Differences between Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality

There are several technologies that seek to change the way we perceive our reality, whether it is about entering a virtual world, augmenting an existing one in a realistic and interactive way, or somewhere in between.

All three options involve viewing images that are not real, so the way they differ is how you interact with the virtual elements.

In the following guide you will learn all the basics about them and how they differ from each other.

Virtual Reality (VR)

All reality-altering technology changes the way we perceive the world in some way, but Virtual Reality (VR) completely changes the visual environment around us.

This is done using a kind of rather large headset or goggles that actually consists of a screen that is mounted on your head right in front of your eyes, which is powered by a computer, video game console or cell phone.

Thanks to specialized software and sensors, you can feel that this experience is almost real as it often also features a surround sound system inside the headset, allowing you to interact with what you see in a more intuitive way.

What sets VR apart from adjacent technologies is the level of immersion it promises.

When users look around them, the view of that world adjusts in the same way as it would if you were looking or moving in the real environment.

The key to making this work is presence, using the content and technology at hand to trick the brain into believing you are somewhere else.

For example, if you shudder at the sight of a virtual dinosaur or don’t want to fall off a cliff, that’s the presence at work. Historically, this is the biggest challenge that virtual reality has had.

Our brains are very clever at “sniffing out” misused presence, so if you’re riding a virtual roller coaster and your body doesn’t feel it moving your brain might think something is wrong.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality or AR (Augmented Reality) is taking the existing reality and changes aspects of it through the lens of a smartphone, special glasses or helmets. With this type of reality you will always see what is right in front of you, but with a virtual layer added on top of it..

It shares many of the features it has with VR in terms of compressing positioning in space, however, instead of being immersed in a virtual world, thanks to AR you can see the real world by overlaying virtual objects or information on top of it.

For example, if you are looking for furniture for your room you could use an AR app to see which item would look best in the specific location without having to buy it first. Likewise, digital information or data such as numbers, text notifications, web pages, graphics and even maps would be displayed on the screen.

The key term for RA is utility. A typical Augmented Reality experience would probably be far less exciting than seeing a dinosaur or riding a roller coaster, but there are people who argue that the potential market for this type of technology is much larger than that for VR.

Mixed Reality (MR)

It may be the least known of the three, but Mixed Reality (MR) is ironically the one that would have the easiest path to consumer adoption if the technology works the way it is promoted.

The best way to define it is with the word “flexibility” as it tries to combine the best aspects of the realities explained above.

In theory, RM allows the user to merge real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects can coexist and interact in real time. With this technology, users will be able to make use of virtual objects in the real environment and handle them as if they were physical objects, such as tools, board games, among others.