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Mixed Reality, MR

Augmented reality (AR) is the result of the introduction of any sensory data in the field of perception in order to supplement information about the environment and improve the perception of information.

Virtual reality (VR) is the world created by technical means and transmitted to a person through his or her sensations: sight, hearing, touch and others. Virtual reality mimics both impact and reaction to impact. To create a convincing complex of sensations of reality, computer-aided synthesis of properties and reactions of virtual reality is performed in real-time.

And adds: "Do not confuse virtual and augmented reality. Their fundamental difference is that virtual reality constructs a new artificial world, and augmented reality only introduces certain artificial elements into the perception of the real world."

It would seem that everything is simple and unambiguous. 

"Augmented reality is perceived mixed reality, created using augmented elements of perceived reality using a computer."

That is, the terms "augmented" and "mixed" reality are interpreted as synonyms. And here complexity begins.

First, in 1994, Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishiro defined mixed reality (MR) as "... everything between the extremes of the virtual continuum (VC), where the virtual continuum extends from complete reality to full virtual environment with augmented reality and virtuality inside it".

That is, augmented reality in this concept becomes only a part of mixed reality, which is also called hybrid reality.

Secondly, when describing mixed reality, a more general concept is sometimes used: computer-mediated reality, or simply mediated reality. On the English Wikipedia page on mixed reality, above mentioned virtual reality continuum represents the horizontal axis on the plane of mediated reality. The vertical axis corresponds to the continuum of mediation (sometimes it is called the axis of mediality). In particular, this continuum includes diminished reality, implemented in helmets or glasses that block advertising from the real world or replace it with useful information. However, on the English Wikipedia page on computer-mediated reality,2 this term is interpreted as the most common, covering all kinds of realities created with the help of information technology. In particular, this term includes not only mixed, but also modulated, modified, reduced, and other realities.

At the annual Google I/O conference (or simply I/O), held in Mountain View, California, in May 2018, Clay Bavor, head of AR and VR at Google, noted: "VR /MR/AR/RR are not separate and well-defined things. These are convenient labels for different points of the spectrum." (The abbreviation RR in this message means real reality. Probably, it is really time to drive this term, given the abundance of realities generated by information technology).

Commenting on his statement, Clay Bayvor adds:

"If VR and AR are two points of the spectrum, then what should we call the spectrum? Here are a few ideas: immersive computing, computing with presence, physical computing, perceptual computing, mixed reality, or immersive reality. This technology is in its infancy, and we still have to choose definitions for a long time. Now let's call it immersive computing."

The definition "immersive" in this case means "multidirectional, with simultaneous impact on a person through several channels of perception (sight, hearing, touch, and smell)".

As we see, Clay Baver proposes to combine all the technologies creating mixed reality in the terminology of Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishiro in one single term, preferably — immersive information technologies.

In English Wikipedia, there is also the Extended reality (XR or Cross Reality) page, which explains that "XR is a superset that includes the whole spectrum, from "full real" to "full virtual" in the concept of a continuum of reality-virtuality introduced by Paul Milgram." That is, this definition, in fact, corresponds to the term "mixed reality".

And then there is the X-Reality (XR) page, which states that XR or Cross Reality covers a wide range of hardware and software, including touch interfaces, applications, and infrastructures that allow creating content for virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR) and — cinematic reality (CR).

The page also contains the history of the appearance of the X-Reality and XR terms, which began in the 1960s. In May 2016, Pixvana began using the abbreviation XR as a generalizing term for virtual, mixed and augmented reality. Kevin Joyce, editor-in-chief of VRFocus, noted in the article "AR, VR, MR, RR, XR: A Glossary to the Acronyms of the Future" on the first of March in 2018: "A new trend is that any content using these new technologies is defined as "XR". However, the abbreviation "XR" is also used to define "cross-reality", which is any hardware that combines the AR, MR and VR methods, such as Google Tango."

So, we have another generalizing term (along with indirect and mixed reality) — XR. But that's not all.

The list of "other realities" can also include:

Visuo-haptic mixed reality (VHMR) — a branch of mixed reality that has the ability to merge visual and tactile perceptions of both virtual and real objects.

360 virtual reality (or 360 VR, or mobile VR), is advertised as "interactive and immersive content that completely surrounds the user as if he or she is standing in the middle of the scene. This content can be viewed using any device, and it allows the user to look in any direction ... This turns the user from a passive viewer into an active viewer, because he or she has the ability to watch anywhere."5 This kind of content is created using so-called 360 cameras providing 360-degree shooting.

However, skeptics believe that looking in any direction does not mean plunging into virtual reality. Marketers, applying VR technology to 360-cameras, sloppy treat vocabulary if the best happened.

SR (substitutional reality). In one of the laboratories of the Japan Institute of Physico-Chemical Research, RIKEN, a "reality substitution system" was developed. It connects fiction and reality in human consciousness in such a way that they ideally cannot be distinguished from each other.7 At this stage of technology development, this term can be considered synonymous with virtual reality. But in the distant (or not very distant) future, it may be created ...

Simulated reality. This is a hypothetical reality that is indistinguishable from real reality. In simulated reality, there may be intelligent entities that may or may not be aware that they live in a simulation. This is quite different from the current concept, from technologically achievable virtual reality. Virtual reality is easy to distinguish from reality; participants immersed in it never doubt the nature of what they are experiencing. Simulated reality, on the contrary, will be difficult or impossible to separate from real reality.

We have listed far from all realities that have appeared in recent years. Russian Wikipedia also mentions "improved reality", "enriched reality", "enlarged reality". But it adds: such use of the above terms is generally incorrect, They are applicable only to designate certain forms and aspects of the practical application of augmented reality.

The abundance of terms sometimes denoting the same thing is partly due to the fact that each company comes up with its own name for augmented reality technologies. Some observers believe that all these "mixed" and "hybrid" realities can be called AR, even with some degree of conventionality. Others consider them different. For example, the term "mixed reality", proposed in 1994, eventually faded into the background, giving way to augmented and virtual realities. But in recent years, Microsoft has begun to actively use "mixed reality" to market its product HoloLens. And now some experts (and equipment suppliers) subdivide the most common terms as follows.

  • Augmented reality is projecting any digital information (images, video, text, graphics, etc.) over the screen of any devices. As a result, the real world is complemented by artificial elements and new information. It can be implemented using applications for ordinary smartphones and tablets, augmented reality glasses, stationary screens, projection devices, and other technologies.
  • Mixed reality is projecting three-dimensional virtual objects or holograms on the physical space. It allows moving around a virtual object, inspecting it from all sides and, if necessary, inside. As a rule, it requires special equipment (glasses or helmets).
  • Virtual images are introduced into the physical space, visualized, and arranged according to the objects of reality so that they are perceived as real. A person continues to interact with the physical world, in which, at the same time, there are virtual objects, sometimes almost indistinguishable from real ones.11
  • Virtual reality is the immersion of a person in a pre-modeled world and partial (in the long term — complete) isolation from the physical world. For this purpose, virtual reality helmets and other special devices are used. Developers seek to imitate interaction with pseudo-reality created by them by acting on all the human senses that they have. The effects on vision and hearing have already been mastered. Work is underway to create gloves and even suits that provide a sense of a touch of objects in virtual reality.

Apparently, these three terms will be the most popular in the next few years.

Financial prospects

In accordance with the forecast made by analysts at IDC, from 2017 to 2022, the global market for technologies of augmented (AR) and virtual (VR) reality will grow by an average of 71.6% per year. In 2018, global sales will reach $ 27 billion, which is 92% more than last year.

The consumer segment remains the largest of the market for goods and services related to AR/VR technologies. It is followed by retail, discrete manufacturing, and transport segments, which together will account for $ 56 billion.

Among the practical applications of virtual reality technology, gaming applications are leading in 2018, but AR/VR for retail advertising is growing the fastest — an average of 119.3% per year.

Commercial interest in augmented and virtual reality technologies is growing rapidly, analysts say. After the release of new products from leading manufacturers planned for this year, it will only accelerate.

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