With the rise of the metaverse, the concepts of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality have gained much awareness. As a result, large tech giants such as Microsoft have developed headsets for users to experience augmented and mixed reality. These technologies are revamping numerous industries as they open up vast new possibilities for individuals to take advantage of.
What is Mixed Reality?
The term “Mixed Reality” was first coined by Paul Milgram in 1994 in his research paper “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays.” We’ve come a long way since visual displays with headsets are fully equipped with eye-tracking, hand-tracking, anchors, and spatial mapping to understand the environment. Using sensors such as gyroscopes and more, these devices can track the locations and positions of objects in virtual spaces.
These devices are used in educational training, three-dimensional animations, entertainment, games, sports, engineering, construction, and more. One of the most exciting features of headsets such as the Hololems2 is that it enables users to view holograms, i.e., virtual 3D objects made from light projected onto the user’s field of vision.
The primary difference between augmented reality and mixed reality is that while both technologies overlay 3D virtual images onto the physical realm, only mixed reality offers users the option to interact with these images.
What are Versions of Mixed Reality?
Mixed reality has many versions and displays. Below are four types of mixed reality displays that you can utilize to experience mixed reality:
- Head Mounted Display (HMD): An HMD plays video, similar to monitor based video displays, but with HMD content
- HMD (With optical see-through): A transparent display that makes it possible to overlay virtual visuals on top of the real world
- Monitor-Based (Non-immersive): video projections that are monitor based. This type of mixed reality displays digital pictures overlaid on real-world footage.
- HMD (With see-through video): The same as an optical see-through head-mounted display (HMD), but with a video feed of the user’s surroundings with virtual images overlaid on it.
What are the Applications of Mixed Reality?
As the world is rapidly evolving, many sectors are beginning to adopt mixed reality to improve efficiency, enhance retention, and train individuals.
MR is being used in education to train students and promote their abilities to learn and retain knowledge through interactive environments. This immersive technology can help students to interact, touch and tweak items; for example, imagine seeing the solar system in your living room while you’re trying to memorize facts about the planets.
Mixed reality also assists within the engineering sector, ranging from 3D modeling to real-time simulations of processes, virtual models of architecture, training, and much more. This can help engineers make informed decisions about improving efficiency and solving existing problems by identifying them through interacting with virtual elements.
Mixed reality can be seen in games like Pokémon Go, where users point their phones in different environments to find rare Pokemon. Many companies like Lucasfilm, Magic Leap, and others use it to produce interactive content that tricks the brain despite being just an image projection.
The best example of MR healthcare is the training and education of surgeries. For example, students can practice and perform surgeries in real time while learning remotely. Med schools can also teach subjects like anatomy, as the students can see holograms of different layers of the human body and learn everything with ease.
Equipment Repair in Unreachable Situations
The best example of this application is outer space. NASA cannot move their engineers or workers to outer space if some problems occur with the devices of astronauts. This is where MR comes in. Recently, by using MR, NASA made one of their astronauts in outer space upgrade the Cold Atom Lab, their quantum lab abroad, present in the International Space Station. While on earth, the technology is used for water purification of plants, wind farms, and desalination of plants.
How does Mixed Reality Work?
Mixed Reality technology uses numerous sensors, cameras, and complex image processing algorithms to superimpose 3D virtual elements onto the physical realm. The operational functionality is quite similar to augmented reality, but it takes the level of immersion a step further by allowing individuals to interact with the 3D virtual objects. More work is being done to introduce haptic feedback through sensors to make the entire experience even more immersive.
When you put on an MR headset, the cameras and sensors in the glasses will connect to an algorithm that will collect all the information in your surroundings. It will then create a virtual map of the physical world to position 3D objects correctly. It has in-built hand and movement tracking that enables users to interact with the virtual elements.
Through that map, MR technology creates holographic content and pictures in the digital world by using projections of 3D elements. Mixed reality must track the items, boundaries, and surfaces to work effectively.
Metaverse MR Pros and Cons
While there are several advantages of utilizing metaverse MR, there are also several drawbacks that need to be taken into consideration.
The advantages include the following:
- Borderless Immersion
MR combines the best parts of virtual and augmented reality, and allows users to experience a whole new dimension, simply by wearing a headset. The headset maps the surroundings and positions the virtual objects accordingly.
- Interactive Experiences
A 2D picture may not be something to get excited about, but a 3D object that allows interaction within a person’s surroundings opens up a vast new realm of possibilities. With Disney creating AR movies that can bring virtual stories to life right within your living room, there is much to be excited about. Users can train, work, play games, exercise, socialize, and more.
- Unlimited Social Interactions
With the metaverse destined to become “the future of social media,” mixed reality will play a significant role in revolutionizing how individuals interact online. Imagine talking with your friends using holograms from the comfort of your own home.
In early metaverse teasers released by Meta, we can see players playing tennis, basketball, and other games using MR. You can be more interactive and have personal and deep connections with loved ones and friends. You can also attend concerts, have meetings, enjoy parties, and much more.
- Business Opportunities
It also brings about numerous ways for businesses to promote themselves. For example, rather than viewing small images on your desktop or mobile screens, potential customers can view 3D versions of products through holograms. This increases a business’s chances of conversions and can help them interact with its target audience through stunning visuals.
The disadvantages include the following:
As with any other form of cloud-based technology, there is always a chance of it being hacked or misused. Since these technologies are relatively new, VR and AR platforms can be unregulated and thus are prone to cyber-attacks. This can lead to fraud, illegal practices, child exploitation, trafficking, etc.
- Expensive Hardware
Since the technology is relatively new, its high price makes it inaccessible to many individuals. For example, the Microsoft HoloLens2 starts at $3,500. While people are excited about the different possibilities, companies still have a long way to go to develop affordable tech.
- Mixed Reality Can be Addicting
Just like games, this virtual world can also be quite addicting. It can be hard to return to simple reality when fully immersed in the digital space that incorporates the virtual world with the real world. This addiction can be harmful as it can cause problems in the development of youngsters, and they may eventually find it difficult to differentiate between the digital and physical worlds.
- Individuals can Lose Connection with Physical World
Another primary concern that people have is disconnecting from the real world. You can easily lose track of time when you’re in the MR world. With interactive holograms and 3D elements available by simply wearing a headset, many may not want to acknowledge that any other world exists other than the virtual one. This behavior is already predominant with mobile phones, as most of us spend most of our day staring at the screen.
- Security and Privacy Issues
Privacy has always been an issue when it comes to the internet and security because people do not know how their information is collected and if it is being kept encrypted or sold to others for advertising and other purposes.
With the widespread adoption of AR and VR, MR is also becoming an integral part of different sectors. It offers the most advanced form of immersiveness, with the ability to move and interact with 3D virtual objects. Large companies such as Microsoft, Niantic, Magic Leap, and ATOS are working relentlessly towards making MR more readily accessible. To learn more about the differences between augmented reality and mixed reality, click here.
What is mixed reality?
Metaverse mixed reality utilizes complex image processing algorithms and headgear sensors to map the environment around the user. The headset can then project 3D virtual objects in the user’s surroundings. These 3D virtual objects can be touched and interacted with, making the entire experience incredibly immersive.
What is the difference between augmented reality and mixed reality?
While both technologies overlay 3D images onto the physical realm, one key difference exists. MR takes the experience a step further by allowing users to interact with the 3D virtual objects. Users can touch and move around these objects in MR, whereas augmented reality only lets users see 3D objects.
What are some of the applications of mixed reality?
Mixed reality is currently used in large industrial operations by companies such as Kawasaki and Heinz. These companies focus on improving their efficiency and resolving supply chain problems using Microsoft Hololens2. Other MR applications include healthcare training, entertainment, education, engineering, and more.