What is mixed reality and how will it change everything you know?
Labelled the next big paradigm shift, mixed reality sees a merging of natural and virtual worlds by combining the best aspects of both virtual reality and augmented reality.
Mixed reality is set to be the next big thing in the tech world and will have huge implications for the way that brands interact with clients, and the way that the everyday user interacts with their surroundings. As it becomes more affordable and more widespread mixed reality will become hugely important.
The combined market of AR, VR and MR are set to become worth more than $162 billion in 2020 – just a few short years away. In this article we’ll explore exactly what mixed reality is, its applications, and what this will mean for the future of not just events but life in general.
A Recap: Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality
If we’re going to take a look at mixed reality we’re going to need to go back and remind ourselves on exactly what AR and VR are.
Augmented reality – this is when aspects of the virtual world are brought into the real world. The user remains fixedly in the real world whilst experiencing virtually created visuals.
Example: this hologram projection company create holograms that look like the object they are representing in the correct setting, but spectators are unable to interact with them.
Virtual reality – this is when the user is completely immersed within a virtual world and the natural world ceases to exist for them – using a headset and additional props.
Example: this top of the range wing suit places the user in a full body suspension flight simulator creating the right physical conditions and sensations that when combined with incredible graphics trick the mind into thinking that free flight is actually happening.
So what is mixed reality?
A merging of the virtual and real world, mixed reality is the true integration of virtual objects and the surrounding natural environment.
These virtual objects and the natural surrounds exist and interact with each other in real time, meaning that the user navigates through both the virtual and real environment at the same time. The key point to mixed reality is to enhance the world that already exists.
As the user gets closer to the virtual object, engages and interacts with it they are doing so in a real space.
How does mixed reality work?
Rather than using a completely immersive headset like virtual reality, or an app or projection like augmented reality, mixed reality requires a bit of tech that projects holograms into your surroundings whilst still letting you see what those surroundings are – the best example of a device that currently allows this is Microsoft HoloLens.
(Microsoft HoloLens: ‘the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.’)
In simple terms, the HoloLens takes a scan of your physical environment and translates this into a 3D map, which then enables it to know exactly where to place digital content within the physical space and allow the user to interact with it via pre-programmed gestures and eye movements. Transparent lenses and spatial sound complete the illusion that holograms look, sound and behave like real objects.
Here is an example of it in action:
What are the real-life applications of mixed reality?
We’re already seeing a diverse range of real-life applications for this new kind of tech that portends exciting things for brands looking to interact, connect and sell to consumers in new ways.
- NFL is currently working to create a whole new game experience using Microsoft’s HoloLens, which will see game-watchers able to bring the game and players into their living rooms.
- Maya Kodes – the world’s first holographic pop star. A virtual character that can interact with humans, Maya Kodes is created using the latest holographic technology, whilst her voice comes from actors hidden back stage – so not quite full AI. But in the future the integration of voice control and speech recognition could mean that holographic characters like this could soon be used to service customers and event attendees’ needs instead of living attendants.
- Skype meetings with added depth! Hololens’ integration with Skype means that you can have virtual meetings that let you draw on their screen to drop holograms over physical objects in your view.
- 3D 4 Medical are already employing mixed reality in Project Esper, where they aim to create accurate anatomical models that can be placed within the context of real life. This would enable virtual dissections, in depth studies of specific anatomical regions and to show patients in real-time how their bodies should be working.
These three examples demonstrate that the potential applications for mixed reality are endless, and can be adapted for a range of industries from educational institutions to huge sports leagues.
How do we think this new kind of tech will be used by brands and in live experiences?
It’s being predicted by many leaders in the tech industry that it won’t be long before mixed reality will link up with the Internet of Things (IoT) to create an immersive everyday experience, whereby the problem posed by online and offline is solved.
Customers will be provided with more information about products instantaneously without having to resort to their phones to find reviews and ask opinions. Whilst wearing technology that enables mixed reality, the consumer experience will be drastically enhanced.
However, with the possibility for brands to create a better more emotional connection with their customers so it will be harder for customers to define and maintain brand loyalties. So in turn brands will have to work harder to create experiences that will resonate.
How will mixed reality enhance what can already be achieved with AR?
A great example of how mixed reality will enhance what can already be achieved through AR and VR is BMW’s augmented reality product showcase that was launched at the beginning of this year.
Customers can explore their ideal BMW i3 or i8 model via a life-size interactive visualisation enabled by an app on their phone – specifically Tango, Google’s smartphone AR technology. With this customers can see the car, change its colour, look inside the boot and inside the car at the controls. This app is one step closer to mixed reality in that the augmented reality car is contextually placed in the space – the wheels are on the floor, rather than the whole car floating in the air.
Now this is a standard AR experience using an app the next step would be to visualise the same experience through mixed reality. With mixed reality the customer would be able to sit inside the hologram of the car (projected over physical props to create the full experience) and experience the controls first hand. Additionally, if the car was physically present, using HoloLens technology they could sit inside the car and received information about individual elements – triggered by eye movements.
Self-driving BMW i8 and VR Microsoft Hololens, Cebit 2017, Hannover Germany
Editorial credit: Alexander Tolstykh
Likewise, brands could attach data to their products which when activated by customers would trigger games, interactive sessions and lectures – additional relevant content that will appeal to consumers. It’s not far-fetched to say that this kind of content can be used at product launches now, before it becomes common place in the place of buying – the retail outlet.
Use augmented reality to find out what will best work for your target audience
Augmented reality is a great way to experiment and see what kinds of interactions work well with your customers.
There are so many examples of augmented reality apps that are already hiding in plain site, such as IKEA’s AR catalogue that helps customers to visualise new furniture in their existing space, and the augmented car finder app.
Mixed reality in 2017
There’s no doubt that the worlds of technology are moving forward in leaps and bounds and that these developments will have important real-life implications that will be realised in the not too distant future.
When it comes to brands wanting to connect with new and existing customers, mixed reality will be a game changer. With many brands having already adopted augmented reality and virtual reality, they are no strangers to embracing the worlds of technology to reach their audience. Mixed reality technology and the hybrid reality it creates is merely the next step – albeit a big one!
In the mean time if you need VR or AR for your next event – get in touch, we can dream up a truly amazing experience for you and your guests!
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