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What is Mixed Reality All About?

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14th Mar, 2023
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What is Mixed Reality All About?

Mixed reality is becoming one of the most popularly used terms in the world of data science. The term mixed reality is used interchangeably with hybrid reality as it presents a user environment that interacts with both the physical and the digital world. AR VR MR are now being used interchangeably, but these are different concepts. 

As a data analyst or a person in artificial intelligence and machine learning, you must try to understand how AR VR MR differ.

Let’s dive deep into the evolving future of mixed reality and its various facets!

Comprehending Mixed Reality

Mixed reality refers to the environment that comprises the elements of both the real and the virtual world. In a mixed-reality environment, both digital and physical objects interact with each other in real time. Mixed reality is also called hybrid reality, a mix of augmented and virtual reality. 

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Different technological advancements come into play when creating a mixed-reality environment. Computer vision, advanced display technologies, cloud computing, and graphical processing are the most popular technologies for establishing a mixed-reality environment. 

Mixed reality is quite different from virtual reality as VR is limited to providing a completely digital ecosystem to the end user. However, mixed reality brings the elements of the real world too. MR interacts with both the physical and the digital world to give the user an immersive experience like never before. 

Mixed reality is in its early stages and being developed for a better experience. It is still being used across industries like aerospace, where MR is being deployed to train technicians. They have a headset with holographic images that creates a mixed reality environment giving them a feeler of how things work. 

But before striving into the future, let’s refresh how it all started. 

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History of mixed reality

The history of mixed reality goes back to the 1800s when Sir Charles Wheatstone invented the stereoscope. The stereoscope was used to merge two pictures in a single photo to give an illusion of depth. Post that, in 1962, Morton Heilig took the entire stereoscopic imagery to the next level with his invention of the Sensoroma Simulator. 

The Sensoroma Simulator became popular as it created a sensory environment where the user could view the stereoscope images and different sounds and aromas. In the 1980s, Jaron Lanier invented the data glove, which brought the term ‘visual reality’ to use. 

In 1990, the term ‘augmented reality’ was first used by Thomas Caudell to explain the head-mounted displays actively used in the aerospace industry by companies like Boeing. Different headsets were created to project the digital map on the plywood for the engineers’ reference. 

History of mixed reality

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From being limited to the business side, the technology began to percolate to the consumers with the yellow ‘first down’ line in televised football games. This technology was also used in the world-famous ‘Pokémon Go.’

In 1994, the phrase ‘Mixed Reality’ was first used by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino in their research paper “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays.” The idea was to introduce a space where both AR and VR meet. This led to revolutionising the power of mixed reality across genres. 

Types of Mixed Reality Displays

Different types of mixed reality displays are deployed across industries depending on their budget and scope of work. Let’s look at some of the popular types of MR displays currently being used.

  • Monitor-based displays that are non-immersive. These displays showcase videos of the real world on which several digital objects and their images are superimposed. 
  • Head-mounted displays that make use of projection technology to play a video. These, too, are non-immersive but are mounted to a surface. 
  • Optical see-through HMDs are also gaining a lot of popularity. These are see-through displays where several digital images are superimposed on a video that showcases the real world. 
  • Video see-through HMDs are also being used. These work like the optical see-through HMDs where the video of the real world is integrated with different digital objects. 
  • The Monitor-based audio-visual system displays 3D graphics on the screen and a real-life video that runs on the displayed 3D graphics. 
  • An immersive audio-visual where a regular video is superimposed on the 3D graphic that runs on an immersive display. 
  • AV partially immersive systems are also standard in industries like advertising, where the system permits direct interaction with real objects like using your hand. 

All these mixed reality displays are used depending on their use cases and how well they suit a particular industry.

Why is Mixed Reality Needed?

While several other technologies, like augmented and virtual reality, provide a great user interface, both extend an artificial environment to showcase objects. Mixed reality takes these technologies a level above as it brings in the element of the real world, which is much more familiar for the end user. Hence, AR and MR are quite different concepts.

MR integrates real-time objects into the virtual world, making the experience more immersive and interactive. Mixed reality is increasingly being used across industries as it has wide usability. Currently, it is being actively used to train personnel on different aspects of a particular industry. 

Mixed Reality concepts

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Applications of Mixed Reality

There are numerous applications of mixed reality. Let’s look at how MR is being used across industries.

Construction

Project managers and supervisors are now using windows mixed reality to explain to their workers the task specifications. They use headsets to notify the workers about any ongoing issues at the construction site. The supervisor might use a virtual pin to notify if the equipment is not giving the desired output. Workers are also given a solution to fix a problem on the ground using different schematic diagrams. 

Design

AR and MR technology are used to their fullest potential in the design space. Designers across industries like spacecraft engineering, automobile manufacturing, etc., are using MR to visualise the designs of the components and interact with these digital prototypes. This use case is helping designers cut costs as they no longer must create a physical prototype to test the features of the component. 

Communication

Different companies now use MR technology to interact with their team members across locations. The technology helps them conduct simulated face-to-face meetings where they showcase the 3D footprints of the products. They can also have a tab on the real-time production data using the MR technology. 

Healthcare

Several exciting use cases of mixed reality can be navigated in the healthcare space. Healthcare professionals can use MR in practising surgery as it provides a natural environment with digital objects. They can also practice placing implants using the technology. MR will also be helpful in healthcare education, where medical students can be taught different concepts using technology. 

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Supply Chain Management

Managing inventory has become a cakewalk using mixed reality. A supply chain manager can use different MR technologies to keep a tab on the pallets of the factory. They can also use the technology to check the shipment timings and placement history. 

Apart from these industries, there are several other places where mixed reality is being actively used. Some of these applications include:

  • MR is actively used in education to make learning more interactive and fun. It can bring in the element of simulations to curate tests and projects that give the students a hands-on experience. 
  • It is used in training employees across sectors and has improved the entire process by 40%, as the employees can now visualise everything on which they are trained. 
  • MR is also used in the medical industry to store and share patient records in a much more interactive way.
  • With the increasing popularity of remote working, MR helps conduct meetings that give a feel of an actual meeting room. It also provides translation services so that people from across the globe can participate in a particular meeting.

Supply Chain Management

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Future use cases

Now that you know what is mixed reality, you know it holds a bright future. Several data engineers are now building a mixed reality in a way that can find more use cases. In the future, mixed reality will be used for Holoportation, combining two prominent hologram and teleportation technologies. With Holoportation, real-time 3-D data capturing and transmission will become quite easy. This technology will be used in automated cars where the passenger can control the vehicle from the back seat. 

Currently, mixed reality is being used through devices like displays and headsets. This will soon move to interactive modes like holographic projections and interactive displays. The technology is expensive, but with more and more industries coming on board with it, the price of MR and its devices is reducing. Hence, MR is on its way to changing human-computer interaction drastically. 

By 2024, the mixed reality industry will be worth $1.2 to 6.9 billion, with several players developing different integrated products. Major products driving the mixed-reality industry include camera-equipped smartphones and smart eyeglasses. 

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Conclusion

With artificial intelligence’s onset to all business spheres, knowing how it works is important. MR is changing how businesses operate, and users interact with their real environment. From navigating image-guided surgeries to fueling modes of entertainment, the assimilation of AR VR MR and other relevant technologies is bound to revolutionise how people interact with technology. 

In order to keep up with the changing trends, it is important to upskill. 

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Equipped with in-demand skills such as Data Visualisation, Advanced SQL, Deep Learning, Advanced Regression and more, candidates will inherit all the necessary skills required to emerge as an industry expert. 

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Pavan Vadapalli

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Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What are the different windows mixed reality products currently being used?

Some popular windows mixed reality products include HoloLens and Acer MR headset. These are used across various industries, including healthcare, communication, supply chain management, retail, design and more.

2Which browsers are now being developed with mixed reality?

Browsers like Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox are now integrating mixed reality into their application.

3Where will the healthcare industry use mixed reality?

The healthcare industry will use mixed reality in fields like image-guided surgery and digital recordkeeping of patients. The field of medical sciences is also keen on leveraging mixed reality to educate the next generation of surgeons and medical practitioners to provide excellent care.

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