Tag Archives: mixed reality


On Saturday, October 29th, Dennis Vroegop and I will be running a Mixed Reality Workshop as part of the DEVintersection conference in Las Vegas. Dennis is both a promoter and trainer in Mixed Reality and has made frequent appearances on European TV talking about this emerging technology as well as consulting on and leading several high-profile mixed reality projects. I’ve worked as a developer on several commercial mixed reality experiences while also studying and writing about the various implications and scenarios for using mixed reality in entertainment and productivity apps.

Our workshop will cover the fundamentals of building for mixed reality through the first half of the day. Through the rest of the day, we will work with you to build your own mixed reality application of your choice—so come with ideas of what you’d like to make. And if you aren’t sure what you want to create in mixed reality, we’ll help you with that, too.

Here’s an outline of what we plan to cover in the workshop:

  1. Hardware: an overview of the leading mixed reality devices and how they work.
  2. Tools: an introduction to the toolchain used for mixed reality development emphasizing Unity and Visual Studio.
  3. Hello Unity: hands-on development of an MR app using gestures and voice commands.
  4. SDK: we’ll go over the libraries used in MR development, what they provide and how to use them.
  5. Raycasting – covering some things you never have to worry about in 2D programming.
  6. Spatial Mapping and Spatial Understanding – how MR devices recognize the world around them.
  7. World Anchors – fixing virtual objects in the real world.

Break for lunch

    8.  Dennis and I will help you realize your mixed reality project. At the end of the workshop, we’ll do a show and tell to share what you’ve built and go over next steps if you want to publish your work.

We are extremely excited to be doing this workshop at DEVintersection. Mixed Reality is forecasted to be a multi-billion dollar industry by 2020. This is your opportunity to get in at the ground floor with some real hands-on experience.

(Be sure to use the promo code ASHLEY for a discount on your registration.)

Virtual Names for Augmented Reality (Or Why “Mixed-Reality” is a Bad Moniker)


It’s taken about a year but now everyone who’s interested can easily distinguish between augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality experiences like the one provided by HoloLens combine digital and actual content. Virtual reality experiences like that provided by Oculus Rift are purely digital experiences. Both have commonalities such as stereoscopy, head tracking and object positioning to create the illusion that the digital objects introduced into a user’s field of view have a physical presence and can be walked around.

Sticklers may point out that there is a third kind of experience called a head-up display in which informatics are displayed at the top corner of a user’s field of view to provide digital content and text. Because head-up display devices like the now passe Google Glass do not overlay digital content on top of real world content, but instead displays them more or less side-by-side, it is not considered augmented reality.

Even with augmented reality, however, a distinction can be drawn between informational content and digital content made up of 3D models. The informational type of augmented reality, as in the picture of my dog Marcie above, is often called the Terminator view, after the first-person (first-cyborg?) camera perspective used as a story telling device in the eponymous movie. The other type of augmented reality content has variously been described inaccurately as holography by marketers or, more recently, mixed reality.

The distinction is being drawn largely to distinguish what might be called hard AR from the more typical 2D overlays on smart phones that help you find a pizza restaurant. Mixed reality is a term intended to emphasize the point that not all AR is created equal.

Abandoning the term “augmented reality” in favor of “mixed reality” to describe HoloLens and Magic Leap, however, seems a bit drastic and recalls Gresham’s Law, the observation that bad money drives out good money. When the principle is generalized, as Albert Jay Knock did in his brilliant autobiography Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, it simply means that counterfeit and derivative concepts will drive out the authentic ones.

This is what appears to be happening here. Before the advent of the iPhone, researchers were already working on augmented reality. The augmented reality experiences they were building, in turn, were not Terminator vision style. Early AR projects like KARMA from 1992 were like the type of experiences that are now being made possible in Redmond and Hollywood, Florida. Terminator vision apps only came later with the mass distribution of smart phones and the fact that flat AR experiences are the only type of AR those devices can support.

I prefer the term augmented reality because it contains within itself a longer perspective on these technologies. Ultimately, the combination of digital and real content is intended to uplift us and enhance our lives. If done right, it has the ability to re-enchant everyday life. Compared to those aspirations, the term “mixed reality” seems overly prosaic and fatally underwhelming.

I will personally continue to use the moniker “mixed reality” as a generic term when I want to talk about both virtual reality and augmented reality as a single concept. Unless the marketing juggernaut overtakes me, however, I will give preference to the more precise and aspirational term “augmented reality” when talking about HoloLens, Magic Leap and cool projects like RoomAlive.