What is a Mixed Reality Viewer

Mixed Reality Viewers allow users to explore the intriguing world of mixed reality, which combines physical and digital elements to create an immersive experience.

These applications provide an interactive platform for 3D computer graphics, augmented reality features, and enable seamless interaction between users and their surroundings.

An essential tool in the fast-growing field of mixed reality, Mixed Reality Viewers support various file formats, such as .fbx, .3mf, .obj, and .stl, making it easier for users to engage with a diverse range of 3D content.

Examples include the former “Microsoft Mixed Reality Viewer”, which has evolved into the current “3D Viewer” included with Windows 10.

These applications highlight the latest advancements in human-computer interaction and offer a new frontier in the way we perceive our environment.

With technology continually evolving and providing more immersive experiences, users can enjoy various applications and games specifically designed for mixed reality environments.

From educational use to entertainment purposes, mixed reality viewers play a significant role in shaping the way we interact with both digital and physical worlds. Now is the perfect opportunity to explore the endless possibilities that mixed reality has to offer.

Understanding Mixed Reality

Mixed reality (MR) can be described as a computing platform that combines aspects of both virtual and augmented reality to create an immersive experience. This technology blends the physical and the digital worlds, allowing real-world objects and digital elements to interact seamlessly.

Relation to Virtual and Augmented Reality

While virtual reality (VR) completely immerses users in a computer-generated environment, and augmented reality (AR) overlays digital information onto real-world surroundings, mixed reality acts as a bridge between the two.

MR incorporates elements of both VR and AR, overlaying digital elements onto real-world objects within a virtually rendered environment.

Compared to AR and VR, mixed reality provides more natural interaction between the physical and the digital realms, enabling users to have a more intuitive and immersive experience.

Key Concepts

Spectrum: Mixed reality represents a spectrum, merging the physical and digital realms to create a continuous range of experiences. This spectrum extends from predominantly physical experiences with minimal digital enhancement, such as AR, to predominantly digital experiences, like VR.

Environmental input: One of the critical aspects of mixed reality is understanding and interpreting the user’s environment. By gathering real-world information, MR systems can create a more authentic interaction between the digital and physical worlds.

Perceptual changes: Mixed reality has the potential to alter our perception of the environment as it blends the digital and the real. This blending can lead to new ways of visualising and interacting with digital information in a more intuitive manner.

Design challenges: Developing mixed reality applications and experiences comes with numerous design challenges. These include ensuring a seamless integration of digital elements in the real world, providing interactions that feel natural to the user, and ensuring the technology is accessible and efficient.

Devices: Mixed reality experiences are commonly powered by devices like headsets and smart glasses, which combine the digital and physical worlds. These devices often employ motion tracking and spatial recognition technologies to provide users with an interactive, immersive experience.

Mixed reality holds the potential to revolutionise the way we interact with technology by providing more natural and intuitive experiences.

By understanding these key concepts and the relationship between mixed reality, virtual reality and augmented reality, we can appreciate the scope and potential of this emerging technology.

Mixed Reality Viewer Types

Hardware Based Viewers

Hardware based Mixed Reality viewers utilise physical devices, such as headsets and controllers, to create an immersive experience for the user. These devices combine the real world with digital elements, allowing users to interact with both simultaneously.

One example of a hardware-based viewer is the Microsoft HoloLens, a pair of glasses that overlays holograms onto the user’s environment.

Headsets typically come with built-in sensors that track movement, allowing the system to update the user’s view accordingly.

They may also include cameras for capturing real-world objects or room-scale tracking experiences. Controllers, on the other hand, provide users with intuitive ways to interact with the digital objects in their environment.

Software Based Viewers

Software-based Mixed Reality viewers, on the other hand, are applications that leverage existing devices such as smartphones, tablets, or computers to create mixed reality experiences.

These applications utilise the device’s camera, processing capabilities, and sensors to provide users with a mixture of real and digital content.

A popular example of a software-based viewer is the Microsoft 3D Viewer, previously known as Mixed Reality Viewer. This app offers users the ability to view and interact with 3D models within their environment by utilising their device’s camera.

Some key features of software-based viewers include:

  • Support for various file formats, such as .fbx, .3mf, .obj, and .stl
  • Integration with online catalogues or libraries, allowing users to access a wide range of 3D models
  • Customisation options, enabling users to modify or create their own models

In summary, hardware and software-based Mixed Reality viewers each offer unique features and experiences for users looking to explore the world of mixed reality.

Whether using a headset or a mobile application, these viewers serve as an engaging and interactive way to combine the real and digital worlds.

Applications and Use Cases


Mixed Reality (MR) offers numerous opportunities for enhancing learning experiences in educational settings.

By combining physical and digital environments, students can engage with interactive content in a more immersive way, promoting greater understanding of complex subjects. For example, MR can be used to create simulated environments for students to explore, such as historical sites or natural wonders, without leaving the classroom.

Medical Field

In the medical field, MR is being used for training and education purposes. One notable application is over-the-shoulder surgeries, where surgical students can be taught remotely by experts as they perform surgeries in real-time.

This approach enables hands-on, interactive learning for aspiring medical professionals. Additionally, MR can be utilised to create detailed, three-dimensional visualisations of patients’ anatomy, facilitating better understanding of complex medical conditions and treatments.

Gaming and Entertainment

Perhaps the most widely recognised use of Mixed Reality is in the realm of gaming and entertainment. MR enables game developers to create immersive, interactive experiences that blend digital and physical elements, resulting in a deeply engaging and dynamic gaming experience.

This technology also opens up possibilities for creative storytelling and entertainment, as it allows users to interact with characters and objects in new and exciting ways.

Other Industries

Mixed Reality is also being explored in various industries such as architecture, manufacturing, tourism and retail. Architects can use MR to generate realistic 3D visualisations of building designs, allowing clients to experience a building before it is built.

In manufacturing, MR can be used to analyse and optimise assembly line processes, while in tourism and retail, applications can enable virtual tours or interactive product displays.

Challenges and Limitations

Mixed Reality (MR) technology has great potential in various fields, but it also comes with its share of challenges and limitations. In this section, we will discuss some of these challenges, specifically focusing on technical hurdles, as well as safety and privacy concerns.

Technical Hurdles

One of the primary challenges in MR technology is the complexity of developing applications. Developing an MR application involves dealing with maximum user interaction in the real world compared to other similar technologies.

Moreover, there are still limitations in terms of:

  • Processing power: MR applications require high graphical processing capabilities, which may be a constraint for some devices.
  • Display technologies: Achieving a seamless integration between virtual and real-world objects can be difficult, given the current display technologies available.
  • Tracking and recognition: Accurate real-time tracking and recognizing objects or gestures are essential for a seamless experience but are yet to be perfected.

Safety and Privacy Concerns

The immersive nature of MR technology raises several safety and privacy concerns:

  • Physical safety: As users might be fully engaged in the MR environment, accidents could occur due to a lack of awareness of the real-world surroundings.
  • Cybersecurity: Since MR applications often involve a lot of data exchange, they are susceptible to hacking, putting users’ data at risk.
  • Privacy intrusion: The use of cameras and other sensors to track users’ movements and gestures may lead to privacy issues, especially if the data captured is stored or shared without proper consent.

In conclusion, while Mixed Reality promises great potential for various industries and applications, overcoming these technical and safety-related challenges is essential for unlocking its full potential.

Picture of Phil


I’m the resident head of comms and partnerships here at Draw & Code. I work on strategy, sales, marketing and other vital areas at a studio that was founded on a dream and has spent the intervening decade trying to make that dream come true. I believe that immersive and interactive technologies are impacting on our lives and being in the epicentre of this industry makes every day a thrill.

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