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What Is Mixed Reality? (+How It Differs From Augmented Reality)

September 17, 2019

Ok, how many realities are there?!

You’ve most likely at least heard the terms virtual reality (VR), a fully digital experience in a computer-generated, 3-D environment, and augmented reality (AR), a semi-digital experience in our real, physical environment. So, where does mixed reality (MR) fall on that spectrum?

What is mixed reality?

Mixed reality is the result of merging the physical world with a virtual world to create new environments where the physical and digital objects interact with one another in real-time. 

In short, mixed reality takes place in a hybrid of our physical and digital worlds. 

Ok, so it sounds very similar to augmented reality…

Let’s take a look at how the two are related to better understand how they are different.

Mixed reality spectrum

The Mixed Reality Continuum covers every combination of real and virtual objects and environments.

mixed reality continuum

The real world on the far left where nothing is digital. Completely virtual environments are on the far right, where everything is computer generated.

Mixed reality examples

This technology is already being used today in a variety of ways to enhance our physical world with digital objects and visualizations.

MR in education

There’s a big opportunity to use mixed reality technology in schools and other educational applications, such as training for new jobs.


This video went viral when it first came out in 2016. The lifelike whale virtually bursts through the gym floor. See how the water pools on the ground, just how it would in the real world. That’s exactly what makes MR special, the digital object (water) interacting in a believable manner with the physical world (floor).

MR in entertainment

There’s an obvious shock factor to this type of technology that can leave an audience in awe – even virtually. But there are so many aspects of events and entertainment that could benefit from MR tech.


The Weather Channel has started to use mixed reality technology in their shows to give viewers a more realistic understanding of the current conditions and drive home the idea that people need to protect themselves from impending storms.

MR wearable computers

Headsets aren’t new but they possible applications for them are endless. They map the surrounding physical environment to create a digital display. So you could move furniture around in a room without ever lifting anything.


This example of MR technology shows digital apps pinned to places that make the most sense. Think about having a to-do list on your fridge and a recipe app next to your oven. It’s convenient and this tech takes multitasking to the next level. 

MR video calls

Video calls are a great way to communicate with someone that’s not in the room with you – well now they can be. With mixed reality video calls you can move the ‘screen’ around and interact in new ways.


With this technology, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t need a headset to take part. They can even draw on their screens to convey exactly what they are trying to say and it will place holograms over physical objects in your view.

No mixed feelings here

Technology is changing the world around us, for better or for worse. But, this type of experience has the ability to make a positive impact and will become more prevalent in the coming years.

See how augmented reality is already making a big splash today! Check out these AR examples across a variety of different industries.

Related content: 13 Augmented Reality Examples →


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