Your guide to VR, AR and MR

February 21, 2018

With a lot of new technology being launched every year it can be hard to stay on top of all of it. Virtual reality (VR), Augmented reality (AR) and Mixed reality (MR) been the most prevalent of the new devices and applications. Here’s your guide to what each technology is and what it can do.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Brought into the mainstream by companies like Oculus, HTC and Samsung, virtual reality involves the user being completely immersed, with the use of a headset and sophisticated control mechanisms, into a new digital reality.

Once in the virtual reality, the user is granted degrees of freedom. This means that they can move along and interact with their new reality on the x, y and z axes.

These headsets can take many forms. Headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive use a computer and occasionally other peripherals to simulate the new reality with great accuracy. The Samsung Gear allows Samsung VR-enabled phone users to enjoy high fidelity virtual reality experiences.

In the coming years we’ll start to see new standalone headsets that perform all the processing and tracking on board. This will help make virtual reality more readily accessible to everyone in the future.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality does not create a replacement of our own reality. Instead, AR applications and devices provide a digital overlay to provide new functionality.

What these apps can do is incredibly varied. We can view digital 3D models in real space with an AR enabled device, we can play games using aspects of our reality with geocaching and other techniques just to name a few of the ways we can use AR.

Augmented reality is already accessible to a lot of people as most people nowadays have a smart phone with AR capabilities, with ARKit by Apply and ARCore by Google, and they might not even know it. Although there are also dedicated AR headsets such as the Microsoft Hololens, Google Glass and the upcoming Vaunt by Intel , these would present the augmented reality with a literal heads up display (HUD), just think of Halo and you’re pretty much there.

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed Reality is where the lines between realities get blurred, literally. MR is the idea that the digital overlay on our reality would interact with the corporeal environment. It is a convergence of both VR and AR technologies.

As of now VR and AR still tend to be discrete entities without having the degree of interaction with our physical environment that would allow them to count as mixed reality.

So the term is usually used as a catch-all for augmented and virtual reality technologies. Eventually technology will catch up to the terminology and we’ll have truly mixed reality.

In short, virtual reality involves immersion in an entirely different reality using headsets and other peripherals, augmented reality is a digital overlay that improves our current environment and mixed reality is the idea of that digital overlay interacting with our environment and vice versa.

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