What Is Mixed Reality? Going Beyond AR & VR

11 Jan 2022
5 min read

In the metaverse, there are endless possibilities for artificial intelligence. You’ve probably heard of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), but are there any other types of digital realities out there? Yes.

Mixed reality technology is a whole different aspect of the metaverse. Keep reading, and we’ll give you the rundown of everything you need to know before you embark on your journey.

AR, VR, and XR

Before we hop into mixed reality, let’s set the stage with augmented reality, virtual reality, and extended reality. While their names might sound similar, they all have unique components that make them different from one another.

Augmented reality is a digitally enhanced version of the physical world. It is not a fully immersive experience; instead, AR works by superimposing digital images over what is already there in the real world.

Virtual reality completely departs from the physical world into a virtual one. It is a fully immersive experience, so it generally requires some MR headset or goggles.

Extended reality is a technology that enhances the senses through AR, VR, and MR.

Now, let’s get into how tech companies use mixed reality.

How Does Mixed Reality Work?

Mixed reality is a combination of augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality has one foot in the digital world, and virtual reality has both. Mixed reality is somewhere in the middle, as it combines digital elements and physical space.

Think of mixed reality as a moving piece on a scale or a spectrum. This scale is called the “virtuality continuum.” Sometimes mixed reality slides more toward the digital world, and sometimes it leans more toward the physical world.

A History of Mixed Reality

While AR, VR, and MR might seem like new-age terms, the advancements of these ideas have been in the works since the 1800s. Inventions and ideas to help see reality differently began with the stereoscope, which looked like 3D movie theater glasses.

The wheels of an alternate reality continued spinning from there, leading technology into the 1990s.

A paper written in 1994 by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino coined the term “mixed reality.” The essay “A Taxonomy of Mixed Reality Visual Displays” created use cases for all aspects of the mixed reality spectrum.

Those six classes are:

  1. Non-immersive monitor-based video displays.
  2. Immersive head-mounted video displays.
  3. Head-mounted displays with see-through capability for optically superimposed computer-generated graphics onto real-world scenes.
  4. Head-mounted displays with see-through capability for superimposed video computer-generated graphics onto real-world scenes.
  5. Completely graphic display of immersive, partially immersive environment, or in between.
  6. Completely graphic but partially immersive, where objects in the physical world interact with the virtual scene.

Milgram and Kishino’s goal was to define the different types of mixed reality to clarify terminology and create a framework for the future.

When determining whether or not a technology qualifies at MR, you can still use Milgram and Kishino’s classifications in our more modern world. Some of the pioneers in mixed reality are probably pretty excited about where the metaverse is today.


One way that mixed reality can remain middle-of-the-road on the virtuality continuum is through the use of holograms. Holograms are digital objects often used as overlays or superimposed images.

Holograms are made using light and sound and can also respond to voice commands and gestures. They are virtual objects that can move in real-time and take the shape of almost anything, from avatars to landscapes. In the metaverse, anything is possible.

Ways To Experience Mixed Reality

If you like what you’ve heard and are ready to dive into the world of mixed reality, then read on for more information on devices that will allow you to access the metaverse.

Mobile Apps

Remember, mixed reality is part of the virtuality continuum. This means that you can use an immersive device but don’t need an immersive device to experience MR.

Because of this, you don’t need a separate device to interact with MR. You can access many mixed reality experiences from your mobile device. Many apps have mixed reality overlay features.

Social Media

Social media is constantly coming up with new ways to stay relevant. It has made the experience more interactive for its users in the past few years. Snapchat (who even tried smart glasses), Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have overlay features that allow you to eat a digital apple or become a dog simply by using your mobile phone’s camera lens.

Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO burst onto the scene and took the world by storm. The app provides subscribers with an avatar and uses GPS to guide them out into the world. With the simple use of your iPhone or Android camera, Pokémon characters join the virtual world with the real world as you play the game to catch ‘em all.

IKEA Place

This app shows how practical mixed reality can be. It takes the guessing game out of decorating and works similarly to our Virtual Try-On. Experience 3D furniture model simulations in your home space that show up completely to scale.

Google Lens

Google Lens uses image recognition technology to identify objects and bring up relevant searches. Google Lens can read QR codes, bar codes, and more through your phone's camera lens. Google has made many updates to this app and has vouched to make more to make a more convenient user experience.

Mixed Reality Devices

Although MR can be accessed through your phone, there are more advanced ways to experience MR technology with specialized devices. MR is now being used in many industries, from healthcare to construction to HR departments.

Whether you are using it for your business or personal use, devices can help you interact with a new side of the digital world.

Because you need a separate device, it’ll likely cost you. But if you’re ready to immerse yourself in the metaverse, it might be time to invest. Illumix is here to give you a rundown on some of the best devices and a little information on each.

Microsoft HoloLens 2

This wireless, holographic headset device uses sensors and optics processing to integrate into your desired environment. The technology is available in three differentiated cost tiers. Whether you want to use this device just for fun or you need it for more industrial or business uses like training, the device is pricey but has endless capabilities.

Samsung HMD Odyssey+

Depending on how you use this device, it likely leans toward the VR side of the spectrum. The headset blocks out the physical environment to provide a more immersive experience. The device also boasts 360-degree spatial sound to make the virtual environment come to life.

Magic Leap

Magic Leap has many uses, whether playing games or saving the world through medical practice. The product’s goal is to provide comfort to be worn all day long. Its 70-degree view allows its users to see more of what they need.

Windows Mixed Reality

Windows Mixed Reality is getting an honorary mention. It is not a headset, but it is a Windows app that works with any Windows-compatible headset. It allows users to explore and customize their 3D environment and digital content.

HTC Vive

Vive is a company dedicated entirely to the metaverse. It offers several different products, including mixed-reality headsets. They provide smart glasses that focus on healthcare and mental wellness and headsets for hardcore gamers.

The Takeaway

When it comes to the metaverse, there are many different terms and digital realities out there. Regarding AR, VR, XR, and MR, the virtuality continuum has a place for everything and everyone.

Now that you’ve got all the must-know information, are you ready to dive into the metaverse?

Mixed reality can play a part in your world, from apps and headsets to personal use and essential training.

If you want to remain partially in the real world, go with AR. If you’re looking for total immersion, VR is for you. And if you like a happy medium, MR is a great place to be.

If you’re interested in learning more about the metaverse, MR, and AR technologies, check out the rest of our site.

Here at Illumix, we specialize in building dynamic AR experiences that can enhance your brand. We’ve done the heavy lifting already. Contact us to learn how we can help.


A Taxonomy Of Mixed Reality Visual Displays ⎸ University of Toronto

What Is Mixed Reality? - Mixed Reality | Microsoft Learn

What Is A Hologram? ⎸ Microsoft Learn

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