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Mixed Reality (MR)

Your constantly-updated definition of Mixed Reality (MR) and collection of topical content and literature

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?

Mixed reality (MR) refers to the blending of the physical world with the digital world. It allows the superposition and interaction between digital elements and the real-world environment to varying degrees. MR experiences can fall anywhere between the ends of the virtuality continuum. 

In MR experiences, the user is not bound to a screen and can interact with both the digital and the physical elements.

In the video below, you can see how digital objects interact with physical objects in an MR experience.

© Microsoft HoloLens, Fair-Use (link)

This video shows how MR experiences blend the physical and digital worlds. As you can see, the same experience would be different if the user was in a different place. The MR experience adapts to the user’s physical environment. Therefore, MR technology needs to get data from the physical environment to be able to construct the digital elements accordingly. MR requires advanced input methods and environmental perception.

MR includes any reality-altering technology and is not limited to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

AR vs. MR vs. VR. In AR, we see a digital robot superposed to a person. In MR, we see a digital robot shaking hands with a person. In VR, we see a fully digital environment where the robot and the avatar of the person are dancing.

In MR experiences the user can interact with both digital and physical elements. MR differs from AR—where digital and physical elements don’t interact— and VR—where the physical or real world is completely blocked out.

© Christian Briggs and the Interaction Design Foundation   

What is the Difference between AR and MR?

The main difference between AR and MR is that in AR experiences digital elements are overlaid on the physical world in real time but there is no interaction between them. AR technology allows the superposition of a digital layer on top of the physical world. Instead, in MR experiences digital elements are not only superposed upon the real-world environment but also interact with it.  

What is the Difference between VR and MR?

The main difference between VR and MR is that in VR experiences the physical world is completely blocked out. Instead, MR experiences blend the digital and the physical world to any degree. Therefore, VR technology completely ignores the environment which the user is in, whereas MR experiences process the environment which the user is in and include it in the experience. Similarly, in a VR experience, the user only interacts with the virtual environment, whereas in an MR experience, the user interacts with both virtual and physical elements. 

Learn More about Mixed Reality

Learn how to design your own XR experiences with our course: How to Design for Augmented and Virtual Reality.

Watch the How To Influence Behavior Through Virtual Reality Narratives on-demand Master Class by VR pioneer Mel Slater.

Literature on Mixed Reality (MR)

Here’s the entire UX literature on Mixed Reality (MR) by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Mixed Reality (MR)

Take a deep dive into Mixed Reality (MR) with our course Design Thinking: The Ultimate Guide .

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and General Electric, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach, and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including Stanford d.school, Harvard, and MIT. What is design thinking, and why is it so popular and effective?

Design Thinking is not exclusive to designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering and business have practiced it. So, why call it Design Thinking? Well, that’s because design work processes help us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply human-centered techniques to solve problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, businesses, countries and lives. And that’s what makes it so special.

The overall goal of this design thinking course is to help you design better products, services, processes, strategies, spaces, architecture, and experiences. Design thinking helps you and your team develop practical and innovative solutions for your problems. It is a human-focused, prototype-driven, innovative design process. Through this course, you will develop a solid understanding of the fundamental phases and methods in design thinking, and you will learn how to implement your newfound knowledge in your professional work life. We will give you lots of examples; we will go into case studies, videos, and other useful material, all of which will help you dive further into design thinking. In fact, this course also includes exclusive video content that we've produced in partnership with design leaders like Alan Dix, William Hudson and Frank Spillers!

This course contains a series of practical exercises that build on one another to create a complete design thinking project. The exercises are optional, but you’ll get invaluable hands-on experience with the methods you encounter in this course if you complete them, because they will teach you to take your first steps as a design thinking practitioner. What’s equally important is you can use your work as a case study for your portfolio to showcase your abilities to future employers! A portfolio is essential if you want to step into or move ahead in a career in the world of human-centered design.

Design thinking methods and strategies belong at every level of the design process. However, design thinking is not an exclusive property of designers—all great innovators in literature, art, music, science, engineering, and business have practiced it. What’s special about design thinking is that designers and designers’ work processes can help us systematically extract, teach, learn, and apply these human-centered techniques in solving problems in a creative and innovative way—in our designs, in our businesses, in our countries, and in our lives.

That means that design thinking is not only for designers but also for creative employees, freelancers, and business leaders. It’s for anyone who seeks to infuse an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective and broadly accessible, one that can be integrated into every level of an organization, product, or service so as to drive new alternatives for businesses and society.

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