What is the difference between Virtual, Mixed & Augmented Reality?

As the industry struggles to find it’s first shaky footing with consumers, terms like “virtual reality” seem somewhat familiar to the general public, but “mixed reality” and “augmented reality” generally meet blank stares, or are confusingly interchanged. Below is a brief synopsis of each term.

Virtual Reality

This is the reality that most consumers are already familiar with, having seen movies such as the Matrix, Lawnmower Man and Tron. Virtual reality (VR) is a version of reality that completely replaces an individuals world view with a computer generated substitute. Consumer devices such as Occulus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and Playstation VR have the ability to create a three dimensional, computer generated environment which an individual can explore and interact with.  Headed Mounted Devices (HMD’s) provide a wide field of vision for the users, who can look in any direction and see the simulated reality that they are in. The visuals are augmented by stereo sound, allowing the user, for example, to hear noises from any direction, and turn and see what is generating the noise. Games, movies, movie trailers, music videos and creative tools are examples of some virtual reality content that is currently available.

Augmented Reality

Google Glass is probably the most recognized example of Augmented reality (AR), and is generally applied to the scenario where a computer generated image is super-imposed over the users view of the real world. For example, an enhanced pilots helmet might display flight related information directly to the pilot, or a cyclist using Google Glass may see a map with GPS, indicating their location and progress to goal. Augmented reality is meant to complement reality, and does not necessarily need to blend in with it.

Augmented reality application for retail business concept. Hand holding smart phone with A/R application on screen to finding shop in department stroe. Represent A/R application in business.

Mixed Reality

Mixed reality is a somewhat contested term, as media outlets tend to interchange the terms”augmented” and “mixed reality”. Mixed reality, however, more specifically relates to the seamless integration of the real world and virtual world, creating a “hybrid” reality where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. The digital objects look as if they exist within the real world. A popular example of mixed reality is the game Pokemon Go. Utilizing a cellphone, through the “lens” of their phone, Pokemon Go players would be able to see Pokemon appearing directly in the world around them.

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