VR, MR and AR: the Extended Reality spectrum
VR, AR and MR are hot topics these days. Generally speaking, virtual reality is a concept understood by most. People have been hearing about VR for decades now and it has managed to find its place in popular culture along the way. It isn’t quite the case for mixed reality or augmented reality.
AR has not managed the same stunt even though many people already use it every day. Some of Snapchat’s, Yelp’s and Facebook’s most popular features are based on AR tech.
Mixed reality is even further behind and to make things worse, it is generally equated to AR by many, even within the industry. There is room for much debate in this conversation but simply put, one could say MR is AR 2.0.
VR vs AR vs MR in a nutshell
- Virtual reality (VR) headsets fully immerse users into a digital environment, shutting out the real world altogether. Augmented and mixed reality, on the other hand, enhance the real world to different degrees.
- Augmented reality (AR) overlays computer-generated content on top of the real world. This superimposed digital overlay can superficially interact with the environment in real-time. However, these interactions are limited.
- Mixed reality (MR) is like AR on steroïds in that it projects 3D digital content that is spacially aware and responsive. With mixed reality, virtual objects become part of the real world. A ball can bounce off of tables, walls or disappear under a couch. It is also possible for users to interact with this content and manipulate it. Mixed reality can be achieved in two ways:
- by adding virtual/digital content to the real world or,
- by adding elements of the real world into the virtual/digital one.
What’s AR: examples of augmented reality
AR devices: what’s out there
Augmented reality began to garner mainstream attention with the release of Google Glass years ago. The device was ahead of its time, expensive and its design did not impress. Companies and businesses took note though, and Google has since focused its effort on this market. Other notable devices include:
AR experiences: a door to the future
AR is essentially a new way to display information and free the digital world from the confines of the desk and screen. Because of this, it can be used for all the reasons we use PCs today. It can enhance entertainment, marketing, education, and the list goes on.
What’s MR: examples of mixed reality
MR devices: what’s out there
The Hololens, originally released in 2016, was the first functional MR device to gather mainstream attention. The next major device to be released was the Magic Leap One. The first is focused on revolutionizing the workplace, and the latter, entertainment. Other notable MR HMDs include:
MR experiences: a glimpse into the future
MR is far more ambitious than AR. Mixed reality doesn’t simply superimpose digital information on top of what we see. Instead, it integrates it into the space around us and allows us to manipulate it as though it were a physical object.
Mixed reality still has a way to go in order to deliver on some of its promises. Magic Leap One has released the most advanced and capable device yet. The Hololens 2, set for release in 2019 or 2020, is the next highly anticipated release in this space. However, it will still take some time before these complex devices hit a price point that will make them accessible to the public. When that day comes, the world we live in will be transformed, impacting the way we work, learn and interact.