Mixed Reality (MR)

What is MR?

Mixed reality is an extension of augmented reality, in that it provides digital, 3D information on top of a real-world view, but in such a way that the two elements can interact in real-time. Some consider it to be the most advanced form of extended reality, above virtual reality and augmented reality. In mixed reality, virtual objects can be placed into the real world and manipulated in real-time.

This has applications in business, medical and entertainment markets. For example, a car engineer could see how a virtual part could fit into a real-world vehicle, a student could interact with a digital heart of a virtual patient on an operating table, or a virtual board game could take place on top of a real-world table. Alternatively, virtual objects can be placed in the real world to see how they might appear, with applications for home shopping, or virtual set design.

How MR is used across different industries

Mixed reality makes use of the blending of the real world and virtual elements, and many industries have incorporated this into their work, enhancing the experience for their users. Here are some selected examples.

Within a video game or a movie that takes place in the real world, such as a street, forest, etc., you can use mixed reality to render characters in this environment via a smart device and camera, who can interact with said environment. Mixed reality can also be used within businesses for efficiency. An increasingly common example of this can be seen at large company trade shows, expos, or product launches and reveals, where an individual will send a ‘digital twin’ to present or speak during a show, interacting with the audience and other speakers as if they were there.

Mixed reality is also seeing use in medicine and health. Some integrations have used mixed reality to help visualise the effects of smoking and air pollution on a set of human lungs in real time or time lapse.

The difference between AR, MR and VR

AR, VR, and MR are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. To put it simply, here is how all three are different:

AR (Augmented Reality) adds digital elements and media to a live view, usually using a camera on a smart device or lenses. A popular example of this is Pokémon Go, but it has many applications.

MR (Mixed Reality) combines parts of both AR and VR, using real-world and digital elements, allowing them to interact. An example of this is using a virtual avatar, controlled by a user who is somewhere else in the world, that interacts with others in a real-world environment.

VR (Virtual Reality) usually requires complete immersion in an experience outside of our physical world. Using VR devices such as Oculus Rift, Meta Quest, or HTC Vive, the users’ visuals and audio are fully experienced through a virtual world or setting. This means you can transport yourself into a fantastical environment that you would not be able to do otherwise, so is commonly used for gaming.