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The competition between augmented reality and virtual reality is usually discussed by the business potential of the two technologies, yet their endgame has always been one common goal: mixed reality.

This is a conversation that’s been discussed before but has anyone ever analyzed the practical uses of AR and VR and which will benefit the end consumer the most? There are a handful of select verticals that each “reality” has its advantages but the platforms that support both will ultimately be the most advantageous. But first, a look at the numbers.

Mixed reality

According to SuperData Research, the enterprise market for virtual reality and augmented reality will grow from $16 million and $17 million in 2016 to over $1.6 billion and over $3 billion by 2020, respectively.

Yet, the dollar valuation of these industries aren’t the only predictions being made. The business models of industry leading companies are also sculpting the future of computing ﹣showing us that the bigger players are focused on creating open platforms.

Microsoft (MSFT) is betting on a full spectrum of experiences, making way for mixed reality. Not simply a buzzword, but an actuality, mixed reality will be dominated by the hardware and it’s much closer than you’d expect.

Mixed Reality experiences are already here

Microsoft has said that they will announce Windows Holographic in 2017, a version of Windows 10 made for mixed reality applications although it’s currently active on the HoloLens Development edition.

As an open platform for augmented reality but, conclusively, mixed reality; the Microsoft Hololens is setting its founding in the future of MR.

Craig Cincotta, a member of the mixed reality team at Microsoft, spoke to TheStreet about the forthcoming capabilities of Windows 10:

“Windows Holographic enables something no other platform can — shared experiences in mixed reality across a range of devices from a host of device makers through a singular shell, consistent user interface and standardized input,” Cincotta said. “We see developers creating a range of holographic applications, from gaming and entertainment to education and enterprise line of business apps.”

Cincotta also noted that the new Windows software will help developers create MR experiences that aren’t distinct to the Microsoft Hololens as well.

This model likens itself to Google’s approach to VR with daydream, although Windows 10 seems completes Microsoft’s full suite, helping to create these AR/MR experiences.

Photo Credit: Engadget

Photo Credit: Engadget

Osterhout Design Group (ODG) is another company that has recently unveiled two mixed-reality glasses at CES. Though ODG’s head mounted displays have been long in development, they are the most capable MR headset that we’ve seen, behind the Hololens.

Where MR fits in

As I’ve said earlier, AR and VR have their advantages depending on the use case. Where will mixed reality fit into the equation?

Well, more often than not, the capability to go back and forth between AR and VR brings the most value to the user in a variety of circumstances.

Mixed reality for retail will prospectively bring about many benefits to retailers and shoppers alike. Currently, virtual reality has its implications for online shopping and companies are already implementing virtual show rooms where consumers can walk through grocery store isles using an HTC Vive. VR is also allowing online shoppers to decorate empty, virtual rooms to get a feel for products when they’re not present on the location.

Yet, on the other hand augmented reality has its biggest stake in retail, allowing online shoppers to try products at home before purchasing. AR has proven much more impactful in this space at the moment but, together, mixed reality serves both purposes for shoppers in a seamless way. Shop through a virtual room then try the products you found at home in your own environment before deciding to purchase.

Mixed reality in gaming may become the biggest industry for the convergence of VR and AR. We’ve already seen the contagious effect of augmented reality with Pokémon GO and of course virtual reality’s foundation began in the video game industry. As head-mounted displays become capable of a quality MR experience, video games will thrive! Imagine playing within a fully immersive environment and quickly shifting to playing against characters in your own (destructible) environment.

Mixed reality is already in development by many of the augmented reality industry leaders. We’ll keep a close eye on its progress.

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