Designing the Future: How Mixed Reality Is Transforming Project Planning and Design

3 Jul 2024

From product design to interior design and construction, design is a fundamental part of everything we touch and everywhere we go. However, the design process is incredibly involved and requires a high level of attention to detail — even one mistake could cause the entire design to come crashing down — which is why many designers are constantly looking for innovations that will make their jobs better, more efficient, and safer.

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?

One powerful new technology seems destined to shake up the design landscape for the better: mixed reality (MR). Although people might be familiar with the concepts of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), MR takes this technology’s capabilities to a different level and will change the design process for the better.

MR is made possible through a combination of the most powerful features of VR and AR technology. Where VR provides a fully immersive digital environment, AR overlays digital content onto the real world. MR allows users to interact and engage with 3D virtual objects using natural movements and gestures due to the technology’s ability to map out the user’s actual environment. The result is that users can see and manipulate digital elements as if they were truly present in the same physical space.

Greg Sugar, President of LineZero, a strategic technology consultancy specializing in helping businesses adopt the latest technology to enhance employee experience and improve operational efficiency, has firsthand experience seeing the influence of MR and has helped several organizations adopt it.

“MR technology allows those in the design process to visualize and analyze many aspects of their designs,” Sugar explains. “This can be incredibly helpful in the pre-construction stage, as it allows designers to envision their designs before they enter construction. This technology allows you to not only see everything you’re working on but also interact with it.”

How MR will help businesses improve their design processes

While mixed reality may appear to be just another passing tech trend or a fancy toy, it actually presents a multitude of advantages for both employees and businesses. From employee engagement to enabling increased precision and safety, MR can be a transformative force in businesses’ design processes.

For example, since MR technology allows designers to visualize their design and build prototypes before building them in real life, designers’ vision can be better communicated, and any potential flaws in the design can be identified and rectified early on. MR gives users access to real-time data and visual aids, reducing the likelihood of human error in the design process. This helps with the final quality of the products being designed as well as their safety and reliability. In industries where a great deal of precision is required, MR can help ensure attention to detail from the early stages of the design process.

MR also allows businesses to improve their risk management. Although the design process may seem relatively innocuous, several hazards might not be immediately apparent.

“Some tools used in the prototyping process can be dangerous if not used properly,” says Sugar. “In mixed reality, you can complete even the most perilous parts of the design process without putting yourself at risk.”

Another benefit of using MR technology in the design process is that it enables stronger collaboration. When teams work with paper blueprints or physical models/prototypes, they have to all be in the same place to work on their designs. With MR technology, teams from anywhere in the world can see and edit digital plans and models in real-time, connecting and working together despite being in different locations. This ensures everyone has access to the most up-to-date plans and designs.

The time and cost savings involved with this alone are massive. Adopting any new technology, including mixed reality, comes with an upfront cost, and businesses would be wise to look at this as a strategic investment. While companies may have to spend money to buy new devices, they will save much more in the long run. By allowing workers to collaborate remotely more effectively, MR technology will save businesses significant sums on travel expenses — not to mention the time they will save with the convenience of these digitized processes.

In the later stages of the design process, the immersive qualities of MR give designers more freedom in testing.

“MR technology is an incredible tool for designers for processes like A/B testing,” Sugar asserts. “Best yet, the digital nature of the visualization means that designers can test new changes with minimal risk. It isn’t like physical prototyping, where making a change requires an investment in materials and could cause destruction if it backfires. Designers can have more freedom when using mixed reality technology.”

Embrace the new MR paradigm

Because of all of these benefits, many businesses have seen substantial positive impacts on their bottom line.

“One report shows that organizations that adopted mixed reality technology saw a 4% annual increase in revenue, while another shows that more than 3 in 5 reported an ROI of 30% or more when using the technology for design and prototyping purposes,” Sugar explains. “These statistics make it clear that MR has a transformative potential within the business world.”

With this in mind, companies that hope to reap the power of MR should embrace this new paradigm now while they have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve.

“Now is the time to adopt MR technology,” concludes Sugar. “It will have a transformative impact on your company and its success.”