Mixed Reality vs Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality

Microsoft HoloLens for Mixed Reality

Today, let’s take a look at some of the most confusing terms used interchangeably very often. Anyone with any limited technology knowhow has come across one of the following terms: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality.

Companies such as Google, Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Microsoft have been investing and releasing products to the market with either or all the above.  I have decided to dig deeper on each of the subjects, to compare them in terms of similarities, differences and possible areas of application.

Mixed Reality

Windows 10 Mixed Reality Headsets
Windows 10 Mixed Reality Headsets

In mixed reality, both the real reality and virtual reality are merged to create some sort of hybrid reality. In the newly created reality, objects or items from either reality interact on real time. This involves making virtual/real object seem as if they belong to the environment in which they are placed in. It is very useful when shopping, as you can place a chair around a table to see whether they fit or even test new designs for a room before you make a final decision on what to buy.

One other application is it can be used to attend meetings. A person attending a meeting via Mixed Reality needs to feel as if they are present and even interact with other persons as they normally would when they are there. Microsoft has been pushing for Mixed Reality for a long time using HoloLens. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update – released yesterday – is Mixed Reality ready out of the box. It comes accompanied by affordable Mixed Reality headsets bringing Mixed Reality features to a lot of customers out there.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality or AR overlays data or simulations on top of the real world but without obstructing it. It lets you continue to see the real-world items as they are while also showing you something else on an overlay. This means you are less likely to bump into people or things accidentally when you are using AR.

One application of AR is when you are driving and get a notification. The notification will be projected in front of you to read without blocking your view of the road. This is extremely safe as it means you don’t have to take off your phone and read the notification which could cause accidents. I fully expect the application of AR to be very widespread.

Virtual Reality


Oculus Go - An affordable VR Headset
Oculus Go – An affordable VR Headset

VR blocks you from the real world and instead give you a generated world in which you can interact with. VR is found on headsets such as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive mainly for gaming purposes. It tracks your movements and adjusts the view based on what you are looking it. This makes it very effective for training and gaming.

Unlike AR and Mixed Reality, VR main goal is to totally immerse you into a different world. With VR:

  1. Visit any place in the world and explore different places without you every physically travelling there.
  2. Train pilots, soldiers and other professions at a fraction of the cost or without putting anyone at risk.
  3. Help people overcome their phobias.

VR applications are limitless. The only drawback with VR is that you can’t see what is happening in your environment. This means you are totally isolated from the real world and hence require a safe environment to use VR.

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