A Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

A Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality
A Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

Today’s technology is revolutionizing how we perceive reality. Virtual reality (VR) technology has many uses that go beyond the realms of gaming and entertainment. VR technology is now being used in real-world settings such as education, shopping, health care, space, and the military.

Aside from VR, the terms augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) have been making rounds over the past few years. Understanding the differences between VR, AR, and MR is just as confusing as the concept of altering reality itself.

The key to understanding the three is knowing how each of the realities are presented, how the computer-generated objects interact with you and the environment, and from the device that the reality is anchored on.

What is virtual reality (VR)?

Virtual reality, in simple terms, allows you to completely leave your immediate environment and immerse yourself in a new computer-generated (CG) virtual environment.

The keyword here is the term “immersive” — a simulation of the environment is created and then you can interact, or immerse yourself, with the simulated world as if it were real.

In VR, you can experience skydiving, without actually doing it, through a sensory-focusing device such as a helmet or a pair of goggles. A VR experience can either be an actual environment (skydiving), a synthetic environment (simulated birth in a delivery room), or a blend of both actual and synthetic.

Example of VR gadgets available in the market today are:

What is augmented reality (AR)?

Augmented reality, as opposed to virtual reality, does not pull you away from your immediate environment; instead, AR is designed to be part of your reality. As the name suggests, AR augments or enhances your immediate environment by overlaying it with computer-generated elements, such as images, text, audio, or GPS data.

While VR is immersive and interactive, AR doesn’t drastically alter your perception of reality. In AR, you have no interaction with the computer-generated objects. The CG elements just exist alongside the actual reality and do not affect the real world in any way.

A great example is IKEA’s AR app where you position your smartphone camera to the actual area where you want to place the furniture, and then view a virtual version of the furniture from their online catalog.

Wearable devices such as the following are all examples of AR gadgets available on the market today:

What is mixed reality (MR)?

Mixed reality is a hybrid of both VR and AR. It’s a more recent term in comparison to the first two, and here’s where most of the confusion rises up.

The basic principle of MR is, you simulate a new environment, enhance it with computer-generated content, and then you can physically interact with the CG content in real-time. It’s an immersive experience (the key characteristic in VR), but you are still being anchored in the real world (the key characteristic in AR).

MR also allows you to collaborate with people regardless of distance through holograms.

Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 is the pioneering MR device. Using the wearable gadget, you can view a holographic representation of your design and then you can easily manipulate it using simple gestures and voice commands.

Currently, Microsoft offers mixed reality headsets called Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) through partnerships with brands like Acer, Dell, HP, ASUS, and Samsung.

Wrapping it up

The information we’ve included here is a simplification of the concept behind VR, AR, and MR.

In summary, we can say that VR replaces your immediate environment with a virtual one, AR supplements your immediate environment with digital objects, and MR seamlessly integrates digital objects, or holograms, into your immediate environment as if they were really there.

It’s an exciting time to be alive with all these technological advancements, especially that VR platforms like Vircadia are now available for everyone.

With Vircadia, you can create any type of virtual world — whether it’s an office, a classroom, or even a dance club!

With the speed of how technology is scaling, there’s no telling how VR, AR, and MR will go.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store