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Mixed reality (MR), from location- and context-aware systems through immersive augmented reality applications, has been studied in research labs for more than two decades. With the advent of the modern smartphone, and the rapid adoption of wireless broadband technologies, this research is moving out of the lab and into the real world. Beyond just providing a platform for MR to reach a broad range of users, the capabilities and limitations of the smartphone provide a set of constraints on what kinds of applications can and cannot be delivered to consumers that have fundamentally changed how researchers think about MR. We examine previous definitions of MR, and reimagine the term as a class of experiences occurring in an ecosystem consisting of the smartphone, the cloud, and the user. Using a selection of current MR applications as a lens, we identify three key areas of continuing evolution and suggest how the development of a next-generation MR environment can help us channel the future growth of MR in research, industrial, and consumer communities.
Date of Publication: April 2012