Cross Reality Confusion? Extended, Mixed, & Cross: How to Differentiate

Everyone has the desire to escape into a different world. Many attempt this in their daily lives with various forms of entertainment: television, movies, games, etc. As time and technology advance, our ability to escape the real world grows increasingly.

This blurring of the line between reality and virtual space is known as cross reality. Previously we discussed extended reality and the differences between AR VR and MR. In today’s blog, we will discuss cross reality and its differentiation from extended reality. Keep in mind, however, these terms are part of expanding technology. Therefore, each term is subject to interpretation and redefining beyond its original intended meanings.

Cross Reality vs Extended Reality

Some consider these terms to be interchangeable. They even have the same acronym (XR). Where X is a variable that can be substituted to include all current and future forms of reality. But they do vary slightly in their contextual meanings.

Extended reality is an umbrella term that refers to the spectrum of the extrema of the virtual continuum. All real and virtual combined environments are included. These environments are Augmented Reality, Augmented Virtuality, Virtual Reality, Cross Reality, and Mixed Reality. Reality itself, however, is not included in Extended Reality.

Mixed Reality

MR also often replaces extended or crossed reality when one or the other would adequately represent the subject matter. It is different from extended and cross reality in that MR simply refers to the spectrum between the extrema of the virtual continuum. This means it does not include the real or virtual world.

MR is the merging or mixing, as the name implies, of the real and virtual world to produce new environments. In application, MR is a subset of AR. MR can blend interactive three-dimensional content with the real environment or add real objects to a virtual environment like Augmented Virtuality.

Using Mixed reality to explain cross reality

Cross Reality

Cross reality can mean something similar, but it also refers to the combination of these technologies in unison. As well as the interaction between the real and virtual world.

To clarify, Cross Reality will allow the user to manipulate assets within the virtual world to affect something in the real world rather than the two forms of reality being completely separate.

For example, in the virtual world, there could be a button that, when pressed, triggers something in the real world. In essence, cross reality is the interaction between, and a combination of, extended realities. It is the crossing and overlapping of realities.


Currently, we have virtual reality to completely immerse ourselves in other worlds. However, the total immersion is actually what makes VR less immersive. Nothing takes the user out of the feeling of being in another world like bumping into an unseen wall or tripping over an unregistered table.

The virtual environment must alter the world rather than completely replace it to feel immersed. Augmented reality alters the world around you, but it does so in a less immersive way. AR adds overlaid sensory onto the real world to provide information or visuals needed while maintaining real-world immersion.

Now, imagine having the ability to instantly manipulate the world around you into whatever you want without the limitations of space or unseen objects. This is exactly what cross reality can achieve. Cross reality uses AR and MR spatial sensors to create spatial awareness. This spatial awareness allows the program to update the visualization of space and input prefabricated models in place.

For instance, if you are standing in a room with a table, you can use cross reality to completely change the room around you to a different color or style. The program will change the environment in real-time while also adding a prefab in exchange for the table to ensure the user knows something is there that will block movement.

Cross reality can also use occlusion to allow virtual assets to understand and be obscured by real-world objects. For example, a virtual character could exist in a real room with a bed and a chair and be able to sleep in the bed or sit in the chair. These uses are the combination of AR, VR, and MR to compose cross reality.

Cross Reality and the Military

Cross reality has the potential for increased production in almost every industry including the military. Soon the military will use cross reality in a common operating picture to create a unified communication network. This will allow full control over the communications infrastructure giving decision-makers the ability to filter and disseminate all information across all echelons and joint operational units.

With the common operating picture, every Warfighter will have a specific picture to view depending on their preferences, surroundings, and mission. This picture will display information such as orders, the location of friendly forces, the enemy’s expected path, mapping, blueprints, etc. Having this information properly and efficiently communicated with the common operating picture will help ensure mission success and Warfighter safety.

In common use, cross reality, extended reality, and mixed reality are often used interchangeably and profusely debated. However, there are subtle, yet notable, differences.

As the application of XR technology expands into almost every industry, it is important these definitions are made definitive. This would allow industry experts and civilians alike to understand the differences between them and use them accurately to properly communicate the intended purpose of new technologies.



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