What Mixed Reality means for society?
From the classroom to the corporate world, here's where we expect Mixed Reality (MR) to make the most impact in the next few years.
Mixed Reality (MR) is a relatively new concept, and it's still causing some confusion. Here's an overview of everything you need to know about MR and the positive impact we expect it to have across all areas of modern life in the next few years.
What is Mixed Reality?
Microsoft first coined the term 'Mixed Reality' to pitch their Augmented Reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR) hybrid headset, the HoloLens, back in 2016. It's not quite Virtual Reality like the Oculus Rift, and it's not exactly Augmented Reality like Google Glass, either. So, what is it?
Basically, Mixed Reality takes the best of VR/AR technology and turns it into one entirely new experience. With MR, users can see the real world like they can through AR, but they can also interact with realistic objects like in VR.
How it works is simple – realistic objects are placed over the 'real' world, and users can interact with them as if they're truly part of the 'real' world. Why, though, haven't we heard more about MR in recent years?
What's happening with Mixed Reality?
There isn't much talk around MR, and it's likely due to how much hype there is around AR and VR. Two-thousand-sixteen wasn't just the year of the HoloLens developer release – it was also the year of international sensation, Pokémon Go.
Pokémon Go lets users 'capture' or 'catch' their favourite Pokémon through their smart device. The Pokémon graphics are layered over an image of the real world based on the user's location at any given time, and it took the tech and entertainment world by storm. With so much talk around Pokémon Go, it's unsurprising that MR got considerably less press.
It's also true that we're still waiting on a big MR breakthrough. Compared to tech such as PlayStation's VR system, there's been relatively little progress on the MR tech front. That's not to say that MR is over, though. In fact, it's only getting started.
Where do we expect Mixed Reality to make the most Impact?
As a learning tool, MR has serious potential if classrooms adopt HoloLens headsets, as we can see with Microsoft's 'Insight Heart' app. 'Insight Heart' allows users to see a 'virtual' heart up close, meaning that medical or biology teachers could 'drop' the heart into a student's world and talk them through the anatomy instantly.MR offers a richer learning experience than ever before.
We can expect MR to make a big impact on construction and business, too. For example, Microsoft's 'Dynamics Remote Assist' app lets whoever you're talking to place virtual objects in your 'real' world. Multinational teams working on a project could gather and interact with a single prototype instantly, and engineers could collaborate on a new project. MR greatly improves the efficiency and effectiveness of large-scale teams spread over multiple locations.
So, what can we expect from MR in the years to come?
What is the future of Mixed Reality?
MR offers a user experience that even AR and VR can't match. From gaming to business, it's going to make a huge difference to people's lives. While the MR technology isn't perfect yet, and we're still a way off from a mass-market HoloLens product, this is the next big step forward in immersive and experimental technologies.
Overall, we expect to see Microsoft and other developers invest time and effort into this space in the next few years. It's only a matter of time before MR reaches the same heights in our society as AR and VR.
Adam Jones, Vice President