What is the difference between VR, AR and MR?

What is the difference between VR, AR and MR?


© UxPlanet

Not a real, simulated world is getting closer to us, because technological advances have recently blurred the boundaries between reality and illusion. Currently, there are not one, but three different types of artificial reality: virtual (VR), augmented (AR) and mixed reality (MR).

Unfortunately, these concepts are often confused, but such confusion is quite understandable, because technologies are still developing. For example, decades have passed, and the question of what artificial intelligence is is still being discussed.

Let’s try to figure out what VR, AR and MR are and how they differ from each other.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual reality is the more well-known of the three technologies, mainly due to the unsuccessful attempt to bring VR to the market in the 90s. At that time, this technology was not so well developed to meet the needs of consumers, and this led to a large number of abandoned projects. But today everything is different, and it’s time to create a real VR.

As the name implies, virtual reality shows the user a purely synthetic, artificial environment in which there is nothing from the reality directly surrounding him. VR includes visualized graphics that appear in the user’s field of view and are usually supplemented with 3D sounds to make what is happening seem even more realistic.

© Free Time
© Free Time

When immersed in virtual reality, the user must completely disconnect from the surrounding world and think that he is in a completely different reality. The effectiveness of VR is manifested in the impulse reactions that the user shows in different scenes compared to the same scenes on a monitor or TV screen.

But this does not mean that the VR environment should be generated exclusively using three-dimensional computer graphics (CGI). It can also include 360° panoramic videos of the natural environment or combine CGI with panoramic video.

Unlike AR and MR, virtual reality requires a helmet or VR glasses, whether it’s Google Cardboard for $20 or HTC Vive for $800, although, of course, the latter device will provide a more realistic experience of immersion in VR.

Google Cardboard ©FullHUb
Google Cardboard ©FullHUb

Some headsets have various auxiliary accessories, such as light sensors and controllers, allowing the user to better interact with the environment. Individual models are equipped with technologies for tracking eye movement, which allows you to better visualize what is happening.

At the moment, games remain the main option for using VR. But virtual reality is also used in professional activities, for example, in the training of athletes, psychotherapy and in the real estate sector.

The main limiting factor in using VR is the inconsistency between what your eyes see and the reality that surrounds you in reality. Some even feel symptoms similar to the signs of seasickness. And this is exactly what is not present in augmented and mixed reality.

What are Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR)?

AR and MR are similar in many ways: there are similarities in their definition and scope of use. These two technologies are more mysterious than their “big brother”, and are often interchangeable.

Unlike virtual reality, in AR and MR, virtual elements are added to the real environment. Both technologies may involve the use of headsets, such as Google Glass, or are used with conventional smartphone or tablet displays.

AR and MR are also closely related to technologies related to artificial intelligence, such as computer vision, which allows software to analyze the contents of digital images. As users continue to see the real surrounding reality, AR and MR have a much wider range of uses than VR, including in professional fields.

Demonstration of a real estate object in MR © Microsoft
Demonstration of a real estate object in MR © Microsoft

But what is the difference between augmented and mixed reality?

AR works as an overlay of virtual objects on the real world. For example, imagine a real estate application that shows you which houses are being sold and at what price — this information will appear next to them when you point the camera of your smartphone at the houses. In hospitals, the AR app will be able to report vital signs and other information about patients when a doctor or nurse looks at them through the camera of their tablet. More trivial use cases are the camera filters that you see in Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Using AR in the hospital

MR also adds virtual elements to the real world, but they do not overlap with real objects, but become tied to a location in the real world. For example, the MR application in architecture can help designers and architects to see a 3D image of a building on a construction site and explore it from different angles. One of the stated applications of MR is a virtual workspace, where you can see your office through an MR headset — interactive tools and objects will appear.

Pokemon Go © from-news.ru
Pokemon Go © from-news.ru

Some believe that Pokemon Go, the famous mobile game, is an augmented reality, others are sure that it is mixed. Perhaps, there is still more of the first than the second, because the characters are not fixed in 3D space and remain motionless on the screen.

But the demonstration of Microsoft Minecraft at the E3 2015 conference is a real example of MR in action.

Minecraft demo with Microsoft Hololens at E3 2015

So far, there are few applications for mixed reality, and they are still working on the technology. Microsoft has released several headsets with controllers in cooperation with other manufacturers (HP, Asus, etc.) and is developing the second generation of HoloLens glasses. So far, little is known about the secret startup Magic Leap, although it has raised $1.4 billion, without even indicating clear plans to the public.

All major technology corporations are investing in AR and Mr. Google spoke about the Google Lens application at its latest developer conference. Facebook also announced the AR tool at its latest F8 conference. And Apple made it clear that at the upcoming WWDC 2018 conference, augmented reality will not be ignored. We are waiting for Amazon to make its move in this area after them.

Are we already living in a simulated world, as if in a matrix, or will we all soon find ourselves in it? It’s up to us to decide. In the meantime, let’s enjoy RR-real reality-while it’s possible.

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