer can show the students the actual conditions of a desert while in a Geography class without necessarily having to go on a field trip. The students can easily interact with the virtual environment and gain a close-to-real experience without even leaving the classroom.
Mixed reality simulations can be used in the health sectors in training exercises. The concept enables medical professionals to train students by allowing them to perform surgery on virtual patients.
The simulations are also vital in surgery where holograms can create 3D models of targeted organs before they are operated on. Mixed reality also takes radiology to the next level with MR X-ray glasses being used to see through the patient’s skin.
In the entertainment sector, movies and films are trying to create unique experiences by incorporating MR. While wearing MR glasses, you can immerse yourself in an action scene of a movie.
The gaming industry also uses mixed reality. Most first-person shooter games use MR to ensure gamers get an almost real shooting experience. Strategy and role-playing games also use this concept.
Several sectors use mixed reality for training purposes including pilots who simulate possible flight occurrences and train on how to deal with them. Some professional sports also use MR as a training method.
With mixed reality, video calls can turn realistic by allowing you to interact with the person on the other end of your call. Using holograms, people in a video call can draw over physical objects in their view. MR video conferencing also makes meetings easier and more effective.
Engineering and Construction
Mixed reality makes it easier for engineers and architects to create and illustrate their projects. The concept can help project managers to see the building structures without necessarily traveling to the site location.
Examples of Mixed Reality In the Real World
Let us look at some real-life examples of mixed reality.
STRIVR is a company founded in January 2015 by Derek Belch, Jeremy Bailenson, and Trent Edwards. The company provides virtual reality to athletes to improve their performance. The company also helps other organizations train their employees by simulating on-job situations which they are to solve.
Autodesk is a virtual styling app that enables its users to virtually fit furniture in their spaces before buying them. The app uses mixed reality to include furniture and styling in a room for the user to determine the right colors and designs to consider.
Virtual Makeup Applications
There is a variety of virtual makeup applications that use MR. The applications add virtual effects to real images of its user to make them look better. Instagram and Snapchat filters are good examples of these virtual makeup applications.
Microsoft Teams: Together Mode
Together Mode is an MR-powered feature in Microsoft Teams that enables participants to digitally meet in a shared background. The software uses mixed reality to make participants feel like they are meeting in the same place despite being at different locations.
Pokemon Go is a mixed reality game that allows gamers to interact with the gaming characters in the real world. Released in 2016, the game grew popular amongst many people thanks to its cutting-edge MR technology that allowed players to physically travel and explore the game’s map.
Merits of Mixed Reality
The innovations of mixed reality opened up new doors for different industries. Things that we once imagined and saw in fiction movies are coming to light through mixed reality. Let’s take a look at the benefits of mixed reality:
- Increased focus: Mixed reality uses both digital and natural elements to make users concentrate on the task at hand until they finish the experience.
- Virtual demonstrations: Companies can use holographic devices to give product demonstrations to their customers. It’s a unique learning tool that saves time and gives users a fun experience.
- Future of Learning: Mixed reality has helped do away with outdated learning methods. It’s a new tool that gives students a platform to interact and brainstorm in an experimental environment.
- Reduces risks: Using mixed reality for training reduces the chances of accidents. Training for tasks such as mining or even flying a plane is now easier and safer with mixed reality. There are no casualties in case of accidents.
- Personalization of information: Mixed reality is a form of media that is very engaging to its customers. The user works more closely with the digital information compared to other forms.
Drawbacks of Mixed Reality
Mixed reality has recently been adopted. Companies are investing and channeling more funds into the research and innovation of this new technology. The adoption of mixed reality and its integration into the marketing system is a promising venture that aims to increase revenue. However, mixed reality still has some challenges. Let’s take a look:
- Time-consuming: Mixed reality takes time to develop. It requires a lot of man-hours and maintenance just to sustain it and make it efficient. For it to qualify as a startup minimum viable product (MVP) it needs to be produced fast and achieve high sales.
- Expensive: The cost of creating a partly real and virtual environment is high. The costs can be broken down into hardware, software development kits, and experienced developers. The return on investment is not guaranteed.
- Requires Trained personnel: In order to create an optimal mixed reality experience, you need trained staff to maintain the whole infrastructure. Industries face this challenge as there are very few experienced specialists in this field.
- Negative user Feedback: Mixed reality has had different receptions across the world. Some users might be uncomfortable with the experience.
The onset of mixed reality has greatly impacted different sectors, including health, entertainment, education, and training. Today, users get a highly immersive, realistic, and refined virtual experience, all thanks to mixed reality.
This concept is bound to advance significantly with the development of advanced holographic and immersive gadgets. We can always expect more applications of mixed reality as time goes by.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com.