What is Mixed Reality?

Designing Digitally


Please note this article was updated on 10/22/2020.

As technology advances, so too does humanity’s curiosity with the concept of reality. Time is a construct that humans measure in order to understand the processes by which moments pass from one to another. This is our way of understanding cause-and-effect. Likewise, our understanding of reality has its foundation on the integration of our sensory impulses into comprehensible, discrete, and sequential experiences..

The technological implications of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality are similar conceptualizations. We use these technologies to not only help us imagine what could be, but to help us better understand what physically is.

Reality technologies have great applications for technological and corporate advancement. As technology becomes more and more realistic, so to does our interaction with these digital forms of reality. However, the three terms are not interchangeable. Mixed reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality are vastly different, but all provide innovative capabilities to help us achieve different ends.

Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality, or VR, was the first of the reality technologies. Being first has allowed it to become the most widely known in its concept and most developed in its execution.

In virtual reality, a person is totally immersed in a digital world, with their vision entirely occluded by a digital environment. Through the use of headsets, headphones, and/or bodysuits, people are able to have almost complete sensual experiences. This makes gaming and watching YouTube videos as well as high-level training for employees a totally new adventure. Since the encounters in virtual reality mirror those of experiences, we have in everyday life, learning and emotional responses are almost identical.

Read also: 5 Virtual Reality Benefits HR Managers Should Know About

Augmented Reality

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality, or AR, places digital items into the physical world. Unfortunately, augmented technology has not advanced to the point where it is like the holograms we see in movies. Rather, augmented reality is achieved through the use of smartphones and tablets to capture the physical world around us, and then project digital images into it via the interface device. The most popular example of this was the Pokémon Go phenomenon. By projecting beloved anime characters into the world around us, Niantic was able to create an app that took the world by storm. Augmented reality has the power to bring characters to life. The idea was to simply get gamers up, walking around, and socializing. However, this simple concept with reality technology transformed augmented reality into a powerful fitness tool.

Another example of AR is snapchat filters. Users can “wear” dog ears or princess tiaras while they talk. The app tracks motion so the accessories move and turn with the user.

Read also: Using Augmented Reality to Improve the Employee Training Experience

Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is the latest generation of the reality technologies. As the name implies, mixed reality combines the concepts of both a virtual and augmented reality to create an entirely new experience. Many people describe mixed reality as a spectrum. On the left side is physical reality. AR falls just next to physical reality because it places digital items in the physical world. The right side of the spectrum is digital reality. VR falls just inside that, since it places users in a completely digital world. Everywhere along the spectrum, bridging the gap between AR and VR, is mixed reality.

The Microsoft HoloLens is currently the most widely-used mixed reality device. The HoloLens and HoloLens 2 are sophisticated sets of glasses that displays virtual images all around the user’s physical space. Unlike a VR headset, users can still see and interact with their physical surroundings while wearing the HoloLens.

Mixed reality is used for gaming as well as instruction. In games, the characters appear like holograms in your actual space. They recognize your furniture and walls so they walk around those obstacles or interact with them. Airbus is one of many companies that has partnered with HoloLens to use mixed reality in the corporate world. This video shows some of the opportunities available with mixed reality.

The Uses of Mixed Reality In Business

Reality technologies have been labeled as impressive tools when it comes to employee training. Currently, the most commonly used reality approach has been virtual reality. However, with the rise of mixed reality, the possibilities are endless.

Mixed reality offers employees the opportunity to work with actual pieces of machinery with virtual guidance. Instructions or diagrams can aid the employee, or a trainer could speak with them in real-time. Scenarios can be played out in a safe environment, reducing employee injuries and risks when they finally complete their training. It can even be taken one step further into the job to enhance project development. For example, a 3D blueprint can improve planning and design for architects or builders when in project planning meetings with their clients.

Mixed reality can also be used to drastically increase sales. In today's competitive market, people demand the ability to try before they buy, and mixed reality allows them to do so from the comfort of their homes by letting them visualize themselves in an outfit or see what an item would look like in a specific room. IKEA is utilizing this capability and launching an AR app (called IKEA Place) so customers can digitally place a product in their home to experience exactly how it would fit and look in that space in real life.

Basically, any application that mixed reality has can be applied to company training services to offer employees the best onboarding process possible. A


While reality technologies are all part of the same family, the differences between them are vast. Virtual reality is the process of a complete sensory immersion into a digital world. Augmented reality is the projection of a digital world onto the physical world. Mixed reality is either the digital world being projected into the physical world or the physical world being completely overtaken by the digital world. These incredible innovations have countless applications or technological advances in the corporate world at large. 

Overall, reality technologies are taking the business world by storm. Soon all employees will be involved in some form of mixed training. Each format offers great value when it comes to training options. However, mixed reality shows the most promise.

For more information on mixed reality and how it can be used for your employee training contact us today!