You have probably already heard of AR, VR, MR or XR. They can be confusing terms, especially if you don’t deal with them on a daily basis — but once you get to know them, they can show you a whole new reality, literally. In this short article, I would like to help you understand the differences between these technologies and how they connect together, to form amazing new concepts in the digital world.
Let’s start with basics.
Before the terms AR, VR, MR and XR became viral, there was Computer Vision, which enabled processing and the detection of objects in photos and videos. First we learned how to create computer-aided graphics and display them using a PC, later on we discovered how we can capture motion graphics using a camera and store it on a device
The next step was to establish a way of detecting objects using a camera, for instance detecting traffic signs while driving or any other real-time processing. That’s where Computer Vision took place.
In an engineering way, Computer Vision enables the automatisation of tasks of a computer, so it can be able to understand and process photos or videos.
Computer Vision was in a way the great ancestor, the bases upon which these new technologies today were born.
But what are the differences between them?
- Virtual Reality (VR): is a computer generated reality, a simulation of a full environment that in a physical world does not exist. It exists just as a simulation, like a computer game or animation you can only see and experience if you use a special VR headset. Usually it requires some kind of controllers for movement and interaction.
- Augmented Reality (AR): is a way of adding virtual objects (usually 3D) to a real world or environment. The technology offers a way to add objects to the real space and interact with them. AR does not require any special headset, but just a device that is used to display augmented content: usually today this is a mobile phone or tablet.
- Mixed Reality (MR): is kind of a combination of both, VR and AR. MR merges the real world with the virtual one, displaying virtually generated content in a way that you can interact with them or vice-versa, by connecting real objects to a simulated virtual reality. Usually, special glasses are needed to view such experiences, we can then use our naked hands or other kind of controllers to interact with the content.
- Extended Reality (XR): is a superset term used for all of these technologies. It covers VR, AR and MR.
Since they are so new and still unknown to common people, in what kind of fields are they used and for what purposes?
Because society today is changing so fast, so are our habits and they we do shopping, how we work and even how we do different activities, for example how we visit a museum. AR, VR and MR can be used, for example, to engage customer in a new enriched shopping experience or for educational purposes, especially in the medical and industrial field. The video-game lovers will probably already know, the gaming industry is today the strongest field that uses VR.
Maybe, it seems we are still decades away from these new technologies to be used in every household, but I think we will achieve that soon enough. If you think about it, 20 years ago we used simple phones with black and white screens and nobody thought iPhones were possible. And yet, today, we hold in our hands small powerful computers.