Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they have their differences.
AR, VR, MR
MR, or mixed reality, is a combination of both AR and VR. It superimposes digital information over the real world in a way that allows you to interact with it as if it were actually there. You can move around and see the same things from different angles and perspectives, just like you would in real life.
So what are AR and VR? AR stands for “augmented reality” and uses your device’s camera to recognize what’s around you so that it can add digital objects on top of your surroundings. This technology was used at one time by Pokémon Go players who wanted to find Pikachu hiding among potted plants or under park benches.
VR stands for virtual reality and immerses users into an entirely new environment where they don’t see anything from their actual surroundings—they’re fully immersed in another world created by computer graphics (CG) technology using headsets like Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
AR vs. VR
VR uses a headset that can block out the real world and be used to interact with a digital environment. In this way, it is immersive but still very much in the realm of imagination, as we are not interacting with an altered version of our world.
The experience created by an AR device is fundamentally different because it doesn’t try to block out the real world but instead uses digital images placed over real objects through an interface such as your phone camera or glasses lens. This allows users to see both their physical surroundings and virtual content at the same time—and interact with them together in some way (for instance, pointing at something using your finger for additional information).
VR vs. MR
In the past, MR was used as a catch-all term to describe AR and VR. However, as immersive technologies become more advanced, it has become necessary to distinguish between the two.
In reality, there are significant differences between VR and MR. While both involve virtual environments and allow users to interact with objects in space, AR is “augmented” by reality, while VR is entirely digital.
AR vs. MR
Now, let’s get into Mixed reality vs Augmented reality. AR and MR are similar in terms of the way they present visuals, but MR is more immersive. It can be used to create a mixed-reality environment where virtual objects appear in real life as if they were actually there. While AR projects digital content into the real world, such as through your smartphone’s camera app or Google Glass — which allows users to view what their glasses see — MR displays virtual content along with real-world elements for an even fuller experience. As per the experts at Adobe Substance 3D, “When you play games made for these devices, characters can walk around the physical world you’re in and even help themselves to a seat on your couch.”
AR, VR and MR are more than just buzzwords in our current tech landscape. They are the future of how we will interact with technology, and they each have their place in this future. But as with any new technology, there is still much to learn about them and how they can be used for our benefit.