Many people have heard of virtual reality. We put on a special headset and enter an exciting world of sounds and images. Augmented reality, VR's closest relative, comes in a variety of forms, including superimposed blocks of text and information, cartoon images, and games that allow you to interact with the world around you. Both of these technologies - AR and VR - have earned the nickname "namesake." But what happens when we combine them?
The line between these digital worlds is starting to pixelate. Mixed reality (MR) is the result of combining AR and VR. Microsoft is the dominant player in mixed reality right now, leading the way with its Hololens headset. If we want to learn more about MR, we must first investigate augmented and virtual reality.
Mixed reality takes the stage
The evolution of reality-creation technologies has resulted in a variety of forms of mixed reality. One type of MR is the ability to not only superimpose objects on a real-world image, but also interact with them. This is a more advanced form of AR. Another intriguing form of MR derives from total immersion in a virtual environment in which the real world is blocked. At first glance, you might think this is just regular virtual reality. However, in this case, the virtual environment you see is linked to the real environment and, in some ways, overlaps it. This is how it works.
Mixed reality "fuses" layered augmented reality objects in the real world with an immersive digital virtual world, enabling us to do things that would be impossible in a strictly AR or VR digital environment. Microsoft Hololens, a headset that, as the name implies, allows users to overlay holograms from virtual worlds on top of normal reality, enabled the cutting-edge paradigm shift in MR (the headset looks like Oakley space-age sunglasses). In essence, this simulates being in a virtual environment.
This type of intersection of the real and the virtual opens up a whole new world for us to interact in. As technology advances, we are discovering more and more opportunities.
New carriers of experience
We can learn from the teachings of Marshall McLuhan, a mid-century media theorist, that new technologies, regardless of their content, change our perception of ourselves and reality. McLuhan's famous statement contains this idea:
“We become what we see. We shape our tools, and then our tools shape us."
Virtual and mixed realities will be indistinguishable, radically altering how we create things and perceive the world in general. It will become increasingly difficult to explain and differentiate between all of these realities. This will become increasingly difficult as these once-new technologies become fully integrated into our lives. Nobody thinks about carrying a "supercomputer" in their pocket anymore, because smartphones have made it the norm for us. The next logical step is to combine AR, VR, and mixed reality.
Reality is already becoming increasingly gamified. Surgeons will be able to overlay x-ray or ultrasound images on a patient's body while performing surgery one day. Designers and artists will be able to collaborate from afar and project an imaginary idea into a physical space. Drones flying through the sky will transmit collected data about the world in real time. There is no limit to what is possible.
Different perspectives on developments and other people's points of view will become more visible and accessible for active participation. There is no limit to the number of new reality mediators.
The Future of Opportunity
Inventors and artists strive to be leaders and innovators in the field of future technologies. Our imagination is the only thing that limits our ability to change the world and our lives. We get a blank canvas with mixed reality to create rich and expansive natural environments. It's almost as if the Internet has discovered a new path, an exit, or a physical manifestation of itself, and has broken free from the confines of the computer screen. This could be the start of a major shift in the spread of technological realities.