Written by IEEE | May 29, 2018

Mixed reality represents the blending of the real world and the virtual world, creating immersive experiences where 3D digital images can be represented alongside physical objects. Unlike virtual reality, mixed reality provides overlays on what you’re seeing, rather than a full simulation. These overlays can be useful on a number of fronts, and can be customized to your location and interests. You’ll be able to utilize that information in a number of ways, both at work and in your free time – we’ll explore two of them here.


Assembling something like an airplane is far from a simple proposition. Mixed reality stands to help increase productivity in these detailed environments: The Institute has covered a set of glasses that use a camera to scan barcodes, allowing the installer to see the schematics and view the marking zone for a specific part.

Todd Richmond, the director of advanced prototypes at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, is eyeing an even more profound shift: “We’ve been working on a process called mixed-reality prototyping, where we’re trying to understand human-machine teaming. Specifically, we’re looking at how autonomous drones can react to human behavior.” This process would allow designers to test products in a virtual environment before building a physical prototype, and stands to transform industrial design.


Jay Iorio, a technology strategist for the IEEE Standards Association, spoke with Beyond Standards about the impact mixed reality could have on basic health: “You might be trying to eat healthy, and, when you look at restaurants on the street when wearing a device, the lights may be dim on the donut shop but bright at the salad bar down the street.”

Richmond sees a an important health application being the ability to interact with a virtual version of your doctor, which “can help to determine if you actually need to go to the emergency room” using the data from your wearable sensors.

Next Steps

In terms of a timeline, this technology might not be as far off as you might think: “We’re seeing equipment evolve month by month, and it’s getting faster, higher quality, less cumbersome and a lot cheaper. […] By the middle of the next decade, I believe we will see mixed-reality equipment being used for things we can’t even imagine today,” says Iorio.

IEEE is playing a central role in understanding the implications of mixed reality. For more information, watch “Mixed Reality—The Future of Our World” and read the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems’ “Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems.”

If you’re looking to get involved, IEEE has a number of mixed reality initiative activities lead by IEEE Future Directions and the IEEE Standards Association. You can visit IEEE at booth 401 at Augmented World Expo 2018 on May 31st and June 1st at the Santa Clara (California) Convention Center. And if you’re attending, be sure to check out IEEEs panel session featuring industry experts on May 30, 1:30 pm PT in Room K.


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