Standing for Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality, the technological innovations are very similar to one another but bare some key differences, both in terms of function and use cases. Let us look into what sets them apart.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality, is a form of technology that fully immerses the user in a digital environment. In more advanced forms of VR, the user is able to interact with the computer generated environment in which they find themselves, by moving around the three dimensional world. In many cases, users are even able to hear sounds and manipulate object in the virtual environment, by wearing hand controllers.
To experience the virtual environment, users are required to wear a VR headset, designed to deliver the interactive environment to the user. Some headsets, like the Oculus Rift, are connected to a computer, or to a gaming console (much like PlayStation’s VR, offering). Others come as standalone devices, which either work independently or require the insertion of a smart phone to deliver a virtual experience to the user. Stand alone VR devices are becoming increasingly popular for the affordability.
VR is increasingly used to deliver immersive videos for the purpose of entertainment, or marketing, while interactive VR experiences have been used for education and training.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented Reality, unlike VR, applies virtual images and objects to a real-world environment. With AR technology, computer generated images, video, objects data will be layered over existing environments, as in the globally popular smartphone game, Pokemon Go.
For further clarification, if a user would like to purchase a piece of furniture, the retailer or manufacturer could, through an AR enhanced app, allow the user to view the object (chair, bed, table etc.) and see where they might place it in their home before purchasing it. In that way, enhancing the user’s shopping experience while adding a degree of convenience.
AR is currently the most accessible form of reality technology as it allows users to run augmented reality enhanced applications from their personal devices (smartphone or tablet). Users can also experience AR through special headsets like Google Glass, which won’t immerse a user in a virtually generated environment but layer virtual objects over an actual environment.
AR technology has been used in marketing, retail, manufacturing, and navigation, with other applications for the technology still in the development stage.
Mixed Reality (MR)
Mixed Reality, or Hybrid Reality is the most recent development in the Reality Technology field. MR not only overlays a virtual object onto a real environment, but anchors the object onto the real-world environment and enables the object to interact with said environment. MR is, in a sense, an advanced form of Augmented Reality.
Another form of Mixed Reality applies a virtual environment to a real-world environment, this usually requires sensors, to enable users to interact with the virtual environment, without disturbing the actual environment or accidentally harming themselves while navigating the hybridised environments.
Holographic devices that deliver MR experiences have translucent lenses that allow users to see their real-world environment while holographically overlaying the virtual environment onto it. Examples of this can be found in Microsoft’s Hololens 2 product.
Immersive devices, on the other hand, totally block out the real world view, and employ cameras to track it while delivering a virtual experience to the user. Computer firm’s Acer and HP have Windows Mixed Reality headsets which operate in this manner.
Reality technology, which used to be stuff of science fiction, has come a long way in recent times. The technology, though largely still in its development stages, may become a big part of our lives in future. VR, AR, and MR may enhance how we interact and communicate with each other, our environment, and other technology in a, not so distant, future.