What is Mixed Reality: An Explainer

What is Mixed Reality: An Explainer

Mixed reality, also known as MR, is a technological application that uses a combination of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to merge the real-world environment and computer-generated environments or create a mixed environment where the real world coexists with digital content. It allows users to interact with and manipulate elements or items that exist in both physical and virtual environments. This enables novel human-computer interactions based on a more immersive and realistic graphical user interface.

Understanding What Mixed Reality is and Its Difference with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Take note that virtual reality and augmented reality or VR and AR facilitate interactive computer-generated sensory or perceptual information and experience using auditory or visual feedback to provide users with an immersive experience within a computer-mediated reality. However, despite this general similarity, the two have different conceptual and operational frameworks, characteristics, and applications.

Virtual reality provides interactive computer-generated perceptual information and experience transpiring within a computer-simulated environment. A person using a VR system or VR device is transported or immersed into a virtual environment and exposed to perceptual information artificially simulated by a computer.

Augmented reality also provides interactive computer-generated perceptual information and experiences that are superimposed on top of the real-world environment. A user of an AR system would encounter perceptual information overlaid onto an actual environment

VR draws users into an artificially produced virtual or simulated environment by letting them experience computer-generated perceptual information while AR augments or supplements the real world with computer-generated perceptual information. VR simply replaces the real world with a simulated world while AR merely overlays the real world with computer-generated perceptual information.

Arrival and Applications of Mixed Reality

The term “mixed reality” was first introduced in the 1994 paper “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays” by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino. It explored the concept of a virtual. The concept describes the full spectrum of technological possibilities between the entirely physical world or real environment and the fully digital world or virtual environment.

Advancements in consumer electronics technologies, specific display technologies, other input systems such as sensors, graphics processing, computer vision and other fields of artificial intelligence, and cloud computing have developed further relevant technologies for VR and AR systems while also allowing the merger of these two to implement mixed reality applications.

Remember that MR combines the real-world environment and computer-generated environments to create a mixed environment where the real world coexists with digital content or allow the virtual environment to exist alongside the real physical environment.

A typical mixed reality system involves the use of specialized headsets or glasses that incorporate cameras, sensors, and displays. These devices capture the surrounding environment, track the position and movements of the user, and overlay virtual objects or digital content onto the field of view of the user to align these objects or content to the real world.

Below is an overview of how MR operates:

• Hardware or Device: Specialized headsets or glasses equipped with cameras, sensors, and displays are needed to engage in MR experiences. These devices are specifically designed to monitor the position and movements of the user, record the surrounding environment, and exhibit virtual objects.

• Environmental Mapping: The cameras integrated into the MR headset capture the surroundings in real time. The sensors also collect data pertaining to the physical space. These data include details on depth and distance.

• Spatial Mapping: A three-dimensional map of the environment is created by processing captured video and sensor data. This spatial mapping allows the MR system to understand the physical space, including surfaces, objects, and boundaries.

• Tracking: The headset monitors and detects the position and movements of the user using technologies such as inside-out tracking or external sensors. This tracking functionality enables the system to ascertain user location within the physical space and make appropriate adjustments to the virtual content.

• Virtual Content Integration: Utilizing spatial mapping and user tracking data, the MR system inserts virtual objects, characters, or overlays into the field of view of the user. These virtual elements are strategically positioned and anchored to real-world objects or surfaces, ensuring precise alignment within the mixed environment.

• Display and Interaction: The displays of the MR headset project a merged view of both real and virtual content directly to the user. This presentation creates the illusion that virtual objects coexist with the real world. This allows the user to perceive and engage with them while remaining aware of their physical surroundings.

• Real-Time Interaction: MR systems enable users to engage with digital content and manipulate it in real time. This interaction includes gestures, voice commands, physical controllers, or other supported input methods.

• Dynamic Adjustments: The system constantly updates the position and appearance of the virtual content while the user moves and explores the physical space. This guarantees precise alignment and facilitates realistic interaction.

Mixed reality has the potential to bring forth novel human-computer interactions and innovative applications. Its benefits center on providing immersive and engaging experiences to allow a range of applications including enhanced graphical user interface and user experience, improved communication and collaboration, and supplemented productivity and efficiency. MR can also complement the metaverse or its specific applications and advantages.

Below is an overview of MR applications:

• Gaming and Entertainment: MR headsets are being used for more immersive gaming and entertainment experiences. HoloLens from Microsoft enables gamers to interact with virtual objects in their living room and Vision Pro from Apple transforms a room into a personal theater to make the user as if he or she is part of the scene.

• Education and Learning: The concept has also been used to develop and implement engaging educational experiences. Magic Leap One can be used to teach students about anatomy by allowing them to see a virtual skeleton superimposed on their own body. MR headsets can also supplement off-campus learning modalities and improve or promote further the benefits of online learning experiences.

• Collaboration and Communication: MR systems and MR headsets also supplement work-from-home arrangements or remote work setups. It allows users to share and manipulate 3D models, annotate virtual objects, and engage in real-time interactions. This can foster teamwork and enhance remote collaboration.

• Retail and Electronic Commerce: The same systems can also enhance the online shopping experience and support retail operations by bridging the gap between online stores and physical stores. An MR environment can improve the retail experience of customers by allowing them to virtually try on clothing, visualize furniture or home decor in their living spaces, and explore products in an interactive way.

• Healthcare and Medicine: Mixed reality can also be applied in healthcare and medicine. It can aid in training would-be healthcare professionals and the actual work of licensed professionals. Surgeons can use MR to visualize patient anatomy in 3D before performing procedures. This aids in precision and reduces risk.

• Architecture and Design: It can also facilitate the visualization and manipulation of three-dimensional models within real-world environments. By overlaying virtual building designs onto physical spaces, architects and designers gain the ability to evaluate scale, aesthetics, and functionality. This technology enhances the design process, collaboration, and client presentations, providing significant advantages in these aspects.