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Extended Reality vs. Mixed Reality

The terms extended reality (XR), and mixed reality (MR) is used interchangeably as technologies, which are considered one and the same by many people. Although similar, each defines something different. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between the two so that people can understand the function and use of each. Additionally, this will further clarify what role each technology plays or seeks to play.

Extended Reality

The term extended reality is a tool that combines virtual and real environments, which are developed and processed using wearable headsets and computer graphics. By default, XR is an umbrella name for a group of different types of realities, which include mixed reality, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Therefore, when an individual mentions the term extended reality, it could mean any of the three different technologies. The term X used in XR can stand for all the three variants of extended reality. The term extended reality is generally a new term. XR is versatile enough to give users a wide range and forms of different stages of virtual and real environments through the use of specialized sensors. XR functions by leveraging all the five human senses to give users access to a hybrid reality. XR is implemented with the help of a headset and other types of sensors to maximize the human experience.

Mixed Reality

Mixed reality (MR) is a type of technology that falls under the umbrella of extended reality. In essence, MR looks to break boundaries that exist between the virtual and real environment by applying the principle of occlusion. The term occlusion refers to the ability of a virtually-created object to visually obscure real objects that exists within the real environment, as seen by the user. For example, when MR is used, a solid box can be placed within any physical environment, and the box can physically obstruct real objects and even humans from the view of the user. Therefore, occlusion makes it possible for a virtual object to be used and seamlessly integrated into the physical world with the help of MR. Moreover, this unique occlusion ability of MR to bring the virtual and real world together is what makes it different from all other types of tools that combine the two worlds. At the moment, there are a handful of companies that are actively involved in developing MR. The basic concept of all types of MR devices is to map out any given location within the physical world and also have the capability to create and place virtual objects within the scanned location successfully. MR can be easily implemented through the use of cameras of smart mobile devices. Several types of MR apps are available within the App Store and Google Play.

Uses of Extended Reality

Being an umbrella of several similar technologies, extended reality can be used for a wide range of applications, which exceeds that of mixed reality. In brief, the extended reality is mainly used in five industries, which are:

  • Entertainment
  • Work Environment
  • Healthcare
  • Marketing
  • Real Estate

Within the entertainment industry, a mixture of all three extended reality sub-technologies is used to keep users entertained. The use of extended reality has been mostly adopted within cinemas and other similar entertainment centers. Therefore, users are exposed to 4 and 5-dimensional experiences that encompass them.

Many corporate businesses have included extended reality within their work environments. Doing this has significantly improved productivity by keeping workers engaged.

The healthcare sector has also embraced the use of extended reality technologies to make diagnoses of medical conditions easier. Also, it helps bring in experts from different fields from across the world to work on difficult medical prognoses.

The marketing industry is one sector that has fully embraced extended reality as a means of delivering targeted marketing content to people from different parts of the world. A simple example of extended reality in marketing can be seen during the broadcast of live sporting games to spectators. The advertisement boards that usually displace ads to audiences provide different ads for different regions of the world.

Likewise, the real estate industry is also making use of extended reality. Real estate agents are now trained to use technology that provides potential buyers of real estate a tour of properties using extended reality.

Uses of Mixed Reality

Being a sub-set of extended reality, mixed reality is also used within most industries. However, its use is limited in scope, unlike extended reality. As a result, mixed reality is mostly used where a mixture of real-life and virtual reality is needed.


Extended reality and mixed reality are two types of tools that are frequently interchanged. However, these terms totally mean two different things. Extended reality combined augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality. Mixed reality, on the other hand, defines a technology that combines the real and the virtual world through the principle of occlusion.

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