Differentiating VR, AR and MR

“Virtual Reality” (VR), “Augmented Reality” (AR) and “Mixed Reality” (MR) are terms that have been used interchangeably in recent times. While these three disciplines are closely related it is important to distinguish them from one another as such technologies are being rolled out and marketed to the general public.

The key differentiation is a matter of user location and physical perspective.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Typically virtual reality environments are accessed through a VR headset (also referred to as head-mounted display or HMD), projector or external display. Users enter a world that is separate from their physical environment. A well known product that uses this approach is Second Life, an online virtual world in which “residents” create virtual representations of themselves, called avatars and are able to interact with other avatars, places or objects.

Augmented Reality (AR)

In contrast, augmented reality utilizes the user’s physical environment, supplementing it with sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data among other things. The Pokemon Go game is without a doubt the most famous and successful application of AR in recent times. Players use their mobile device’s geolocation capability to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures which appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.

Mixed Reality (MR)

There is a relatively new school of thought called mixed reality (MR). MR merges real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. That rational is the main distinction between and MR and AR (in which the supplement input is merely an overlay of content on the real world). The Microsoft HoloLens headset is a good example of MR application with much potential in the education, research and gaming industries.

The distinction among VR, AR and MR are bound to change in the next years and decades but it is important to be able to distinguish how they differ from each other. Brace yourself for exponential growth in all three fields: they will change the way we play; pursue education; interact with family, friends, coworkers; work and much more.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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