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What is mixed reality?

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Mixed reality: definition and origin of the term
Ecommerce, Online Gaming, and More: Uses of Mixed Reality
Mixed reality on Windows


What is mixed reality?

Mixed reality, in English, mixed reality , is a term that defines, fundamentally, the combination between the real and the virtual world through electronic devices. The term mixed reality is closely related to the concept of augmented reality or augmented reality . These terms are often used interchangeably. With its Windows Mixed Reality product line, Microsoft has been especially instrumental in bringing mixed reality to new popularity..

  1. Mixed reality: definition and origin of the term
  2. Ecommerce, Online Gaming, and More: Uses of Mixed Reality
  3. Mixed reality on Windows

Mixed reality: definition and origin of the term

The term mixed reality dates back to 1994, the year in which the essay Augmented Reality: A class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum by authors Paul Milgram, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi, and Fumio Kishino was published. In this context, mixed reality is considered an umbrella term that encompasses, among other things, augmented reality and virtuality. In this case, the authors start from a continuum (continuum) of reality-virtuality.

The virtual-reality continuum model shows how real and virtual environments are mixed in mixed reality projects.

According to this model, mixed reality encompasses everything that does not belong 100% to the? Real environment? and at the same time, it is not one hundred percent? virtual ?. The real environment, on the one hand, and the virtual environment, on the other, are the opposite poles of this model and everything that is between these two elements and contains them is mixed reality, at least in principle. The boundaries within mixed reality are blurred, that is, the proportion of? Real? and? virtual? in a mixed reality application it varies depending on the case..


Mixed reality encompasses, at least in theory, all the senses and includes hearing, smell and touch as well as sight, which, as we observed in the previous example, is in the foreground.

As mentioned above, the terms mixed reality and augmented reality are often used synonymously . According to the original definition of mixed reality, it clearly encompasses many more aspects than augmented reality because it highlights the interaction between reality and virtual objects: objects or subjects in the real world can interact with objects or subjects in the virtual world . For example, if you place a virtual object on a real table, mixed reality applications will register it and move the virtual element with the table if you move the table to another location. The most common augmented reality applications do not usually respond to this type of change and, in such cases, the virtual object would be suspended in the air or would disappear completely..


Are you familiar with the term "extended reality"? Learn more about this in our article.

Ecommerce, Online Gaming, and More: Uses of Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is used today in very diverse sectors, such as video games, online stores, industry or the military. In many cases, these are augmented reality applications that only allow some aspects of the interaction between the real and the virtual world. However, mixed reality will undoubtedly play a much more decisive role in the applications of the future.

Here are some examples of potential mixed reality applications and current examples with mixed reality features:

  • Mobile games: the camera on tablets and smartphones allows you to record the real environment as the basis for a game. Objects and game elements integrated into the "real" world can be seen on the screen. The real environment mixes with the virtual world on the screen and the virtual elements react specifically to the events of reality.
  • Online furniture stores: photograph a specific room with a smartphone camera. In capturing the real environment, a virtual piece of furniture is inserted, for example a three-dimensional sofa. This allows the customer to realistically imagine how that sofa will look in their room and makes the purchase decision easier. The interactivity of many of today's applications, however, leaves much to be desired.
  • Opticians online: the camera takes a photograph of the client's face, who selects a specific model of glasses. Your image with the glasses is displayed on the screen and you can see how they would look on you. The real face of the customer is combined with the virtual glasses model.

Especially in the area of ​​electronic commerce, mixed reality applications offer a great variety of possibilities that add a clear added value for the user : how much more? Real? and as the customer can offer a product, the greater the customer's confidence and the more likely that the purchase decision will be favorable. Mixed reality can help convey the customer's shopping experience via tablet, smartphone or computer. It can give us an experience very similar to the one we live in conventional stores that can even be overcome through a new procedure. You will find more information on the aspects to take into account when launching an online sales store in our article Creating an online store: basic principles .

Mixed reality on Windows

With Windows 10, Microsoft has given new impetus to the concept of mixed reality. With Windows Mixed Reality, you offer a whole range of applications in this area. With its product line, Microsoft starts from the continuum of virtual reality shown above and criticizes that most augmented reality applications only use a small percentage of the entire spectrum that mixed reality offers and leave aside many possibilities offered by the combination of real and virtual environments simply because technology falls short. The video below clearly reflects Microsoft's approach to the concept of mixed reality:

To protect your privacy, the video will be uploaded after clicking.

Microsoft claims that Windows 10 was designed to take advantage of all the possibilities that mixed reality offers on a large scale. In hardware for mixed reality applications , Microsoft distinguishes between holographic and immersive devices:

  Holographic devices Immersion devices
Dominant aspect Digital objects are placed in the real environment as if they were actually present. They create a? Sense of reality? hiding the real environment and replacing it with a virtual environment.
Ad type A transparent screen allows the user to see the real environment while wearing the headphones. A device with an opaque screen blocks the real environment during use.
Example devices Microsoft HoloLens Samsung HMD Odyssey +

Microsoft argues that the boundary between immersion and holographic devices will disappear in the future and that both approaches will be combined.


For more information on current trends on the web outside of mixed reality, check out the Web Design Trends article  . The article on  design for user experience  provides basic information for developers, focusing on achieving a 'perfect user experience'.