Mixed reality: why it’s the technology of tomorrow

We are hearing more and more about virtual reality and augmented reality, but another emerging technology is expected to profoundly change our habits in the years to come: mixed reality. Mixing digital and real worlds, it has numerous applications which are still in their infancy. What is it and how will it work in practice?

What is mixed reality?

Mixed reality is an application of technologies halfway between virtual and real. It allows you to mix (hence the name “mixed”) physical objects, for example the architecture of a room or furniture, with virtual objects. Virtual objects are “anchored” in the physics of the rooms where they appear: that is to say, they cannot pass through walls and they can be placed on a table for example.

Mixed reality is expressed on what is called a “virtuality continuum”. On this spectrum, we have on one side entirely virtual reality (like a video game universe for example), and on the other side physical reality, that is to say the world in which we evolve. Mixed reality sits somewhere on this spectrum, combining the virtual world with physical properties. To do this, it uses high-tech and computer equipment similar to that used for virtual reality.

The possibilities are of course endless. We can thus envisage the creation of life-size avatars, which could interact with objects in another room, or play spaces delimiting real rooms with the walls. To get an idea, you can watch the following video from Microsoft, which presents mixed reality concepts:

Differences with augmented reality and virtual reality

One might wonder what the differences are with virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual reality is entirely digital, meaning there is no bridge to the physical world. This is the case for augmented reality headsets for example: the user finds himself projected into a digital world, but he has no link with the real world – he will not be able to interact with the walls of the room for example. .

For augmented reality, the difference is more subtle. Augmented reality “adds” a digital layer to reality. The best-known example is Pokémon Go. The game allows us to view creatures through the camera of our mobile devices, as if they existed in reality. But unlike mixed reality, they are not anchored. That is to say, they do not submit to the constraints of physical space that exist in the real world, unlike mixed reality.

Possible applications of mixed reality

The applications of mixed reality are of course almost endless. Here are some examples to get an idea of ​​the solutions that will increasingly develop:

Mixed reality video streaming

A streamer can integrate his image into a digital environment, in order to appear in non-real worlds. We can see what this looks like in this video from MixCast, which provides mixed reality solutions:

This technology is of course particularly useful in video game or online gaming environments . We see it happening more and more on the streaming service Twitch, for example. The casino sector should also take up the subject. A live casino service like Betway already comes close to this, offering users an immersive experience. High definition streaming allows players to be transported to the heart of the action with human dealers dealing the cards. Mixed reality could therefore be a step further, with players who are directly integrated into virtual environments.

Concerts and shows

Mixed reality has become known to the general public under another name: holograms. These digital representations of real people will make it possible to give shows or conferences without traveling. It is therefore sometimes used in the field of communication and marketing, but not only.

It has also been used for political meetings or concerts, notably with deceased singers returning to the stage virtually. This was the case, for example, of Michael Jackson, who gave a mixed reality “concert” in 2014.

Virtual meetings with avatars

Mixed reality also allows people to be brought together in the same room, in the form of an avatar. That is to say that they will be able to move there as if they were present, while remaining within the limits of the walls and the ground.

Recently, it was once again Microsoft which showed what the possibilities of the technology would be, thanks to a new service: Microsoft Mesh. It is currently a concept, but it sets up “holoportation” tools, that is to say teleportation by hologram. Mesh will allow users to “ interact holographically with other people, in a natural way .”

All of this is of course only a few of the many possibilities linked to this technology. Technical limitations are also becoming increasingly blurred. While a green screen was originally almost mandatory for broadcasting mixed reality, it has now become optional thanks to the advancement of technology. Furthermore, virtual reality headsets have become more efficient and less bulky, allowing for the democratization of mixed reality. The future will therefore most certainly be represented halfway between the real and the virtual.

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