What is Mixed Reality?

You are seeing the terms Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) all over the place lately.  With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift, Google’s backing of Magic Leap, and Microsoft’s announcement of HoloLens, the world of VR and AR is quickly becoming a real part of our everyday lives.

In both VR and AR, the user wears a device on their face, or holds up a mobile device, like a phone or tablet.  The biggest difference between the two is that VR replaces the user's entire real view with a virtual view, while AR augments the user's real view.  In VR, this means the user can no longer see or interact with the real world around them.  The user’s view is replaced with a real-time rendered world, game, or virtual movie.

With AR, the user either wears a smaller visor-like device, or holds up a mobile device, that does not obscure their vision.  The user can still see and interact with the real world around them.  The device projects virtual objects onto the user’s field of view.  Some devices like smart glasses overlay information and images, such as maps or contact information, locked onto a specific point in the user’s view.  For example if the map was in the upper right of the user’s field of view and the user turns their head to the left the information remains in the upper right of the user’s view, as if the information is attached to the inside of the visor.

Recently, technology products were announced that enable a specific category of AR called Mixed Reality (MR).  You’re thinking, “Why do we need yet another two letter reality acronym?!”  Mixed Reality is special and you’ll see below why it really needs to be differentiated from other forms of AR.  Unlike informational AR such as smart glasses, MR devices have the processing power to track the user’s head and eye movements, render realistic looking 3D objects, and place them in the user’s real-world view.  This tracking and rendering happens in real-time, so there is no lag between when the user moves their head and when the objects are re-rendered and repositioned in space.  This means if a velociraptor is standing on the user’s coffee table and the user turns their head to the left, the raptor stays with the coffee table instead of staying in the same spot in the user’s view.  This enables the powerful illusion that the alien is actually located in the user’s real-world rather than just projected on a visor. 

Mixed Reality is hugely different than the rest of AR and it opens an entire world (infinite worlds actually) of possibilities for enhancing how users play games, interact with computers and data, and communicate.  With HEXXU it also changes the way users experience entertainment like movies, television, sports events, concerts, and social media.

That last part is where HEXXU comes in.  We refer to HEXXU as Mixed Reality Studios.  It is a new type of hybrid studio that merges the cinematic quality of feature films and visual effects (i.e. Movie Magic) with the cutting edge technology of high-end game development.  Both realms (movie technology and game technology) are required to create the believable and compelling experiences necessary to help drive mass adoption of Mixed Reality devices.  HEXXU challenges technological boundaries to create original content and experiences for Mixed Reality hardware.  At our core we are a team of experienced and passionate technologists and creative artists... think early days of Pixar but for a new Mixed Reality world.

The term Mixed Reality has been around for a couple of decades, but we are just now reaching the point where technology can deliver on the promises of this experience.  Combined with compelling content like our Raptor Hunter experience this is rapidly becoming an exciting time for the world of entertainment and fans of movies and television everywhere.