Mixed Reality: Just Another Buzzword?

Thomas Wellburn
August 4, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about mixed reality recently (MR) and honestly, I’m struggling to see how it differs greatly from similar technologies.

Mixed reality is a fairly new term which just sort of… appeared. I’m trying to get my head around what exactly this means because it seems like a marketing term. Microsoft has adopted the name for it’s line of third party headsets, two of which are available for consumer purchase from today. The company is also now referring to HoloLens as mixed reality, despite initially launching as an augmented reality device. Confusing? I definitely think so.

We know what virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are because they both encompass completely different areas of the sector. VR displays content through a display which is worn on the head. It’s aim is to give the illusion that you’re inside a virtual space, immersing you in the experience. AR is a little different because the headset overlays virtual objects with real life, giving a hybrid experience. Both have their respective uses, with VR getting more consumer love and AR tipped to have strong corporate uses.

Mixed reality is a bit of a joke to me because it doesn’t really have anything all that different to AR. Wikipedia defines it as:

“The merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time”.

Call me stupid but… that sounds almost the same as AR. The one difference I’ve managed to find is that mixed reality gives the opportunity for these objects to interact with the environment around them. This is an enhancement of existing AR technology which takes into account spatial awareness and things in the room. Ultimately though… it’s still AR.

The conclusion of all this seems to be that mixed reality is an umbrella term which encompasses both VR and AR. As both of the worlds quickly converge, it makes sense to try and market them all under one name instead of multiple geeky sub-names.

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