This year has been touted as the year of mixed reality. The revolution of the physical-meets-digital fusion that exploded with Pokémon Go has now been expanded by tech giants and global brands alike –  from fashion brands, to music artists and even fine art auction houses. With fresh rumours arising around the development of Apple’s own VR headset, there is plenty of speculation about where this technology could go next and how we will be using it.

But before we get too excited and in order to understand the future of mixed reality, we need to look at what is underpinning it.

Context is king

The key to the success of many of the existing AR campaigns is that they make location a focus, and whilst that remains one of the most exciting pieces of this mixed reality puzzle, what will really build a rich AR universe is our ability as brands and businesses to understand all of the contexts within which an audience is experiencing content.

Factors like, is it raining? What is the time of day? What’s the traffic like? Did you go to the gym this morning? What is the price of Bitcoin? – all of these small pieces of contextual information will be used to build a true mixed reality.

Smart city sensors and data, satellite and personal, permission-based data (for example, health, nutrition or heart rate) and location will be used to create hyper-personalised mixed reality experiences for consumers. This is the future of experience marketing and this level of contextual understanding offers an unprecedented opportunity for marketers, enabling greater precision and relevance than ever before.

A 5G future

In order to unlock this next phase we need a reliable, high-speed, 24/7 data connection. This is why all eyes are looking forward to the development and roll-out of 5G, which promises ultra-reliable, seamless connectivity, with greater speeds and reduced latency.

It is not simply the speed of 5G that will be transformational. The number of connections that it will enable will fundamentally change the infrastructure of how we communicate and how we live our lives. 5G is going to move us far beyond the gimmicks or the games we’ve expected from AR so far and into a world where it blends seamlessly with our day-to-day lives.

With 5G, everything will be connected: from our cities to our bodies and this will allow hyper-personalised digital experiences to be delivered to to us, on our devices and real-world wearables.

Bringing mixed reality to life

How we experience this future is up for debate. Today, we already have the necessary hardware in our smartphones to deliver AR experiences, and it is developing quickly, so it’s likely this is where most of our mixed reality experiences will take place in the near future.

With the rumours around the launch of Apple’s smart glasses and the resurrected Google Glass project, wearables will inevitably become part of this puzzle. However, we believe that in the future, we won’t see any uniformity in hardware – with content having to work across smartphones, wearables and other devices.

This content will be flexible, switching between AR, VR and more traditional content pieces including video, audio, written word and smart vouchering to offer a truly mixed reality.

So, what next?

We are hurtling towards this mixed reality future at pace. 5G is already rolling out in test beds across the UK and platforms like Apple’s ARKit are democratising the development of AR apps. Retailers are already seeing how platforms like ours have the potential to drive thousands of shoppers into physical locations at an international level, revitalising and innovating traditional models.

So those who think that mixed reality marketing is a novelty or a fad are missing the point.

Once a vision that belonged in sci-fi movies and on the stages of technology conferences, will soon be embedded in our lives. Brands will need to develop usable, accessible mixed-reality technology to develop meaningful relationships and engagement.

It will be the status quo and only those who understand this shift, who are not only technically ready but creatively prepared to operate in this hyper-connected and data-sensitive world, will be in a position to benefit from this shift from the off.