Mixed reality & Xtended Reality (MR XR)

What Is Mixed Reality ?

Mixed Reality is a blend of physical and digital worlds, unlocking the links between human, computer, and environment interaction. This new reality is based on advancements in computer vision, graphical processing power, display technology, and input systems. However, the term Mixed Reality was introduced in a 1994 paper by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino, “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays.” Their paper explored the concept of the virtuality continuum and the categorization of taxonomy applied to displays.

Since then, the application of Mixed Reality has gone beyond displays to include:

  • Environmental input
  • Spatial sound
  • Locations and positioning in both real and virtual spaces

Environmental input and perception

Over the past several decades, an exploration into the relationship between human and computer input has continued, leading to the discipline known as human-computer interaction or HCI. Human input happens through different means, including keyboards, mice, touch, ink, voice, and even Kinect skeletal tracking.

Advancements in sensors and processing are creating new areas of computer input from environments. The interaction between computers and environments is environmental understanding or perception, which is why the API names in Windows that reveal environmental information are called the perception APIs. Environmental input captures things like a person’s position in the world (head tracking), surfaces, and boundaries (spatial mapping and scene understanding), ambient lighting, environmental sound, object recognition, and location.

The combination of all three – computer processing, human input, and environmental input – set the stage for creating true Mixed Reality experiences. Movement through the physical world translates to movement in the digital world. Boundaries in the physical world influence application experiences, such as gameplay, in the digital world. Without environmental input, experiences can’t blend between physical and digital realities.


The Mixed Reality spectrum

Since Mixed Reality blends both physical and digital worlds, these two realities define the polar ends of a spectrum known as the virtuality continuum. We refer to the array of realities as the Mixed Reality spectrum. On the left-hand side, we have the physical reality that we as humans exist in. On the right-hand side, we have the corresponding digital reality.



Whether you’re getting directions to the nearest coffeeshop in walking distance from a pair of smart eyeglasses, or wearing a headset to simulate a ski jump, you’re utilizing something called Extended Reality. XR, as it’s also called, is an umbrella term that includes technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR)Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR), either to provide more information about our actual environment to enhance our senses, or else to create completely artificial experiences.

Extended Reality is an idea that’s been around for a long time.  Science fiction writer Stanley G. Weinbaum may have been the first to envision it back in 1935, when he wrote a story, “Pygmalion’s Spectacles,” in which a professor invents a pair of goggles that allow moviegoers to taste, smell and touch imaginary things, talk to fictional characters and immerse themselves in a story that happens around them, instead of on a screen. In 1962, a cinematographer named Morton Heilig patented Sensorama, in which a person sat in a semi-enclosed cabinet and experienced a stereoscopic 3-D display, augmented by a fan that spread aromas and a vibrating chair to simulate movement. In the late 1970s, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers developed an early VR mapping simulation that allowed users to move through the streets of Aspen, Colo. In the early 1990s, Boeing researchers developed the first AR application, which guided aircraft assembly workers on how to install wiring. Since then, XR devices have grown increasingly miniaturized — and become wearable.

While Extended Reality is still in its early phase, it’s already growing explosively, so that by 2022, sales of XR technology could surpass $200 billion. A recent Forbes article describes some of the ways in which various types of XR technology could radically transform our lives and work. In the future, for example, you may do a lot of your shopping with XR apps, which enable you to see how a new couch or chair would look in your living room. And you might work in an XR-powered virtual office environment, in which your coworker at the next desk might actually be thousands of miles away. And according to Live Science, AR-enabled contact lenses that display information right in front of your eyes someday might take the place of phone and computer screens. Telecommunications researchers predict that the advent of 5G wireless networks, which will make it possible to transmit vast amounts of data more quickly, will help make XR even more powerful and sophisticated.