The term “Mixed Reality” is thrown around quite a bit. As of late, we’re hearing about it fairly often, but what exactly is it? How is it different from Augmented Reality or even Virtual Reality? Most consumers are familiar with those latter two technologies, but Mixed Reality is sort of a new discussion.

Today, we’re clearing up the confusion surrounding Microsoft’s ambitious Mixed Reality technology.

What’s Mixed Reality all about?

Mixed Reality is a technology being developed by Microsoft that works to combine AR and VR tech, but not in the way that you might think. It’s different from VR in that it’s not shutting the real world out and putting you in an environment for a seamless gaming experience — they’re leaving that up to Oculus and Facebook with the Rift and HTC with the Vive. Instead, it’s taking some elements of VR and AR, allowing you to interact with, say, Windows 10 and its apps in a digital environment.

What’s it for?

CNBC’s Todd Haselton described his experience with Mixed Reality as teleporting to an apartment in the sky where he could interact with the thousands of apps in the Windows Store, write an article in Microsoft Word or watch some video content on this video player monitor on the wall.

What would the point of all this be? As Haselton himself says, Microsoft firmly believes that Mixed Reality is the future of operating systems — a world where people are putting on headsets that take them to another world to complete their work or enjoy entertainment. Supposedly, it’ll save consumers and workers money, but might also bring workers out of the cubicle and into another world where they might feels more productive and lively.

There’s not entirely a clear goal yet, and that might be because the technology is still a long way out, despite coming to consumers soon. Picture it as an early rendition of Mixed Reality. There’s certainly some ways how Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headset could be useful, such as being able to stare at a generic body and get a visual explanation on how a virus is attacking a specific organ.

Another example: holoportation. With it, you could sit down in a virtual space with a colleague and friend a few countries away and have a conversation with each other as if you were in the same room.

The biggest hurdle right now is the lack of applications for it. If you remember how slow VR started out, that’s essentially going to be the same process for Mixed Reality. Microsoft has Development Kits available, so over the next year or two, we should start seeing some well-fleshed out applications that’ll be extremely helpful in a variety of different industries.

Is it going to catch on?

Now, whether Mixed Reality is going to catch on or not is the big question. There’s many that believe that more affordable Mixed Reality headsets will be the key to widespread consumer adoption. Starting this year, they’ll be a whole lot more affordable. Microsoft and its partners are putting out Mixed Reality headsets starting at $299. They are intended for developers at this point, but consumers who want an early look at Mixed Reality are welcome to grab one as well. The company firmly believes it’ll catch on — the benefits to a technology like this are vast. However, Microsoft might be up against more than just affordability.

There’s a lot of people out there that have technophobia. In fact, there’s numerous reports out that Americans actually fear technology more than they do death — and that’s just one of the many reasons why Microsoft might have trouble getting Mixed Reality to catch on. Not only that, but many journalists have dubbed Mixed Reality as “a lonely experience.” Reports like that certainly aren’t helping Mixed Reality catch on — it makes things difficult. But, I would agree with Microsoft in that it is the future — there’s a lot of benefits, it’s lightweight, and later on after a few iterations, it might even save consumers money, removing the need for something like a home computer or laptop.

Closing

Mixed Reality is an impressive technology — no one would disagree with that. All the knowledge and resources it takes to pull something like that together is nothing short of amazing. Now, it might be coming to consumers this year, but it’s still a long way out. What you’re going to see this year is basically an early look at Mixed Reality — there’s still going to be a whole lot of improvements and renditions that has to happen. And again, a big thing is going to be waiting on quality and secure content for Mixed Reality.

Microsoft’s Mixed Reality will most definitely catch on, but it’s going to be at least another decade before we start seeing widespread adoption — in the home and in business.