Lately I have been noticing an emerging debate on the definitions and differences between VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). These emerging technologies are taking the world by storm and amidst the sudden boom, a lot of consumers, and even industry professionals are still puzzled by the definitions and differences between these forms of ‘reality’.
After going on a quest to find the answers in ‘Layman’s terms’, here are my conclusions:
What is Virtual Reality?
VR consists of interactive immersive environments where you can move around spaces and interact with digital objects.
By wearing a virtual reality headset, people are ‘virtually’ transported to three-dimensional worlds where they can interact with digital objects and spaces often using controllers. You can also watch 360 videos while inside VR. 360 videos allow you to sit and watch as the world around you changes and you become immersed within the film. In virtual reality you get the feeling of teleportation without the time machine.
What is Augmented Reality?
AR is achieved by combining computer generated objects with the user’s view of the real world through a phone or tablet.
Imagine you’re sitting at a bus stop and you see a poster advertising your favorite singer. You scan the poster with your mobile’s camera, and suddenly, the artist is performing one of your favorite songs right next to you at the bus stop. Augmented reality gives viewers the illusion of seeing holograms overlaid on real environments by looking ‘through’ their screens.
(There is also an inverted version, Augmented Virtuality, where seemingly real world objects are inserted into virtual reality)
What is Mixed Reality?
MR is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
Take ‘Pokemon Go’ for example. Virtual characters are mixed into a live video stream of the real world using the user’s mobile camera and the user can interact with those characters in real time.
Mixed reality covers the entire spectrum of possible combinations between real and virtual objects in real time. Whether placing digital objects in the real world, or placing real objects in virtual worlds, it all falls under mixed reality.
Virtual reality places users inside the virtual world, immersing them. Augmented reality overlays virtual objects on the user’s real world, and mixed reality combines real and virtual worlds where real and digital objects can coexist and interact in real time.
It looks to me, like we have a few existential questions to address as our ‘real’ world merges with a whole new spectrum of digital worlds.
Thanks for reading!
– Skye Miller